Ask an Attivio Solution Architect

Stranger: “So, what do you do for work?”

Me: “I’m a solution architect.

Stranger: “What does that mean? It’s something with computers, right?”

When I’m introduced to someone, this conversation is typical. I’ve been in various technical presales positions for more than ten years. I’ve built a career on my ability to engineer solutions to prove both business and technical value to all manner of companies. But more importantly, I’ve built my career on my ability to confidently answer technical and business-oriented questions.

Common Questions

In my role as a solutions architect, I answer questions all day, every day. Here are some of the most common inquiries I get:

“How do you scale?”
As an enterprise-grade platform, we scale horizontally and vertically to meet the needs of your business use-case.

“Do you support Hadoop?”
We can ingest data from any number of Hadoop data sources (Hive, HDFs, etc.), and are certified to deploy on both Cloudera and Hortonworks environments. 

“What about document-level security?”
Our approach to security is best-in-class. Our patented query-time join technology empowers our clients to flexibly manage massive deployments which require rapid changes to access control lists (ACLS) at scale.

“Dada – how many rescuebots did I build today?”
17. (I told you I answer questions all day!)

But even after building a career on my ability to “answer questions”, I suck at describing what I do for a living. When you’re answering this type of question, you pretty much have five seconds – maybe 10 – to leave the correct impression. And at the risk of falling off this high horse, 10 seconds is not nearly enough time to describe everything.  Most recently, I’ve attempted to respond to this question with two words: “Software sales.”


But then I hear something like: “Oh… huh? You don’t look like you’re in sales.”

So I try again: “Well, it’s not just sales. I’m the guy that comes in to install our software with the client to prove our software can solve their problem.”

The response to that is usually: “Ah – ok!! So you’re an engineer!”

I attempt to clarify: “Sort of, but our engineers are responsible for building the software from scratch. I need to make sure our clients understand why this software is important.”

Invariably, we end up back where we started: “But isn’t that what the salesperson does?”

“Erm, yes but…”

 At this point, I’ve lost. If I had this flow of conversation an actual client, I’d be mortified! So I need a more efficient way to describe my job, and I think I’ve got it.

New Terminology

Let me try it out: 

“A solution architect is a software educator.” I know, I know – I’m back on that high-horse. Please do not misunderstand my intent: I have the utmost respect for actual teachers and educators. Both my mom and my mother-in-law have a combined 50+ years of special education experience between them. The word “respect” doesn’t begin to encapsulate my admiration for those investing their lives into the next generation of potential solution architects. My immensely positive experience with the teachers in my life is likely why I’m gravitating towards this description.

The reality is this: the crux of my job is to ensure my client discover their “Ah-ha!” moment when working with Attivio software. And when it comes to enterprise software, it can take a heck of a lot of collaboration to make that happen.

Let’s take document security as an example. I’ve worked with several clients this year who are looking to change the culture of their company with cognitive search and insight. In particular, they want to enable every single employee to find the right content, at the right time, and ensure that the employee only retrieves the content they have access to view.

Active Security

 

This is a classic knowledge management use-case. Unfortunately, many traditional enterprise search platforms follow what is known as either early binding or late binding security models – both of which are terrible at managing security at scale.

 

Early Binding/Late Binding

 

Therefore, it becomes absolutely critical for me to ensure that my client experiences an “Ah-ha!” moment when understanding Attivio’s superior approach to security. But of course, every client is different. Sometimes, this moment is reached after a couple conversations. Other times, reaching this moment may take pages of documentation, hours of meetings, and days of integration testing, along with a final presentation.

However it happens, at the end of the day, 100% of our clients experience their own “Ah-ha!” moment before making the decision to move forward with Attivio. And it’s my job to do everything in my power to ensure that happens.

So the next time someone asks me what I do for a living, I’m going to try it: “I’m a software educator.”  I’ll let you know how it goes. Maybe I’ll try it out on my three-year-old son first.

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