We love showing off the awesome members of our #SalesforceOhana and sharing their inspiring stories. Today we caught up with Bernd Drothen, Senior Director, Solution Engineering, to get insight into his journey to becoming an SE here at Salesforce. 


Where did you start out?

After completing my studies of computer sciences in Germany I took on my first job at a US Business Intelligence company called MicroStrategy in Cologne, back in 1997. I had four very successful years there and while I started out as a consultant at MicroStrategy I soon changed into a pre-sales role which I found more fun and exciting.

I guess I have that sales gene in me that makes me love to compete and eventually hopefully win customers. After trying a few more US software companies I got that call in late 2004 from two men i had previously worked with, who had helped launch Salesforce in Germany.

I'd already heard quite a bit about this new company that wasn't selling licences anymore but offered everything as a service over the internet and I found it so revolutionary and new - it made so much sense to me! 

I joined in March 2005 as the fifth employee in Germany and the second Solution Engineer (SE). While things were a little easier and more manageable from a technology and complexity point of view, at the time it was all about consultative selling. That's what I still enjoy so much about this Solution Engineer role: understanding a customer's situation, goals and market environment and then come up with a custom built solution and sell it's value to that company.

I guess it's fair to say that Salesforce was the best decision ever in my professional life. Not only has it been an incredibly successful journey for the company since then but also for myself. I got promoted to manager after a few years when the SE team had grown respectively. 12 years later, i'm now responsible for the SE organisation covering Germany.


Why Solution Engineering

It's the diversity and the change that I like most about Solution Engineering - it just never gets boring. Every customer is different and that is even true within the same industry. They all have different goals, conditions and challenges. As an SE the essential part is to really understand each individual customer in order to be able to put together a solution that is of value.

The technology side of things never gets boring at Salesforce with all the innovation we deliver year after year. Now as a manager my job is even more diverse as I have the privilege to work with and look for all these talented SEs every day. They come from a range of backgrounds at Salesforce because we strongly believe in the power of a diverse workforce. We look for creative, passionate people in Solution Engineering that have the curiosity to do deep discovery in an account.

Solution Engineers should also enjoy dealing with the latest, hottest technology out there and how it can be used to create value for their customers. They need to be able to differentiate and go that extra mile to win in a highly competitive market place.

Coaching, developing and helping these SEs to progress in their careers is a wonderful task. I also highly appreciate the team spirit we have in the SE organisation that I haven't experienced elsewhere so far. SEs help each other, they share knowledge and they love to work in teams. Not only are we more successful when working in teams but also it's more fun.  


Why Salesforce?

I guess for me the question should be “Why STILL Salesforce?”. I joined so many years ago and it's been such an incredible journey with so much fun, innovation, success, change and amazing people and friends along the way. A few things however have remained unchanged and these are the core values that make up the culture of this great company. Values like trust, customer success and giving back still make me think this is the place to be.

As a leader I now have the privilege to pass these values on to my teams and to make sure we hold them high and to give other Salesforce employees the opportunity to experience and to internalise them.

In September, we went to Kenya with a group of nine SEs. We helped an organization called the Karibu Centre that cares for the kids from surrounding slums and that runs their entire organisation on the Salesforce platform which they can use for free. It was such a rewarding experience to work with these kids and the staff and it made us a better and closer team too.

Salesforce is also a perfect environment for me to move on with my career. With all the change and growth that's happening in this company on a permanent basis there is always room for every employee to grow into the next role. I now really enjoy passing on my experience from 20 years of solution engineering to new members of the team and to help them build a career in this fantastic company.



Quick facts about me

I'm born and raised  in Germany. Live in Ludwigshafen-Oggersheim right now which is about an hour south of Frankfurt.

I'm married and I have two teen daughters of 15 and 16 years. As a fun fact I met my wife in the same year I joined Salesforce - 2005 was a good year in every way.

I'm a big sports fan and my favorites are football, tennis and skiiing. The latter two I still do myself but football turned out to be to tough for a man approaching his fifties.

I also love cars especially old-timers and I'm a big fan of good food and wine. Comes in pretty handy that I live in a wine region.

In my next life I want to be a professional football or tennis player, a lawyer fighting for the poor or just rich enough to do nothing but enjoy good food and wine and collect old-timers.


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