Why You Need a Solutions Architect – Ben Tells All

By Ben Kilburg

I remember seeing a T-shirt for Solutions Architects that read, “We do precision guess work based upon unreliable data provided by those with questionable knowledge.”

While that is a somewhat comical take on the role of a Solutions Architect (SA), I can tell you that the precision part is on point. Being an SA involves work of an extremely tedious, detail-oriented and time-consuming nature. At the end of the day, I’m the “behind the scenes guy who makes it all happen.”

How I got here
My path to the SA role is probably a bit unconventional. While attending college at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, I met a young student by the name of Jason Paquin who would go on to become my esteemed colleague here at Chesapeake Systems. We were both members of the Society of Recording Technology Students and even started a small record label, Stepping Stone Records.

In my previous house, where I constructed a decently isolated project recording studio, I would often socialize with another Chesapeake Systems colleague, Nick Gold, who attended college with my wife.

Through these contacts, and because of my technology skills and passion for media and entertainment, I found a home at Chesapeake Systems. I began work nine years ago as a systems engineer and eventually evolved into the role of SA.

What does an SA do?
The SA typically begins by gathering all the technical details from a client’s environment such as:
What tools do they use?
What cabling, servers and storage they are running?
What is their nonlinear editor of choice?
What version of software they are running on workstations?

Then we identify the problem
Do you need help with a storage system?
Do you need help with media asset management?
Do you need helping building out a new studio?

Finally, we architect a solution
Sometimes the “problem” may be as simple as a system refresh, or it may be as complex as “What do we do with these 1,000 tapes because we want to provide them to people as quickly as we can?”
Once this preliminary work is complete, we generate a concrete parts list, a statement of work and a Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) chart that helps us make accurate labor predictions. I think about everything that needs to happen to deploy the system correctly and how long it will take us to do that.

What does it take to be an SA?
1. Blend of business and technical skills. Designing and dreaming up a system that will work best for clients involves a lot of negotiating with the account executive, where you both advocate on behalf of the client, working to achieve a balance that both meets the client’s needs and fits within their budget.
2. Ability to analyze and assess. Utilizing PERT, I have to be able to advise clients on how long a project will take. We then generate a well-written statement of work that delves into the nitty gritty of prerequisites for the company, such as ensuring they have a floor in place that will support a 900-pound system.
3. Ability to flesh out solutions. One of the major aspects of an SA job is having a vision and creating the plan to execute it. You are charged with presenting a realistic path forward that will work best for your client.
4. A great team. As we mentioned above I work closely with our AEs, but I think it’s also important to call attention to all the folks who lend me their strengths and are a big part what makes Chesapeake special. Our Sales Manager, Project Coordinator, and Chief Technology officer are my trusted allies and advisors. Our Systems Engineers and workflow masterminds, and of course some fantastic vendor SEs, help me work out the complexities while we design and plan our projects. I couldn’t do my job effectively without them, and a big part of being an SA is bringing everyone together and distilling their contributions into the right solution.

Why I love it
The work I do requires a lot of attention to detail, but paying attention to the little things leads to big things happening. I also have the opportunity to work with the coolest technology around and the smartest guys in the room. You’re at your best when the people around you are better than you. Even though sometimes that’s daunting, you profit from it every minute and hour of the day and it hopefully makes you better, smarter and kinder.

Furthermore, at Chesapeake Systems, we have access to some of the smartest people in the world doing the coolest things in the world. Sometimes a client is working on a project that you get to see before anyone else ever does or perhaps you have the chance to watch some behind the scenes shenanigans nobody will ever see. We have longstanding relationships with many of our customers and have the opportunity to walk shoulder to shoulder with some of the biggest media creators in the world.

Interested in how Chesapeake Systems can help you with your projects? Email prosales@chesa.com, visit chesa.com or call 410-752-7729.