Women in Architecture Spotlight – Jacqui Read

Featured in this week’s spotlight is Jacqui Read, Consultant Software & Enterprise Architect of Read the Architecture.

Read is an internationally recognized software and enterprise architect with over 13 years of industry experience, and author of Communication Patterns: A Guide for Developers and Architects.

She specializes in assisting businesses, large and small, to create and enhance architecture practices, construct evolutionary architectures, and untangle and extract value from data and knowledge. Alongside consulting, Jacqui teaches public and private workshops and speaks at international conferences on topics such as architecture decisions, technical communication, and architecture practices. Read also runs software architecture katas for teams and companies.

Following below, Read shares some of her insights about her successful career and what she sees in the future.Jacqui Read

Question: How did you get your start in the industry?

Answer: I learned to code on-the-job using .Net C# in the education industry. I had a background in computers and multimedia, but hardly any coding. This was a brilliant way to learn, and I hugely support all on-the-job training and learning. These, along with bootcamps and apprenticeships, give practical experience. It is so much more important to naturally use a coding principle, rather than being able to name and describe it to someone.

After various developer roles across many domains, including education, security, and fintech, I moved into a technical architecture role and then on to a solution architecture role, where I also gained experience in data, security, and enterprise architecture. My first-place win in the O’Reilly Software Architecture Kata prompted me to acknowledge my abilities and knowledge, and that led me to propose and author a book for O’Reilly and jump into running my own architecture consultancy..

Q: What is your current responsibility and what is your typical day like?

A: Running my own consultancy, I don’t really have a typical day. Some days I will be creating training materials, running training courses, or speaking at conferences (which often involves travel). My consultation services may require me to travel to a customer or work from home and can be ad-hoc or cover a period of months. Some days involve a lot of working on my business, such as promotion of my book and services, or admin like sending invoices and reconciling accounts. Of course, I have spent a lot of time recently writing my book, Communication Patterns.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: I love the fact that I get to both learn and teach as I work. The teaching isn’t just in the training I provide, wherever I consult I leave behind knowledge that wasn’t there before. Software architecture requires constant learning, which I enjoy keeping up with. Some of my learning comes from actual learning materials like books, videos, courses, and articles, but a lot comes from working and speaking with others. Architects and other technical professionals have an amazing amount of knowledge and insights that they want to share.

I particularly enjoy learning about non-adjacent topics, as well as those closer to architecture and software. Making connections between things that seem unrelated can lead to the most impactful ideas. I keep all my notes in a second brain, written in Markdown.

Q: What trends in architecture are you looking out for the rest of 2023 and 2024?

A: Sociotechnical architecture and thinking, considering the people who build, maintain, and use the software or business processes we create, is a definite trend currently. I have always been a proponent of the idea that people underlie whatever we are doing in architecture, so it is nice to have a name for that principle.

Collaborative modelling is a related area, which many architects and developers have little knowledge of. I encourage everyone to learn about techniques such as Domain Storytelling and EventStorming. These are useful for architects to collaborate with subject matter experts, other technical roles, and business roles, at many stages of any product or project.

My last trend is the move towards recognizing how important data and knowledge are. Many systems and processes of the past have been designing with little thought to the data that flows into, through, and out of that system or process. Data-driven design (raising the priority of data during the design process), and perspective-driven knowledge management (making sure the required information is available to people) are both techniques that should be adopted more widely.

Q: What is one thing we can do to support or increase the women in architecture?

A: Acknowledge that it is not about treating everyone equally but giving everyone an equal opportunity. When a person in a wheelchair can’t access a building due to steps no one shrugs and says they are just treating everyone the same, but when a neurodivergent or underrepresented person is turned down over and over again for a job, promotion, etc, there will be someone saying that everyone is treated the same, so it must be fair.

We must bring everyone to the same level. If we want more diversity in our industry, we need to seek out the barriers and work to break those down.

Why are there so few women at technical conferences? I am starting to see more women speakers, but it is still far from a rough 50:50. Women need to see women in these roles to imagine themselves in these roles. Women attendees I would say is usually around 1 in 12 or 15 attendees at a conference. Are there really that few women in tech or are they not attending because of barriers?

We need to have expectations of diversity in tech and then dig deeper when those expectations are not met. Some organizations are trying to do this, but I have seen many times where an extremely nondiverse group of people meet to solve the problems of people not represented in that group. Create a diverse group to solve the problems of people represented by that group.

There is no silver bullet. Those selecting the next architects and leaders need to be a diverse group. It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario until someone steps up to level the playing field.