Regardless of your means of stumbling upon IAMSE.blog, you may have wondered “What is an SE, and what do they do?”
In a nutshell a Sales or Solution Engineer (SE) is part of a companies go to market team. They tend to be the technical counterpart to the Account Executive/s. There are many nuances within the SE space but the core of our job is to assist in the sales process. The two key ways we do this is by:
- Understanding the solution we are positioning and assisting a prospect/customer decide if it is the right tool for them
- Articulate technology capability into business value outcomes
So I have decided to post a short series of non technical articles to give you an idea of what we do, and how you might be able to get into this career path yourself. First up, I will be shedding some light onto what a typical (or non-typical) day looks like in the life of a SE. I will take you through the different elements that make up my role, and a general wrap up. Let’s dive in.
This is the element of the role that will appeal to most who embark on this career journey. For myself, I was getting pushed more and more into management roles, and the higher you get, the less you can stay “on the tools” so to speak. Within Okta the solutions we provide are constantly evolving, so there is expectation to keep up to date with the latest capabilities being released, and also a eye on the roadmap ahead. So you will be constantly learning in this regard.
You then have our customers and prospects. Each come with their own unique environments and challenges, so throughout the sales process we discover the current state, help workshop the future, demonstrate how we can assist to get there, and provide other context we may have about industry peers or even learnings from other global geographies. We make out of the box or custom solutions for problems, some of which you can read about on this blog. We tend to all be quite curious individuals, so I will often see team members retreat into their home offices and just sit with a problem till they can solve it. Many times, this is simply for the love of problem solving – but if it also helps a customer and is something we can reuse in future, that helps a lot.
We all need to maintain a level of broad knowledge, but we also have specialists that have deeper understandings of either a market vertical (eg. Banking or Health) or product specialties (eg. Workforce or Customer Identity). Much like the many users contributing to this blog, similarly within our organisation, you pull in the needed skill sets required as well. You’ll find us supporting and enabling our teams internally and also creating artefacts (like this blog) for general consumption. So a need to constantly learn, and share that knowledge is key.
Marketing Events & Sales
I blended these two topics together to encapsulate everything outside of the technical elements, but are important within the larger sales cycle. You will often find one (or more) of us positioned at our vendor booths during conferences. Other times you may find us facilitating a round table, or even speaking on stage. This allows us to share the knowledge we have and also engage with customers in a more informal manner. The key is to be authentic and available.
Additionally through the end to end sales cycle, we determine what is a good fit for our solutions, and what problems fall outside of our technical capability. Keeping a level head and communication is key. Putting yourself in your customers shoes, is the best way to make sure you can guide them towards a decision which aligns to their goals.
One thing that covid helped with, was our ability to get things done remotely. While this is often still the case, sometimes a zoom call just isn’t going to cut it. If you are fortunate enough to support the same region you live in, you may only need to do trips within your city. But many of us support larger geographies, or are subject matter experts required in different regions. So travel is a given. While this may seem glamorous at first, the shine does wear off quickly when you realise all you see are airports, conference centres and hotel rooms.
As a team, we do make sure we support each other to allow for work life balance. Some quick tips, hydrate a lot and learn how to sleep anywhere.
A Typical Day
There is no typical day to be honest. Every day juggles all of these aspects, and more adhoc things thrown in. Being such a multi faceted role, you have the ability to lean into the areas you are interested in, and play a supporting role in others. My typical day can start from either 4am on a travel day, or be quiet till lunchtime, which allows me time to catch up on paperwork or tackle my ever growing to-do list. Managing my time and being selfish with it, is my biggest challenge day to day.
From a career growth perspective, I have been able to maintain my technical skills, and build upon them. All while helping 100’s of customer and prospects work through their identity challenges.
Would I recommend this as a career path? 100% every day of the week. I have always enjoyed working on many things at once, so it suits me perfectly.
Is it for everyone? Maybe not. It depends on your curiosity and ability to self educate and self pace your efforts. I do know it requires such varied skills and knowledge that many people can be successful in the role, with the right mindset coming into it.
So if it sounds like you, stay tuned for my next blog about how to get into a career in solution engineering.