Experiencing the Solutions Engineering World
Join Tiago, Solutions Engineering Manager in Lisbon, and Amanda, Solutions Engineer remote in the United States, to learn more about what Solutions Engineering is, why it is important to Cloudflare, and what career and development opportunities there are within this team.
If you are interested in joining the next edition of the Solutions Engineering program, please apply here for Arabic, Russian or Hebrew language speakers, and here for Spanish, German, French or Italian language speakers.
Hi everyone, welcome to another Cloudflare TV session. My name is Dani. I am part of the recruiting team and based in Lisbon.
And today I'm joined by two wonderful people from the solutions engineering team at Cloudflare.
And I would like for both of them to please introduce yourselves shortly.
So let's start with Amanda. Hey, everyone, super nice to meet you.
My name is Amanda Popko and I'm a solutions engineer based out of Dallas, Texas.
All right. And Tiago. Hi, everybody. My name is Tiago.
I'm a solutions engineering manager based in Lisbon. I joined Cloudflare about six months ago, and I'm really looking forward to this session.
Thank you so much for introducing yourselves. It's already a great start to the session because we managed to have folks from the SE team, but we're actually distributed globally.
So it's great to have you, Amanda, here and Tiago, of course.
I'm based in Lisbon as well. So I've had the chance to meet you personally.
And I hope one day I get to meet you too. But thank you so much for joining.
This will be a very fun session because today we're going to discuss a little bit more about solutions engineering and Cloudflare and the graduate program that we're about to launch for anyone who wants to start their solutions engineering career.
So I wanted to first start with the basics and ask you, Tiago, to please tell us more about what is solutions engineering.
Sure. So I'm really happy to talk about solutions engineering.
I've been working as an SE, the short for solutions engineering or solutions engineer, for over 10 years.
So for those of you who are not familiar with the role and the term, the solutions engineering team is part of the sales organization.
And this team is responsible for the technical side of the relationship with the customers.
So we are fundamentally part of the sales team, and we need to have a very good understanding of our portfolio of products and solutions.
So we have this portfolio, and we try to match the customer's business needs and design fit for purpose solutions based on or to adapt to those needs.
And we then kind of work together with the customer to build kind of a roadmap for adoption of our solutions.
So in summary, we're kind of the technical side of the sales organization, we help our customers understanding our products, our solutions, and kind of combining them together with some sometimes with some third party solutions as well in order to fit their business needs.
The solutions engineering role is also known as sales engineering, or customer engineering, in some cases, even solution architects, or sales consultants.
So the industry is kind of common across the industry, it does have, it's called different things, in some cases.
And so fundamentally, yeah, we work with customer engineers, and we need to have a strong kind of strong technical background, we have need to have a very good understanding of the technology that underpins our products and our solutions.
And so, as I said, we are part of the sales organization.
So we work obviously very close with the account executives or account managers.
But we also work with some other departments, right? We work with customer support, because sometimes our customers need to get support from that team.
We work with product and engineering. So it's a role that combines technical but also technical skills with some soft skills and some sales skills as well.
So it's quite a quite an interesting role. And early in my career, I actually, I studied computer science, but I figured that I didn't want to go into a pure kind of software engineering role.
So solutions engineering brought this great balance between being technical, but also having this social part to the role as well.
Great, thank you so much for sharing.
That was really insightful. And it definitely seems like the solutions engineering team is a mix between sales and tech in the engineering roles.
And one thing that you mentioned, made me think of a conversation we've had with Amanda about, you know, going into computer science or those types of courses and feeling like there's only one path ahead of being a software engineer.
We'll dive more into that later. But Amanda, I would like to ask you, do you want to add anything to what Tiago said?
And also in your experience, what are some skills that are needed to be a good solutions engineer?
Yeah, yeah, definitely.
I wholeheartedly agree with everything that he said. I did have a similar experience where I was actually asked, why are you in this major if you don't want to go into software development?
And I thought, you know, there's so many interesting customer facing roles out there.
And solutions engineering was just such a great fit for me personally.
So it's Yeah, I'm really glad that that role was an option.
What do you think makes for a good solutions engineer, in your opinion?
Yeah, I would say, you know, definitely being a good listener, being empathetic with the customers and prospects that you're working with, you know, a lot of the times they're coming to you, and they have these pains that they're experiencing.
So really trying to level with them and figure out, you know, what's the best way that I can help you out, as well as those communication, those presentation skills.
