Women in tech should be having a moment. After all, a 2020 McKinsey study showed that companies that prioritise gender diversity and ethnic diversity financially outperform those that don’t by a notable margin.
But despite the financial and cultural benefits of diversity, the tech industry is still dominated by men. Daphne De Backer, Senior Manager Solution Engineering at Salesforce, finds this gender gap worrying.
“It’s essential that it’s not just men who are shaping our future,” Daphne says. “Technology today drives innovation extremely fast. It’s not only desirable but essential, that these innovations are not just driven by men.”
“Women should be at the forefront when it comes to deciding which areas of research to expand and how technology is to be used.”
The future may be about tech, but it’s also about health, education, and family. It’s concerning, then, that only 19% of tech workers are women. In fact, Milan-based Daphne is the only female Solution Engineer in Southern Europe.
It’s clear that we need more women in tech. But can women without a traditional tech background find a place in a world that’s seen as male-dominated?
The term ‘Solution Engineer’ may sound complex, but it’s not as scary as you might think. As Daphne puts it, solution engineers “work alongside Account Executives to discover customers’ business challenges. They create unique, rich solution prototypes to present back to their decision makers, illustrating value and benefits via an engaging story.”
Solution Engineer is a role that depends as much on creativity and problem-solving as on tech skills. When hiring SEs, Salesforce looks for a balance of perspectives and skill sets, not just technical expertise.
“There is often a misunderstanding that technical ability is essential. It’s valuable. But strong business acumen, creativity, storytelling, and listening skills are just as important.”
Salesforce’s commitment to look beyond tech backgrounds allows it to focus on underlying ‘soft’ skills. It also trains suitable candidates where needed. This is becoming the norm, as companies realise the value of non-traditional skills in tech-focused roles.
Women who can lead, communicate, and tell stories that resonate shouldn’t assume they don’t have the ‘right’ background for Solution Engineering roles. In fact, they should look at the chance to learn new tech skills as being another arrow in an ever-growing quiver.
As Daphne says: “Solution Engineers fall into two broad categories. There are the more technical SEs and the business SEs. Technical SEs are truly passionate about application development, security, encryption, APIs, integration, data strategies, and so on. They are problem-solvers and challengers, with an amazing capability to offer detailed explanations for strategic decisions. Business SEs, meanwhile, surprise and delight customers with creative, benefit-rich solution prototypes. We aim to build a well-balanced team, with different backgrounds and varied skills, so that we can offer the best experiences to our customers.”
This idea of building a cognitively diverse team points towards a new age of problem-solving. In this new world, the whole is stronger than its parts. And no obstacle is impossible to overcome.
A varied but tight-knit team is one of the things that makes working at Salesforce so enjoyable. “We run brainstorming sessions, workshops on any topic, plan team-building activities, online and offline gatherings — and much more,” Daphne says.
Daphne finds it particularly rewarding to collaborate with stakeholders to maximise their potential. “When I joined Salesforce as a Solution Engineer, I quickly learned that it’s about being able to truly connect with your customer. I provide a clear vision for their future, then move them towards the realisation of that vision.”
“Everybody can learn at Salesforce. There’s nothing holding anyone back.”
This empowering statement from Daphne is also a declaration of intent from Salesforce. The company strives to prioritise diversity and inclusivity while creating an environment rich with challenge and opportunity.
Salesforce’s commitment also applies to its stakeholders, and the company’s focus on excellence, growth, and collaboration is infectious. Solution Engineers at Salesforce can also expect a healthy work/life balance.
“There’s a huge range of day-to-day activities,” says Daphne. “These include everything from discovery, solution-creation, and customer-facing activities. There are also demos, workshops, talks, and more. The variation offers flexibility, and gives you a chance to develop your own work/life balance.”
Salesforce SEs aren’t just smart — that’s a given at the world’s #1 CRM company — they’re ‘Salesforce smart’. They’re passionate about innovating and problem-solving. And they push beyond their comfort zone.
Daphne says that there are some qualities SEs have in common: “curiosity, creativity, empathy, patience, trustworthiness, and confidence.” Another thing they have in common — at least for the moment — is that they’re mostly men.
The small number of women in tech is discouraging, but help is on the way.
“The number of women in tech careers is increasing, slowly but surely.”
“This is the perfect time for women in tech to seize the day in an inclusive and diverse company. This is the time to make your voices heard.”
To join the Salesforce team in building a brighter tomorrow, check out the job openings for Solution Engineers.