What is a Solution Engineer?
I remember when I received the referral for this role. Final year of my undergraduate and shooting out applications like a gunslinger in a spaghetti western. Solution Engineer (SE). Yeah, it’s got engineer in the title, let’s go.
First misconception. This is not an engineering role, this is a sales role. One with a technical skew, but this is not traditional engineering. You are primary in sales. You are a Solution Engineer.
What is a Solution Engineer?
The role differs from company to company, but I’ll attempt to make this write up fairly neutral.
A Solution Engineer, sometimes called:
- Sales/Presales Engineer
- Sales/Solutions Consultant
- Solutions Architect
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines what a Sales/Solutions Engineer does: “Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses."1
What do they do?
An SE is someone who is at the intersect of product, strategy and operations. They are in “Technical” Sales. They help potential customers understand, from a technical perspective, how the company’s (The SEs) product can fit into their company needs. This means taking a bag of tools (Product, Software, Services), and coming up with solution to real business problems.
If you’re familiar with hackathons2 it’s a product-specific hackathon centred around certain use cases, in essence. If the term hackathon is intimidating it is anything but. SEs don’t have to be particularly technical. It varies from company to company and even within companies, there’s a technical spectrum.
Day in the life?
Work alongside a salesperson to determine business challenges. Talk to the customer confirming challenges and teasing out any other pain points. Then create a story (powerpoint slides) focused around providing value to your customer (with your company’s product being the conveniently placed solution) with a bespoke solution (demonstration).
How do they compare with SWE?
You talk to clients. In some cases you travel (considerably less after covid I’m presuming). It’s like wearing the project managers manager badge and developer badge at the same time.
Skills needed for the job?
You need to be a solid communicator. Able to actively listen to customers requirements, build a complex solution and simply commmunicate those same requirements back to the customer in a language that they understand. Your audience will vary greatly in ability to understand.
Don’t you have to be a bussin technical programmer?
At some companies the average SE is more technically adept than the average SWE (Software Engineer). At others they do literally ZERO coding and you provide L1 level Tech support. You will probably know from the interview what to expect.
All in all, I think it’s a pretty nice role to end up in.
Short clips that reminds me of the job.