What are the career progression options available to an experienced programmer?
Most software engineers ask this question at some point in career. And the answer to this question is not one-dimensional. There are many aspects like number of years of technology experience, company management’s view on career progression, personality trait and qualifications.
One of the options available for an experienced programmer is to get in to Pre-Sales. As this can be a natural progression towards utilizing his existing skills along with a new dimension to explore the realms of how business is done. It will expose him to a new world of how the product/ technology is evaluated and embraced by the end users and what goes in to converting a prospect in to a customer.
What does a Pre-Sales Engineer do?
He drives the technical side of the sales. He works in concert with a Sales Person who is responsible for the overall sales success in a group of accounts.
However, there are few apprehensions which scare many from enthusiastically considering this option. And below are the contrasting views and skills that can be learnt or honed with the role:-
- I’ll lose my technical edge, my engineering skills will get rusty – How long can you remain a techie?
- Sales people are devious, I don’t want to be considered sly – Can you persuade people to consider alternatives?
- Sales are easy, I won’t learn anything of value – Sales is very critical and complex for organizations’ growth and also to increase customer’s trust in your brand.
- I’m used to a salary, this commission thing scares me – Every task has responsibility and accountability with higher risk vs reward equation.
- If I do sales I will have to lie – Can you foresee situations and project comparative study for consideration?
- I will have to give speeches – Can you articulate your thoughts to maintain the balance of the discussion?
- I’m not sure if there is a career path in sales – Sales people have more supremacy to stake claims for C level roles in the organization.
To be an effective Pre-Sale Engineer you need to master a number of key “Soft Skills” to compliment your engineering experience.
- Public speaking and presentation
- Q & A
- Competitive Analysis
- People skill
- Sales pitch
A Pre-Sales Engineer interacts with many disparate groups and helps create a fit between the product and the customer. He acts as a bridge between customer groups. He is the voice of the customer and acts as the eyes and ears for the company’s technical marketing and engineering departments. His feedback helps company to better understand the unique needs of the customers. Many highly technical products & services must be adapted to prospect’s particular need and environment. As an extension of engineering, Pre-Sales Engineer can modify and extend hardware and software to provide customers with as close to an ideal solution as possible.
His success depends on how well he understands the core technology of the product and how it differentiates from the competition. This helps in product positioning. The product implementation details allow to extrapolate the capability of the product in specific situation and to make judgment about what is and is not possible with the underlying architecture.
Understanding technology behind competitors’ products and how your competitors’ products are implemented can allow him to creatively compare and contrast his solution. He can relate “what if” scenarios to support product superiority. Armed with this knowledge he can paint an accurate picture of real costs of “make versus buy”.
Communication is the cornerstone of a good relationship. To build a relationship with the prospect, he needs to spend time on both technical and general topics. If a prospect likes you, all things being equal, they will choose you and your product over competition.
The understanding of sales process helps in gauging how well a sale is progressing. And this can help in identifying the next steps required to move the sales forward.
To acquire “Soft Skills” with hands-on experience business education can be helpful. Sunstone Business School provides this opportunity to learn and hone the “Soft Skills” required for this kind of career progression with its PGPM program. This program is based on the “Problem Based Learning Approach” where you are given a problem to solve which helps in applying the principles being taught during the course.