I am switching from data modeler to data architect

Those of us who practice the dark art of crafting Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERD) are known by many names, some are even repeatable. The most common titles I have observed are data modeler or data architect. Personally, I have been a proponent of using data modeler when describing my role.

I once read that if what you do matches your job title exactly then you are more likely to be unhappy. Give that some thought. This sentence gets to the root of being pegged as a one trick pony. I love data modeling, but I find more satisfaction from the non-data modeling parts of my job. That led me to the conclusion of rebranding myself as a data architect.

Data modeler originated when data modeling appeared on the scene. Developers develop. DBAs administer. Analysts analyze. Data modelers modeling seemed logical. What happened over the years is that data modelers took on new roles in metadata management, data warehousing, data governance, data quality and other data-isms.

That brings me to the realization that data architect is the best title for the work I do. An architect is the person who designs sound structures to meet client needs according to strict standards and design principles. Architects interact with a wide variety of people and perform a good bit of research before committing the design to a blueprint. These traits translate to what the data architect does.

What’s the big deal with this change in title? I do the same work I did yesterday as a data modeler. Many people will still call me a data modeler. Some still may call me worse things. It is more about perception. I have removed the connection to a single deliverable, the data model. Architect gives me more freedom to talk about a wider scope of responsibilities that center around the data model.

I admit that there is some humor in this post. This is a subject that is near and dear to many a data professional. Just remember that your reputation is built on what you do and deliver. Jobs come and go. Job titles come and go. Hopefully, what you do remains pertinent and valued in your enterprise. Feel free to express yourself as a data modeler, data architect, database designed, data analyst, or whatever.

Tom Bilcze

I am presenting at Data Modeling Zone 2014 in Portland, Oregon. I hope that you will join me in my sessions: Is your data model a work of art? and Relationship versatility and the data modeler #DMzone

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  1. My team members and I have gone through several job titles at my work, for some reason no one seems to figure out what to call us, we keep switching back and forth between Data Modeler and Data Architect. We design databases (Operational/Transnational), analytical, we design conceptual, logical and physical data models, data warehouses, ODS, MDM, we design relational and dimensional data models, we work at local and enterprise level to determine where the data should fit or belong depending on the type and use of data. We provide all levels of data management solutions, even standards, governance, entity/attribute and table/column naming conventions, etc… We work with all levels of management discussing current and future state data management designs at local and enterprise level, anything that is data design related.
    Unfortunately, for example when someone applies for a Data Architect position where their experience and background match the job description of the job opening but in their resume it indicates that their current job title is a Data Modeler, the HR person who receives the resume will throw it away just because the job titles did not match. I have seen it happen many times. Many of the HR staff who are responsible for collecting resumes to match them to a current job opening over look the details in the resume and consider the applicant as not qualified for the position and they throw the resume away even though the person is highly qualified for the job.. Some of the HR staff can’t decipher the content of the resume. How can they determine what job title to assign to an employee when they can’t read a resume?!
    I don’t know what determines a Data Architect vs a Data Modeler.

    • Unfortunately, data architect and data modeler are not interchangeable in many people’s eyes. Data modeler has stuck with many people since it closely aligns with the primary artifact of our work, the data model. As you point out, your job is much more encompassing of many other data tasks and responsibilities. That is why many began moving from modeler to architect. However, many organizations have reserved the title of architect for another data related role, typically a person who oversees the architecture of the data asset in an organization. There arises the problem. I would urge you and your peers to make sure that your job title is data architect. Explain exactly what you explained in your post. It is important that your boss and the IT management understand why this title is important. Their support is needed to educate human resources on the differences and need for change.

  2. Pingback: Dangling Relationships | The data modeling identity crisis

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