You know, you are often teaching prospects how to use the products, what options are out there for them, as well as having that curiosity.
So having that strong desire and determination to learn. Yeah, those are just some of the skills that are great for being a solutions engineer.
Great, thank you for sharing.
I do find some similarities between those characteristics and the values that we have with Cloudflare, our capabilities, as we call them, of being curious and always empathetic and leading by example.
So it's great to see that these skills and characteristics also make for a good solutions engineer.
All right, so on to our next question. I'm curious to learn more about how the sales work in a cloud company, especially in solutions engineering.
I get this question sometimes from people who are still studying, they haven't heard about solutions engineering, they don't know what it is, they don't know how it works, they don't know it's an option.
So even nowadays, there's still much to be discovered about this team.
So Tiago, could you please enlighten us about how the sales team works and solutions engineering more particularly in a cloud company?
Sure. So as I mentioned earlier, solutions engineering is kind of common across the tech industry, because some of the products and the solutions that we sell are used in complex projects that require some good understanding of the technology, and also, like figuring out the best way to combine the products that we sell with the rest of the IT landscape at that given customer, right.
So if I take as an example, imagine that you work for a startup, you want to launch an eCommerce platform, you might need a place where you actually host your application, but then you might need to cache some content, you might need to protect your website from malicious traffic.
So often, a new project relies on a combination of multiple different technologies and multiple different products.
So the role of the customer engineer or the solutions engineer is to help guiding that customer along that path.
Now talking about being a cloud company, which is the case for Cloudflare, so unlike traditional hardware vendors that kind of ship or sell some hardware that gets shipped to the customer, as a cloud company, the adoption is different.
And so is the kind of the sales lifecycle, right? So a customer might start by using one product from the Cloudflare portfolio, and then over time, realize that they actually need some other components that they can get from our platform as well.
And this is one of the interesting aspects about Cloudflare, we have a very comprehensive platform with multiple products that work really well together, and address different needs of the of the customer.
So as a cloud company, we tend to build long term relationships with customers in many cases.
So as solution engineers, we need to build that trust. So we build that relationship, we work with the same company, sometimes on multiple products and multiple projects, rather, and the sales lifecycle is faster than in many cases.
So because the platform, we put a lot of focus on the ease of use of the platform, some products can be used right away kind of off the shelf, right?
In some cases, we need to help the customer adopting our solutions and our products.
So regarding the actual role or the role we play within the sales organization, so as I mentioned, we are part of the technical side of the team.
But we work very closely with account executives and account managers who are responsible for managing the relationship with our customers.
We work with business development, for example.
So the representatives that actually look for new customers for new prospects.
Sometimes we get calls from customers, sometimes that BDR team reaches out to new customers looking for new business.
So SEs sometimes work with BDRs, business developer reps as well.
As I mentioned, we might work with customer support if one of our customers needs some help dealing with the support team.
And we also work as advocates for our customers. So it's a bidirectional relationship.
We're trying to position our products, but we're also constantly gathering feedback from our customers, right?
So the customers that we work with might have a very specific use case or a very specific need.
So we often take that feedback back to the product and the engineering teams, the teams that are actually defining the roadmap for our products, and developing new features or fixing bugs in our products.
So the solutions engineer plays this role, this bidirectional role acts like the bridge between our customers and the wider Cloudflare organization.
And the last thing I will mention, everybody at Cloudflare plays a role in recruitment as well.
So the team is growing quite steadily, quite rapidly.
And early on, you'll be asked to also help growing the Cloudflare team.
So that's something that we ask for pretty much everybody at Cloudflare.
Great, thank you so much for sharing. That was very insightful. And you touched upon a few things which I think are very important to notice.
For example, I've had some some folks asking me, isn't the solutions engineering just another name for CISA, for customer support?
Or are they responsible for selling things to the customers, like an account executive and dealing with that kind of partnership?
So I think you helped mitigate some of these questions and answer some of them.
So so thank you for that.
I definitely feel like the solutions engineering team has to be very flexible.
And it's a great team to work in if you want to have contact with the whole of the organization, because in the end of the day, you wind up speaking with product managers, account executives, you know, customer supports, even engineering teams, I'm sure.
So like the whole of Cloudflare, you're in touch with everyone, which is amazing for those of us who are curious and wanting to learn more about the organization that we're in.
So so that's great.
