IT Career Roadmap

Career roadmap: Enterprise architect

The enterprise architect role has emerged as one of the most pivotal in IT, especially for companies in the midst of a digital transformation. Here’s a look at what it takes to become an enterprise architect.

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In many ways, the enterprise architect is one of the most pivotal IT positions at an organization, and especially for a company that is embarking on a digital transformation. Enterprise architects are involved in conducting analysis, design, planning and implementation of any technology and process changes needed to help meet the goals of an organization.

Andy Wang, principal enterprise architect at Pharmacyclics. Andy Wang

Andy Wang, principal enterprise architect at Pharmacyclics.

Degree: Bachelor of arts degree in psychology, University of California, Berkeley.

Years of experience: 27

Advice for others: "Never stop learning, work on your communication and storytelling skills, and deliver value to your stakeholders however you can."

These professionals are responsible for performing the analysis of existing business structures and processes, and based on that determining what the goals of enterprise architecture should be. For example, increased effectiveness, greater business agility and a higher level of efficiency can all be potential goals.

Gartner defines enterprise architecture as a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces, by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes. It delivers value by presenting business and IT leaders with recommendations for adjusting policies and projects to achieve business outcomes that capitalize on relevant business disruptions.

Typical responsibilities of an enterprise architect might include integrating IT strategy and planning with the organization's business goals; promoting the sharing of technology resources to reduce expenses and improve the flow of data; and helping to address risks related to cybersecurity and privacy.

An enterprise architect needs to have skills such as knowledge of the business and how it relates to architecture; the ability to communicate and collaborate with others in IT and on the business side, and to translate complex technical concepts for non-technical executives; knowledge of IT governance and operation; and expertise in hardware, software and systems engineering.

[ Related: Top 11 enterprise architecture tools ]

What does it take to become an enterprise architect? To find out, we spoke with Andy Wang, principal enterprise architect at Pharmacyclics, a biopharmaceutical company.

Education/early life: From psychology to enterprise architect

Back in his college days, Wang had no intention of pursuing a career in technology or even in business. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1992 with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology.

“Originally I wanted to be a doctor, but an introductory class in chemistry completely cured me of that,” Wang said. “I’ve always been interested in technology, but did not want to go down the programming route.” There were not any IT courses or majors at the time, so he selected psychology as a focus because he thought it was an interesting subject.

But Wang did get a taste of the IT world early on. In his senior year of high school he landed a summer job at a local computer store building and selling personal computers. “Having to assemble a computer from scratch and then installing all the software a customer ordered really got me interested in learning how computer hardware and software worked, and the amazing things people can do with technology,” he said.

Wang's IT job history

And despite the lack of a formal education in technology-related subjects, Wang’s initial jobs were indeed in the IT domain. He began working as a system administrator at Grammatik, a small software startup, while attending college. His responsibilities included supporting a local-area network, email system, accounting applications, phone system and PCs. Among the highlights was learning what it takes to support a network of computers.

Next Wang joined professional services firm Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), where he worked in the IT organization as a system administrator supporting Novell networks, Lotus Notes, IBM’s OS2 operating system and wide area networks (WANs). The experience expanded on everything he had learned at Grammatik, but at a much larger scale.

In 1995, Wang went to work for retailer The Gap as a system engineer in the IT engineering department, supporting networks and email for the first two and a half years of his time there. Then he was offered an opportunity to move into the international IT function to support Gap’s accelerated expansion globally for retail, distribution and sourcing.

Wang’s major accomplishments included setting up the company’s first retail and distribution presence in Japan and its sourcing partners in Asia/Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, and Latin America. “The effort in expanding Gap’s presence internationally, along with all the necessary technology infrastructure, taught me the need to [create templates for] deployment packages and processes,” he says. He developed what became known as the “Office/Site in a Box” template as Gap aggressively expanded across 16 countries.

