As a software architect, there are a few things that you need to do, regularly, to maintain your edge. Without these things, you are becoming more irrelevant (and un-qualified) every day.
- Every week – Pick a new/trending technology and spend 1-4 hours “taking it out for a spin”. Make a mini-project that demonstrates its use. Make sure you understand it. Think about how it would have been so right for a few of your past projects and how it would have been wrong for others. Think about how what kind of future project you would certainly use it on and what kind you would NOT use it. Both are equally important.
- Every month – Read about improvements/advancements on the technologies that you already know. 3-5 tech newsletters, 1-3 magazines.
- Every 1-2 months – Read 1 new book (or PDF over 50 pages). Gain a deeper, more thorough understanding of some technology.
- Quarterly – Review CMM. Think about where you are and what you could-be/should-be/have-been doing to move up and improve your processes.
- Quarterly – Review yourself. What have you done wrong, what did you learn from it? Are you learning or standing still? Are you improving or stagnating? Do you still have an open mind, so you can learn or are you a plant that needs to be re-potted?
- Twice a year – Attend an in-person event. There are some really great tech seminars and classes, out there. Some are insanely expensive, so you might not want to pay out-of-your-own-pocket. However, how much did you spend on your college education (in contrast)? This might be what you need to get your spark back and inspire you to get moving again. There are lots of free programming clubs and tech events all over the US (and probably other countries too). You might have to drive 1-2 hours (each way), but save yourself a lot of money. While you are driving, spend the time thinking about the technology du-jour and what you could/can do with it.
- 2-4 hours a week – Participate in an online-discussion about technology. Sites like Stack Overflow are nice, but so are CodeProject, DevX and a bunch of others. Make your rounds.
This sounds like a lot of time to spend doing this. Yes, I am recommending this to be done on your time and not company time. This is one of the reasons you went to college and got a degree. You must have learned that you don’t get an A from simply attending classes and watching TV every night (instead of studying). Keep doing your homework and go for the A. This is why you get paid the big bucks.