Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year!

As I look back the year that was 2009 I must say that I can’t complain much. I have achieved not too far from what I had expected. I can summarise my achievements in 2009 as  following

  • Work – I still got my job!
  • After Work – I learnt and used the ZK framework quite extensively and got conducted in the ZK Hall of Fame and ZK Blogsphere.
  • Hobby – I have had much improvement in my piano playing compared to last year (when I just started learning). I rewarded myself with a brand new Kawai K3.
  • Family – I had always travelled extensively in my previous jobs. So 2009 was the year that I spent the most time with my family since I started a family!

Have a happy and prosperous 2010!


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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Enterprise Architect

In any IT forum, the topic of roles and skill sets of architects is a sure-fire flame bait. There are many roles with the title of ‘architect’ in the IT industry and they can be quite different. I summarise the IT architect jobs into the following categories:

  1. glorified software engineers/business analysts – some employers and employment agencies alike beef up the job position to attract more experienced applicants; of course, some employees/applicants do the same to their profile to attract better pay.
  2. domain focused solution designers – these architects/designers focus on specific domains of the IT space. The boundaries may vary depending on how you slice and dice the space: infrastructure, security, integration; service fulfilment, network performance, inventory management, etc.
  3. enterprise wide architect – responsible for IT governance, IT strategy alignment with the business strategy. It overarches the various domains mentioned in point 2 above.

The Enterprise Architect falls into the 3rd category. Not all organisations have or need to have such a dedicated role – a travel agency with 3 staff may well outsource their IT operations and the role of EA to an external party.  The role of EA is a product of a mature organisation (or mature org wannabees) that understands the importance of IT to their business.  Wikipedia has a pretty detailed description of what EA is. It uses the analogy of city planner (the EA) and domain specific designers and engineers in the building industry. This is a very good analogy and one that I often use. After all, the very term of architect is borrowed from built environment discipline.

It is understandable that many people including IT professionals do not understand the roles of architects, especially EA. The main reason for this lack of understanding is that in many organisations the role of architect is shared with others – e.g. development team lead taking on the responsibility of system architect. When it comes to EA it becomes more illusive because not all companies have one. So it’s no wonder we see in various forums silly questions like should EA be doing coding  (btw, my answer to this question is that EA should not do coding as his/her day job; but it certainly helps for EA to learn new technologies to better understand them – so coding afterhours is great for EAs).

The IT industry is very young and immature comparing to other disciplines liking medicine or built environment. As a result of reaching maturity, it is inevitable for the industry to become more and more specialised. Therefore, the roles and jobs become more and more fine-grained, focused and well-defined. No doubt, with IT becoming more mature, the roles of architect especially EA will become better defined and clearer to more people.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

My Carbon Footprint

As Copenhagen becomes the hotspot of global warming spat for the second week, it seems less likely anything substantial  can be achieved by the summit. However, one positive effect it has is for sure – it has raised the awareness of the global warming issue across the world.

Just a few months ago there was a blackout in my house due to an unseasonal thunderstorm. I was home alone and suddenly felt so bored – without electricity there was no form of entertainment in the house! No TV, music, internet, game consoles and not even cooking! Whereas such blackouts were quite frequent where I lived during my childhood yet I quite enjoyed it for we got to have candles and play shadow puppets… So I decided to have a good old traditional form of entertainment by buying a piano.

Out of curiosity, I took part in calculating my carbon footprint using an Ecological Footprints calculator adopting Australian model. It turns out that it would take 2.4 planet Earths to support my lifestyle if everyone on Earth lived like me, which is below the Australian average of 3 according to WWF Australia.


However, if I factor in the fact that many of my consumption of resources are actually shared by my family, it only takes less than one Earth, which is ideal.

Looking at the result, about half of the footprint comes from food. I tried to recalculate it with total vegan, the result was actually 8% worse. So my love of meet is actually good for the planet :)

Another thing is that I fly a lot due to work. If I did not fly at all, my carbon footprint would reduce by about 8%. The good thing is that I don’t have to commute to work every day, which offsets my extra carbon emission.

There are many things people can do to improve the situation. I think it all bog down to 3 things: be frugal, share, recycle. These concepts are all familiar to IT professionals like myself because we have to create systems that are preferment and cheap at the same time, although we call them by different names like algorithm efficiency, resource-pooling, package reuse, etc. Sharing (e.g. taking public transport) and recycling have received a lot of public attention. But one thing that is often overlooked is frugality (even in the IT world as hardware becomes cheaper and cheaper). Frugality is a virtue in east Asian traditional cultures. However, due to the western influence and economic boom in the region this virtue is in danger of being lost. When everything is being labelled with and measured in monetary units, it is very easy to miss the actual impact of wastage.