And indeed, everyone is responsible and for helping to recruit more folks. And of course, bringing the best of people and talent here to Cloudflare.
So it's it's a great touch to say it.
And thank you so much for sharing. So now that I'm now that I've been speaking a little bit about Cloudflare, I would like to ask Amanda more specifically, how was your onboarding experience at Cloudflare?
Yeah, you know, it was extremely thorough, it was organized, it was like a month long process of both technical enablement, as well as sales enablement.
So I had individual sessions focusing on, you know, the processes that we have in place here, the tools that we can use when we're working with other teams, as well as our customers, as well as the products that we sell.
And what's nice is that I still had time to learn from my team, I could shadow them on different opportunities.
And you know, I didn't feel pressured to immediately jump in, I had enough time to digest what I was learning.
So it was a really nice process for ramping up. Great, it's good that you mentioned that, because I do think I think this experience happens to pretty much everyone who joins Cloudflare, the onboarding weeks are very intensive, because there are so much, there is so much information that you need to retain and learn.
And of course, a lot of it will just, you know, go right through you, and you won't get it the first time around.
So in some other companies, I'm sure that they don't give you enough time to really understand and research for yourself and go to the wiki and look things up and understand.
But at Cloudflare, we do give that time.
And it's great to see that the solutions engineering team also allows you the time to learn, because you work with our products, and we do have a lot of products.
So I'm sure it's a challenge to learn all about them.
All right. And Amanda, what about your day today as a solutions engineer?
What do you do on a daily basis? Yeah, you know, one of the great things about being a solutions engineer is that you do have a lot of control over your calendar.
So you know, you're able to figure out when do I have time to strategize my current accounts, figure out how I can grow them, you know, what are some of the pains that my customers are having that I can start planning ahead for, as well as collaborating with other teams.
So I'm constantly meeting new people across the company.
And then also having those customer facing calls, of course.
So a lot of, you know, building and maintaining those relationships, as well as having time to keep up with learning.
So it's a pretty, you know, divided calendar.
And it really gives me time to address everything that I need to.
Speaking of giving you time to learn, how do you, you and solutions engineers in general, keep up with, you know, such a fast paced industry where today, it's one way and then the next day, it's totally different?
Oh, yeah, yeah, it definitely helps having that control over your calendar, because you're able to set up time to look at different LinkedIn posts and blogs, and you know, IEEE, you're also able to take time for industry certifications.
So I have certifications at both AWS and Azure, for example, and really just keeping up with that passion for learning and innovation.
So getting hands on when you can, with new products, and then also just, you know, new compliances and software as they're coming out.
Great, thank you so much for sharing. I also can't help but mention the Cloudflare blog, which I've heard folks at Cloudflare say that Cloudflare is a blogging company first, and a cloud company next, because we have so much good information on our blog.
And it's such a great source to learn more about all topics and a lot of different topics among the Internet and how it works in cloud and all of that.
So I do encourage everyone to check it out and see if there's something you haven't learned yet.
And maybe you learned something today.
And one last question that I'm curious about, and I really want to know this.
So what is the most rewarding part of being a solutions engineer to you?
Yeah, you know, for me personally, it's just really building and maintaining those relationships with my customers.
You really are a trusted advisor to them.
And you know, you'll work with them over the course of the year, maybe many years to come.
And it's just so rewarding to be able to help them address those pains that they've really been suffering from, and just showing them that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
So we're finally, you know, resolving those issues that have been really keeping them down for hours, sometimes longer.
Thank you so much for sharing. That's great. I do think you know, we work with people every day, both internal folks and, you know, other stakeholders like clients, customers, you know, just anyone who needs help, really.
And it's great to know that we are trusted advisors to them.
And we do try really hard and work really hard to maintain that that report with folks.
So thank you so much for sharing your experience.
And now, Tiago, I wanted to ask you more specifically about the Associate Solutions Engineer graduate program that we're launching soon because you are the manager for this team.
So you will be the manager for the folks that join us next summer.
And I'm very, very curious to learn more about, you know, the goal and what you're looking for exactly for this program.
Sure. And so, yeah, in 2023, we'll be launching the Solutions Engineering graduate program.
That's the new name for it.
We've actually had a couple of iterations, but now we're officially launching it.
And the goal is, like, basically, we want to hire people. The Solutions software as a whole, but also Solutions Engineering organization is growing quite rapidly.
