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Ten Phases of the Tech Stack

Clarifying the technology career landscape according to the Ten Phases of Achievement

I recently wrote an article series about a timeless, Ten Phase process for achieving all the goals. Yes, all the goals. It’s simple and easy to understand because I use building a building as an example to explain each phase. I'm adapting that here to explain the jobs hierarchy in tech stack.

This article clarifies the relationship between the roles and careers in the technology stack. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out who does what and how it all fits together given all of the titles, industries and sub-disciplines in tech.

As someone who has been in the tech world pretty much all my life (since TI-80's and 386’s), and loves my peeps in #blacktechtwitter, I want people to quickly understand technology world through this simple framework.

In the table below, I’m including an analysis of two other industries using this powerful framework. I won’t explore them in this article, but if you can see the parallels, then you’ll realize that this isn’t some random insight, but a deeper cut at the structure of human organization.
 

Computer Tech Construction Sports
1. Biz Owner 1. Design 1. Commissioner
2. CIO 2. Survey 2. League
3. Architect 3. Structure 3. Owner
4. Engineer 4. Engineer 4. Referee
5. Network 5. Plan 5. Scheduler
6. Developer 6. Build 6. Team
7. Administrator 7. Administer 7. GM
8. Visual Design 8. Arrange 8. Head Coach
9. Data 9. Operate 9. Coach
10. End-User 10. Perform/Work 10. Player

 

Here goes.

1- Biz Owners

Of course we start with the business owner. The person, partners, or corporation that owns the business makes the final decisions. They say what kind of business they are in, and when they employ you, what kind of business you are in. Depending on whether they’re selling industrial machinery, lawn mowers, furniture or t-shirts, and at what scale, and what kinds of technology they will need.

2- CIOs / CTOs

The Chief Information/Technology officer is responsible to make sure that the business has the resources to do everything it needs to run. On the one hand, this includes the eventual application that end-users interact with in case they access a website, download a software etc. On the other, it includes whether they build computer systems themselves or purchase them from vendors.

3- Architects

Whereas the CIO/CTO is making you have the resources, the Enterprise Architect role makes sure that the resources are designed to work together. Enterprise Architects wrangle software, network, architects as well as VP’s of different departments to try to get an optimal set of information solutions for the business. Network Architects design the communication pathways and ‘rooms’ to enable people within organizations that rely on the same data to talk with one another. Software architects design computer systems that make screens light up in particular patterns, so we can see pictures and words that are useful to the business.

4- Engineers

Engineers can range from the folks that make machinery (mechanical engineers) for computer chips (electrical engineers) to the people that figure out which computer languages to use to build software (software engineers). To make sure the right people are talking to the right people, regional and world wide companies employ network engineers. engineers design the systems, machinery and equipment people use in and for their jobs.

5- Project Managers

People in tech may not include project managers in their list of people in tech. However, Project Managers take the requirements and schematics from the previous levels and discuss with developers how long development will take and when things can be pushed to production or when the network will be functional. They are also involved in pushing the feedback from administrators and users into the system to make it easier to manage, access, and use. Project Managers, while not experts in the actual tech, play an important role of making sure that things go according to a profitable schedule.

6- Developers

Software developers are the people that actually build or code the software that everyone else uses. They may also build code to help others code, but that’s a little much. We can also consider on the developer level the folks that run the cables for networks and help-desk folks that check whether the website is down as well as software testers and QA folks.

 

Break time! Above and below this point there’s a big break. All of the levels above regard building the context for the eventual product or business. For a software firm it’s the product, for the construction company it’s the building, and for a sports team it’s the team’s relationship with the league. Above this level we were talking about everything that goes into making a car.

Below this level, you have the software, car, team, or building after you hand over the keys to the up-and-running system.

 

7- Administrators

The administrator is in charge of who gets on the system and who has access to what. There’s two levels to think about here. On the one hand you have the back-end infrastructure and the front-end. The backend infrastructure gives you access to the servers on which the computers are running. The front-end infrastructure gives you access to the program or software running on that server. Either way you work it, there’s some superadmin granting and revoking access according to who should or shouldn’t be on the site.

The security world is the line of defense against hackers gaining access to things they shouldn't.

When you go to their site you’ll be in a session that the website creates to track its interaction with you. And they identify who you are by putting cookies into your browser, or registering your email address with your phone. The administrator figures out who should get what permissions and access to what pages. Unless you work for Linkedin, you will only ever get access to their front-end. Even if you pay for a higher tier access as a company or a recruiter, you’ll never see their code, you’ll only get more access to their front-end product.

8- Visual Designers

Here we have visual designers, folks that work with html, css, and javascript using their favorite frameworks. They use tools like Sketch, Invision and Photoshop to make pretty pictures and mockups for clients before they hand them to the people that code the themes and actual pixels used in the application. If you’re into networking, this is the ‘presentation’ layer.

9- Applications

This is where the rubber meets the road. The End-User interacts with the application to do what the application was designed to do. The application display the data and presents the forms for you to fill out. Every website has its own little subset of specialized information related to the purpose of the website. On google’s homepage there’s a simple search form, and when you search you get all the ranked information related to that search. Hackers try to get into applications and use tricks and techniques to escalate their privileges, spy on other people, extract data, run malicious code etc. etc.

10- End-Users

This is where everything is delivered to you. In a restaurant it’s the person eating the food. In an app it’s the person clicking and scrolling through the app, browsing the web.

 

Of course any and each of these topics could be explained in much more detail. We went over them relatively briefly as the purpose of this article was to show the relationship between them, not the details of each.

If you’re a tech noob, hopefully this helps clarify what’s happening. And if you’re a veteran techie, feel free to point out problems and make suggestions over on twitter @KeyOrgSys.

If you think this analysis has some clear thinking about the tech space, and think this kind of clear thinking can help you in your personal life too, check out my blog post The Ten Phases of Achievement.

Linking the 3 main functions of a business with the departments that do it.
Getting your fingers and hands dirty working on goals you love is one of the most rewarding experiences you'll have.
You have to wrap your head around the outline, dimensions, estimates, blueprint and model of what you're making. Nailing these down will help you communicate and plan better at every other phase and stage of the process.