Most folk will have heard me describe myself as a "Consulting Internet Systems Architect". But that's not enough, as what I really do is so much more and so much less than those words.
What architects do is design buildings, and I'm actually breaking the law in the UK by calling myself an architect. What I really do is look at people's business problems, and try to come up with a technological solution, based around a combination of off-the-shelf tools and new development. It's not really a speciality at all, I'm much more a generalist, a Jack of all Trades. And one that knows how to use Visio to boot...
But then there are the specific things I'm interested in. XML, systems integration, the mobile internet. And they can get quite detailed. There's an XML-mediated distributed component architecture in my head that really wants to get out and show a 3G operator what they really can do, instead of implementing yet another mobile portal.
Perhaps I should just say I write computer programs. But then I saw someone describe themselves today as "not a very good coder". And I realised: I'm not a coder, and I don't want to be a coder. It's been several years since I wrote a line of production code. Sure I can throw together a demo or assemble a proof of concept, perhaps even put together a prototype, but that's not the sort of thing I call coding. I'm pretty sure she actually meets my definition of a real coder. Maybe I write specifications, maybe I put together implausible project plans. Maybe I just write documents.
True, I get to play with fun toys. PDAs, servers, phones, software. I could go on and on for hours about how cool I think RSS is, and how it could revolutionise corporate knowledge management.
But really most of the time I just think about stuff. I look at diagrams, documents, articles, white papers. I let it all slosh around in my head for a while, occasionally scribbling on a whiteboard or a flipchart, and then at the last minute, as the deadline approaches I write down an answer. Perhaps I'll give a presentation or two. And then people go away and do something with my ideas.
In the end, I came to the realisation: people pay me to think about neat stuff, and then to teach other people about what I'm thinking.
I quite like that.