Becoming a Valuable Solution Architect

What is it like to work to become a highly-skilled solution architect in the telecom software industry? The Solution Architect plays an essential role in the deployment of software and services to help a CSP reach a valuable business outcome that benefits its customers. Magdalena, LotusFlare’s Content & Communications Manager, spoke with Sherine, a solution architect who’s been with LotusFlare for about a year, about her work experience, her most recent project, and what she has been doing to become a highly-skilled solution architect.

Sherine thanks for joining us today. Before we jump on to the technical parts, can you tell me why you choose this career path? Please tell me a little about your background and how it led you into the IT industry serving CSPs.

I started out as a back-end engineer for a provisioning system in a leading telecom company. During the 5 years in that role, I became immersed in the broader view of CSP architectures when our team met to discuss new and ongoing projects. I always had an affinity for understanding more about various topics rather than just focusing on one specific thing. I found the process of understanding business requirements and interpreting to create technical requirements was compelling so I applied for a Solution Architect role in another CSP. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. I stayed for one year where I learned a lot about gathering business requirements, interpreting them, and building a solution with the capabilities of our IT systems and process flows. But I wanted to work in a more agile development environment with a cloud-based technology foundation. That’s how my journey in LotusFlare began.

Can you tell us more about your current role in LotusFlare and your key responsibilities?

My current role is Solution Architect (SA). My responsibilities include aligning internally within our delivery team regarding customer requirements and providing initial assessment and guidance. I am the first line of assessing whether a requirement could be something supported “out-of-the-box” (OOB) if it needs further assessment and if a requirement aligns with our LotusFlare DNO™ Cloud roadmap. After receiving the customer’s signed-off requirements, I work with DNO Cloud product managers to assess how our capabilities satisfy these requirements for various use cases. 

I have found that what’s really important for these responsibilities are my communication skills, which I have really tried to improve since arriving at LotusFlare. On a daily basis, I have to be sure that everything is aligned between the front-end (mobile team) and back-end (server) teams. I also communicate with customers to clarify requirements if needed as well as with the technical team for external integrations like core network, provisioning system, etc. On top of that, I communicate and test with partner vendors for external integrations for capabilities like eKYC, document e-sign, payment gateways, and chatbot.

You recently worked on a big project with A1, their new re:do brand. When delivering a project for a large enterprise, what are some guiding principles that you try to apply? What did you learn from helping to deliver this brand?

Working on re:do was both exciting and challenging for me. Along the way, I took notes that I hope will help me with future projects so I thought I might share them.

  1. Be patient and have an open mind when trying to understand customers’ requirements. Also ask lots of questions and voice any concerns, small or large, early on in the process. 
  2. Work at building good working relationships with customers by being helpful and respectful. 
  3. Show care for the customer’s project. This seems an obvious one but I know this is much appreciated by customers as it helps to strengthen the working relationship. As I see it, we are partners that have to work together as one team focusing on delivering the project in the best possible way. This allows the customer to help us out immediately when in need and be flexible rather than creating a culture of blame if things are not going well.
  4. Be firm (in a nice way) when trying to meet requirements by using OOB capabilities while trying to reduce requirements that cannot be met by OOB capabilities or that align with the DNO Cloud roadmap.
  5. Always work from documented and signed-off requirements because miscommunication can happen when things are not carefully documented and agreed. This helps the customer and helps us to deliver exactly what’s needed to reach a successful outcome.
  6. Don’t shy away from asking questions and sharing as much as possible, especially when working with internal teams. 
  7. Post-launch (support) is as essential as pre-launch support. 
  8. End-to-end testing and rigorous UAT plans are a must as this can help with edge cases and proactively solve them before launch.

What makes re:do so unique and what was the challenge regarding the integration process while working on this project?

I think the keyword here is “digital”. re:do is an all-digital provider of mobile services where the subscriber should do every operation through the app - they will not have retail stores. So, the challenge really is around keeping to this digital idea while trying to ensure the service is appealing to and attractive to the market segment that re:do wants to reach going forward.

Can you tell us about one of the integrations that you worked on? What did it achieve? What role does it play in the overall operation of the brand?

I worked on the mobile number portability (MNP) integration. MNP enables a new subscriber to “port in” or transfer to the new re:do brand from another operator with their current number. This also handles port-out to other operators. This is vitally important because, in the case of re:do they hope to acquire a number of new customers in the Slovenian market, the first market for re:do, the Slovenian market is quite saturated so almost every re:do customers will opt to transfer their number as part of joining re:do. There were multiple integration points in this flow, which included:

  • Integration with customer’s provisioning system to provide their number
  • Integration with the external vendor for e-signature (Branddocs)

Overall, the integration process for MNP was straightforward but for this new player in the market, it was particularly important that we got it right as the port-in process is at the core of the customer acquisition experience.

re:do is enabled by LotusFlare’s DNO Cloud. Which SaaS components did they use and what are the advantages of using DNO Cloud while building such a complex application?

The team deployed almost all of LotusFlare DNO SaaS components for re:do as it was essentially a new “greenfield” digital services provider coming into the market so they needed every capability that DNO Cloud offers. Besides the software, it’s important to point out that LotusFlare provided the services to build websites and frontend self-service mobile application (iOS and Android) for the customer experience re:do wants to deliver. LotusFlare started as a company focusing on mobile digital customer experience so it was a good combination of front and backend capabilities that were delivered.

Looking over your career so far, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Try to have “T-shaped” knowledge as much as I can, which means I need to have general knowledge about all domains and if needed to be an expert in a specific field. But I must try to accumulate base knowledge in as many topics as I can.

How would you describe LotusFlare to someone that is considering joining our team and which advice would you have for them?

The support in LotusFlare is incredible. The teams really support each other, banding together nicely to deliver outcomes like re:do. Whenever I need support from anyone whether project managers, product managers, or engineering teams, they always jump in right away trying to help and provide answers. To me, it shows they really care about the outcomes we are committed to delivering to our customers. My advice to anyone in or joining LotusFlare is this: never shy away from asking questions or seeking help because assistance is always just around the corner in LotusFlare.

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