Building and managing networks is a core part of the NSC offering: Network Architects design them.
Like traditional architects, Network Architects build structures that are useable and useful for the occupants, with robust foundations, and appropriate for their surroundings.
– What is it? Where can it take you? Should you become one? How do you become one?
What is it?
Network Architects design, build and upgrade data communication networks.
This includes local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and intranets.
The Network Architect is a technical role, obviously, but it’s commercial too: a well-built, reliable and secure network, tailored to a business’ unique needs, will help it achieve its business goals, will help its staff work effectively, and will help protect it against cyberattacks.
So what would a Network Architect be doing all day?
Designing networks – the creative, conceptual part of the job.
Communicating clearly – most network users, and business stakeholders (the ones paying your salary) don’t have the relevant technical knowledge or vocabulary. Explaining the how’s and why’s of a network build, in layman’s terms, is an important part of the role.
Cyber-securing – cyberattacks are an inevitable nuisance for companies today. A Network Architect must be on top of threats, patches and vulnerabilities. This includes hacking their own designs.
Shopping – a Network Architect needs to plan the hardware requirements (routers, adaptors, software, data storage) and work with procurement to obtain them.
Budgeting – see above. A Network Architect needs to be able to plan the network given the resources available, not the resources they’d like to be available.
Architecting – where will the servers live in the office? How should the cables be laid? There is some real architecture work to do, in this sense.
Learning – a good Network Architect needs to be up-to-date with technological change. Not only to improve the efficiency of the network (a plus), but to defend against attacks (essential).
Analysing – once the network is built, that’s not the end. How can it be improved? What needs to be in place for the next iteration? What are the future needs of the organisation? What is the plan from the C-suite?
And what’s the difference between a Network Engineer and a Network Architect anyway? Don’t they both build and maintain networks?
Engineers do build, manage and maintain networks. But they are concerned with the day to day upkeep – fighting fires and user support – with an outlook of three to six months.
An Architect has a longer view – three to five years – and must concern themselves with the business challenges, and the demands of the C-suite and a new business pipeline, as well as the demands of the every day users.
Where can it take you?
The Network Architect is a highly-skilled, specialist role, with a median wage of $101,000 in the US … in other words, for many people, becoming a Network Architect is a satisfactory end-point; it needn’t take you anywhere.
However, there are many options for the future, too:
A Network Architect could utilise their technical knowledge and become a highly-paid security consultant; or use their managerial skills to become the Head of IT; or use their communication and commercial skills and move into the C-suite as CTO.
How do you become one?
As with most IT roles, proven competency is every bit as useful as college qualifications. That said, most Network Architects have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field.
Network Architect is not (usually) where you would start a career.
A traditional route would be to start in a junior role like a Support Technician, then become a Network Administrator, move up to be a Network Engineer, and then take the final leap to be a Network Architect.
Should you become one?
Well, we’ve established it pays well! But the role is also very intellectually satisfying for the right candidate.
The Network Architect is also a vocation for some: many young people will naturally progress to these roles because of a passion for computers.
If you do want to become one, there are certain competencies that will be useful:
Analytical skills – you will have to analyse networks to diagnose problems, and come up with practical solutions.
Detail oriented – when you’re designing systems to be used by thousands in billion dollar organisations, small mistakes can be a big deal.
Interpersonal skills – the best Network Architects communicate with employees at all levels to discover how they can best enable them to achieve their goals.
Organisation skills – the Network Architect is as much project manager as they are designer. You will have to manage the build, the integration with other systems, and all the stakeholders’ expectations.
And in the future?
With the launch of smart networks, the rise of cloud networking, and the provision of Network-as-a-Service, eventually, in-house Network Architects will become less useful and an expensive resource.
Don’t let this put you off: today, in an increasingly connected world, the demand for the role is growing.
And IT skills will be in high demand in the future, so any transferrable skills in this sector will be utilised. Your prospects in this role look good!
Getting a job with NSC isn't the only way to start a career in IT. However, it is a good way: learn while you earn, work with multinational clients, work alongside senior IT engineers and work in a growing company with many international opportunities. Take a look at our open positions on our jobs page.