Building the Best: Q&A with Mark Daugherty, Solutions Architect

Finding solutions to digital problems takes a lot of training (and talent!). From crafting code to consulting with clients, solutions architects always have to be on their A-game. With their expertise, our team is empowered to think bigger and better to provide the best possible digital experience for customers. After all, 73% of shoppers are likely to avoid brands and retailers after a single negative experience — which means delivering five-star experiences has never been more important.  We held a brief Q & A with one of our solutions architects, Mark Daugherty, to ask him what his typical workday is like and what common challenges he faces. His hard work has helped Avionos reach major milestones with our partners, such as Adobe Silver Partner Status and Salesforce Silver Partner Status.  

Why did you want to work as a solutions architect?

I think it’s an evolution of being a software developer, you progress into more of a leadership role. With that comes the additional responsibility of not just writing code, but also designing solutions. A big part of the job is trying to have an understanding of technical architecture and how various systems work together, and how to translate what a client asked us to do into a comprehensive solution that isn’t just focusing on a single task. I think it’s really an evolutionary thing. Gradually you take on more and more responsibility and do more and more complex things, but there’s also a conscious decision to want to be more involved and more hands-on with the client as far as having a louder voice in meetings and taking a larger part in the overall direction of what we’re building.

What made you want to join the A-Team at Avionos?

It was a few different things. Avionos has a lot of talented people and a lot of good personalities. From a technical perspective, there was all the opportunity in the world to not only work with good clients and work with good technologies, but to have a hand in shaping the overall direction of the company. It’s a company that’s open to new ideas and feedback. There was a lot of opportunity to provide technical direction beyond just working on one project or one client, whereas working in a larger organization, a lot of those things are already defined for better or worse, and it can be very difficult to change processes. It felt like a great leadership opportunity, and also an opportunity to work with really, really awesome people.

How has Avionos helped you progress in your career?

It’s all about opportunity. One of the things that I noticed right away in the first couple months of being here was just the overall willingness to embrace new technologies, processes and opportunities…I feel like through the interactions that I’ve had with both my colleagues and leadership, that there’s much more of “oh, that’s a great idea. Let’s figure out how to get it done,” instead of “we’ll get to that if we can find the time.” That’s been really good because I feel like it reinforces the idea that you should be bringing ideas to the table. That’s a great mentality or ethos for the company to have to stimulate people’s creativity in growth opportunity.

What does a typical day in your job look like?

It starts with a huge amount of coffee and is usually a combination of things. There’s meetings, and interaction with my client. We’re pretty close as far as our working relationship. There’s a lot of direct communication. There’s also stand up meetings to start the day. I like to spend as much of the day as possible doing hands-on technical stuff. That’s a combination of writing code myself, doing code reviews for the other developers on our team and working really closely with our project manager who’s also very tactical. We have a lot of discussions about how we’re doing things today and how we could do things better tomorrow…Ideally, as a consulting professional services company, you want to be driving clients towards bigger and better things using our collective expertise and experience to provide them with more. You can always find people to just build stuff for you, but if someone says, “maybe you don’t actually need to build that because you can use this other tool that would serve you better,” it’ll be more beneficial. I think our team is really good at that, both on the technical side and analytics. I think we’re really good about helping clients to expand their realm of possibility. We want to deliver more.

What’s a common challenge you face as a solutions architect?

There aren’t enough hours in the day. In this role there’s so many different things that I’m accountable for but also things that I really want to do. I could probably spend most of my day just doing guidance, mentorship, meetings and design stuff and not write any code at all, but it’s really important to me to be hands-on. A lot of times I feel like I could use more time to do everything that I want to do. I usually find that I have more ideas than I have time to act on them.

What’s a common piece of advice you give to clients?

I think everyone has a very small list of things that are in their purview that they tend to be extremely passionate about. It’s very easy to get bogged down in the minutia of relatively small-scale concerns…I have to be really mindful of the overall solution especially at the outset of projects when we haven’t even built anything yet to talk about. Let’s not think too small. There’s a tendency to think of everything in the context of how it was yesterday, or how it is today, and not really think about what the possibilities are in this new world that we’re building for them…I think it’s our job to expand the possibilities for them, and get them to think a little bit bigger and broader about what they’re doing so that they’re ultimately happy with what we build. There’s been a lot of projects where clients say, here’s all the things that we want, but all the things that they want are constrained by what they already know rather than all the things that they don’t know, that could be even better and bigger and more exciting.  

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