So we're building this talent pipeline that will feed that growth.
And we're looking to hire graduates. So for this particular program, prior professional experience is not required because we are looking to train these new members of the team, these graduates, as part of the program.
So if I talk a little bit about the format and the timelines.
So we're designing this six -month program, okay, that will hopefully start in July for 2023.
And so this, we will start with four months of technical and functional skills training.
So by technical, I mean learning, starting with the foundations of networking, security, and so on.
And then starting to learn more about the Pulseware products. On the functional side, as I mentioned, we need, we are part of the sales team.
So we also need some functional skills, some communication skills.
So you'll learn about presenting, running a demo, having a meeting with an executive, for example.
So the first four months will be focused on those technical and functional skills.
And then the latter, the last two months will be more focused on what we call the on-the -job experience.
So you'll start learning more about being a Solutions Engineer. You'll be shadowing more experienced SEs or Solution Engineers.
You'll start owning some of those tasks.
So you'll gradually build that confidence, build that experience to ultimately become a Solutions Engineer.
So again, it's a graduate program.
We're looking to hire people with some academic or with an academic degree on engineering or something technology related, but then we'll train you.
So again, there's no need for professional experience. So that's our goal.
And that's mainly regarding the graduate program and we'll be publishing more information about it.
You'll be able to see more information about the actual role and all the tasks in the job description.
The last thing that I wanted to mention regarding the graduate program and one of the main goals is to build a really diverse team.
So we'll be looking to hire in different geographies. We're looking to hire people with different backgrounds, coming from different cultures, with different language skills, for example.
So that's another big goal for this program in particular.
So we're really looking forward to welcoming new members to this graduate program.
And just as a fun fact, I started my career myself many years ago in a graduate program.
So I do believe I'm quite passionate about it. And I do believe that this is a great way for you to start your career in a structured way with a lot of support and you'll be collaborating with different teams, different associate solution engineers in other regions as well, hopefully.
So I'm really looking forward to it. Great. Thank you so much for sharing.
I am very excited about the program as well. I'm sure it will be a blast.
And, you know, for all of you who are watching now, we have another video up that you can check after this one, where I spoke with a few of our class from last summer, a few associate solutions engineers who have been here for a few months now and about their experiences.
And I'm sure you'll enjoy that conversation too, because they do go into what their experience was like.
We have an associate solutions engineer who actually moved from Turkey to Lisbon.
So there's a whole bunch of different experiences and ideas that we discuss over there.
So as for this program.
And as a final note, I did want to go over the interview process really quickly.
So the way we set it up is we're going to have the role opened in our career space.
So you can apply freely. And then we will review all of your CVs, curriculums, and then those who are chosen to move forward, we'll have to do a video presentation, a short one, just so we can assess your English speaking skills.
And after that, you'll meet with the team.
We have three short interviews about, you know, a role play stage, a presentation, and then also about Orange Cloud interviews.
If you can, you can check it in our website about what Orange Cloud is. Sorry.
So you can check it on our website. It's more about how we work as a team and how you prefer to work and which environment you thrive the best.
So we want to learn more about you, of course.
If all goes well, then you'll have one final call with Maha Pula.
She's our head of solutions engineering. And if everything goes well, then we're going to be very happy to offer you a contract to join the team in Lisbon to start in the summer.
So if you have any questions whatsoever, you know, Tiago, Amanda, and myself, we're always happy to answer anything.
And feel free to reach out to careers at Cloudflare.com and I'll make sure to answer all of your emails.
So I think this is it for now. I would just like to ask Amanda and Tiago if you have any last advice for folks who are watching and currently considering joining the associate solutions engineering program, graduate program.
Is there anything you'd like to say? I'd say, you know, definitely go for it.
If you know so far in this presentation, it sounds like you have some of the skills that we've mentioned.
And this really is in your ballpark of interest.
It's an amazing opportunity for an amazing company. So yeah, I definitely say go for it.
Yeah. And from my side, just to reiterate the message, if you like technology, but if you also like the social aspect of dealing with other people, dealing with customers, I think solutions engineering can be a great career for you.
And joining Cloudflare, joining a graduate program really is a great opportunity.
So don't be shy. Please do reach out if you have any questions. We'll be more than happy to answer all of them.
Great. Thank you so much for joining today.
This was amazing. I'm very happy about all of this and I hope to see you all very soon.
Thank you. Thank you.
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