In 2000, Wang left the retailer to work for various dot.coms that eventually went out of business, “because that’s what everyone else in IT was doing,” he said. Then in 2003 he took on a consulting role for Weil, Gotshal and Manges, a patent litigation law firm, helping with its IT infrastructure.

“Eventually I took on designing and supporting the technology infrastructure needed for a digital war room as attorneys and paralegals go to trial,” Wang said. He created a repeatable process for setup, support and breakdown of the war room in a hotel near the courthouse as cases went to trial.

Wang joined the enterprise architecture team at biotechnology company Genentech in 2015, because his wife, who was working at Gap at the time as a member of its enterprise architecture team, said it was something he should look into to progress his career.

He started as a senior enterprise architect focusing on infrastructure and disaster recovery and was promoted to principal enterprise architect focusing on communication, collaboration, content management and social technologies. Other members of the architecture team focused on different aspects of IT technologies such as network, application, middleware, data management and architecture processes/governance.

Wang’s key accomplishments during his time at Genentech included moving the company from on-premises email systems (supporting 100,000 users) to Google Mail; working on the integration initiatives when Roche acquired Genentech in 2009; and building and maintaining technology roadmaps and standards.

After 10 years at Genentech and “too many trips to Europe,” Wang decided to look for a job with less travel and a different focus. A recruiter reached out and said security company Symantec was rebuilding its enterprise architecture practice under a new IT leader, and asked if he would be interested in a position.

Wang spent two years at Symantec maturing its enterprise architecture processes, including building roadmaps, documenting current states and technology standards, and running the architecture review board. He also supported various merger and acquisition activities from an architecture perspective. One of his most notable accomplishments was building the current business processes and technology landscape for Symantec’s consumer business.

In 2018, Wang joined his current employer. After spending time at an internet security company he realized how much he missed the life science field. The new post gave him an opportunity to build an enterprise architecture practice for Pharmacyclics as its principal enterprise architect.

To date Wang’s most notable accomplishment at the company is helping to integrate Pharmacyclics into AbbVie, which acquired the company in 2015. His focus has been on human resources systems and identity and access management systems.

Memorable IT career moments

“Moving Genentech and Roche and its 100,000 employees to a cloud-based email system — when everyone was still super skeptical about software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology and consumer-focused solutions — was probably one of the most memorable moments of my career,” Wang said. That’s because of the amount of researching, idea selling, risk remediation and moving parts involved in taking the project from an idea to execution, he said.

Another memorable moment was building the enterprise landscape for Symantec’s consumer business unit, which “taught me how much more I can learn beyond just technology,” Wang said. “It was the first time I realized part of the role of an enterprise architect is to be an organizational and technology cartographer and storyteller. The ability to see and document the end-to-end processes of an organization’s functions help architects ensure the solution they deliver meets all the requirements and accounts for any upstream/downstream impact.”

Biggest inspirations

One of Wang’s biggest inspirations is the former CEO of Genentech, Art Levinson. “His maniacal focus on science and patients is extremely inspiring,” he said. “Another person that inspires me is Nancy Duarte. Her class and book on how to tell stories and present in a corporate setting completely changed how I view communications and the impact effective storytelling can do for enterprise architects. Lastly, I have to thank my wife for pushing me toward enterprise architecture as a career.”

Short-term and long-term goals

Now that the first phase of the Pharmacyclics-to-AbbVie integration is completed, Wang’s goal is to focus on building a current state capability map for some of Pharmacyclics’ core business functions, and plan for phase two of the integration. He also is gearing up to help move Pharmacyclics to its new headquarters in San Francisco in 2021.

Advice for others seeking an enterprise architect role

“Never stop learning,” Wang said. “Work on your communication and storytelling skills. As an enterprise architect, your ability to simply and clearly convey complex ideas will be key to your success. Always seek to break the stereotype that enterprise architects live in the ivory tower. And, deliver value to your stakeholders however you can.”