What a Solutions Engineer does day-to-day
As an engineer, you may come across the term "Solutions Engineer" in the course of your career.
If you are a software engineer who builds application platforms, then you may have interacted with a Solutions Engineer before.
Whether you are looking for a career change or not, Solutions Engineer roles can also appear in your job feed.
No matter how you came across the Solutions Engineer role, you may want to know more about what a Solutions Engineer does.
So what does a Solutions Engineer do day-to-day?
Here are some points to help you understand the Solutions Engineer role better.
Build and maintain a deep understanding of what is in her sales bag
Typically, a vendor company groups its product offerings under different sales bags to sell to different customer groups.
Since a Solutions Engineer acts as a technical advisor to customers, she needs to be clear on what is in her sales bag.
What is in that bag tends to change. Therefore, the Solutions Engineer have to align with the latest developments of the products in her sales bag.
Dabble with technology that enables the product and services in their sales bag
If you are a Software Engineer, then Solutions Engineering roles can appear in your LinkedIn searches. Sometimes recruiters can knock on your door to get you to apply for Solutions Engineer roles.
Indeed, technical skills and experiences are the foundation for Solutions Engineers.
Therefore at the minimum, a typical Solutions Engineer is able to:
- Integrate programs with HTTP based endpoints.
- Build simple demo web application with a server programming language like Java/Python/PHP/Go/Node.js.
- Employ browser tools to troubleshoot a web application from the front end.
- Use IDEs to observe the runtime behaviour of SDKs.
Depending on what is in the sales bag, a Solutions Engineer may also need to possess knowledge of DevOps tools, cloud infrastructure and development solutions.
Apart from what they already knew, Solutions Engineers also explore technologies that they feel will become part of their products’ ecosystem.
For example, a Solutions Engineer may take up a Deep Learning Specialization if they anticipate customers employing machine learning models into business workflows.
Build proof of concepts to help customers visualise how to integrate with your product
If a picture is worth a thousands words, then a proof of concept is worth a million words.
When you present a live demo that demonstrates an integration with your products, you leave customers vivid impressions.
Sometimes, a Solutions Engineer has the option to use a POC that someone else had built. Even if that’s the case, a Solutions Engineer should build her own proof of concept to imprint the integration process at the back of her head.
After all, nothing beats advising with personal experiences. When a Solutions Engineer builds the POC herself, she can easily navigate issues and questions that can surface while giving a product demonstration.
Support Sales team in pre-sales pitches
Typically, the Sales team will be the one to have initial conversations with the customers. If a customer buys the product after those conversations, then all is good and the Solutions Engineer can be left out of the picture.
However, such situations are rare.
Typically, customers will want to know more about your product. After all, the customer will be investing substantial resources to enable your product in their ecosystem.
Perform product demonstration to C-Level executives and help them understand what your product is capable of
Since product information is available online, a live demonstration makes it more worthwhile for customers to meet with you.
After the Sales rep concludes the pitch decks, the Solution Engineer shows how a sample integration looks like.
In the midst of showing, the Solutions Engineer can reiterate key value propositions for using the product.
Guide customers' technical team in determining technical feasibility of your products
Before the customer decides to sign up for your product, they technical team can come along to access the technical feasibility.
Since the Sales team do not spend their day-to-day on the technical aspects of the product, the Solutions Engineer will be needed.
At this point in time, the Solutions Engineer picks up technical queries from the team and provide viable applications of the product.
Typically, customers' technical team is more concerned about what can be done or not. If some features are not available out-of-the-box, then they will want to know if there are any workarounds.
When there are any misconceptions on how the product works, the Solutions Engineer will need to address them as well.
Contribute to RFPs / RFIs responses
When a customer has strong buying power, they may use RFPs and RFIs to solicit product information from vendors in the market.
Within these documents, the customer lists multiple requirements in the areas of security, data privacy, operations, technical functionalities and etc.
Since a Solutions Engineer is the technical advisor at the vendor side, she will respond to the technical functionality requirements.
Many of these technical functionality requirements often go beyond yeses-or-nos. Therefore, the Solutions Engineer will need to fit the product into the various customer use cases, possibly with reference architectures.
Furthermore, a customer may have formed perceptions of how the product that they are looking for operates. Therefore, the Solutions Engineer will need to pick up those perceptions and bring the customer to a new way of operating the product.
Provide feedback and report bugs to product teams
Since a Solutions Engineer is constantly facing customers, she will have good visuals on customers' needs. A Solutions Engineer will gain good knowledge on the product through the proof-of-concepts that she had built. A Solutions Engineer often has empathy on the challenges of product development.
Therefore, a Solutions Engineer is in a good position to provide feedback and report bugs to product teams.
If a Solutions Engineer can get the features and fixes that customers yearn for into product releases, then there will be a better chance at winning the next deal.
Attend kick-off meetings
At the start of the year or quarter, the company can organize internal kick-off meetings. In such meetings, members of the Sales team come together to learn about new strategies and product offerings within the company. Since Solutions Engineers support the Sales team in customer meetings, they are usually invited to such kick-off meetings.
At the customer end, a kick-off meeting is usually arranged with the project implementation team after a customer signs up. During the meeting, the Solutions Engineer assists the implementation team on scoping the work needed for product integration.