My name is Robin Andersson and I am now a Solution Engineer for our Mid-Commercial Customers based out of New York City. This is my Salesforce Story.
As the Boeing 787 powers it's way back to New York City, my current home, from Sweden, my original home, I can't help but reflect upon my three and a half year Salesforce journey. Ironically, it all began in New York City.
Sometimes the best decisions can't be explained.
Well let me be completely honest, and let's back the story up to November 2011. My Salesforce journey started back in college in the USA. I was flipping through the Forbes 2011 magazine of best companies to work for and I said to myself, “why not work for one of them?”. That lead to some researching that was then interrupted by some graduate schooling, which was then followed by some re-researching.
It was three years later when I finally decided to apply and asked a friend to refer me - the best way to get in! Two weeks later, I quit my job and booked a one-way ticket back to Europe. Quite a rash decision making process but something inside told me it was the right opportunity.
Rather than why did I join, the real question for me is why have I stayed? And why will I continue to stay? Easy as 1-2-3:
I am now a Solution Engineer in New York City but I started my Salesforce career as an intern back in Dublin.
I liken my journey at Salesforce to being onboard a rocket ship, and I still can't fathom how I have managed to get all the way back to New York so quickly with Salesforce encouraging the move. I know I owe a lot of that to the people that I been surrounded by throughout my various roles in Salesforce - whether its colleagues or managers - Salesforce hires some smart and talented people.
Every day is a learning experience by just being surrounded by these awesome people. And last but not least, it’s important to never lose the fun factor.
While this is an intense, fast paced company, we never forget to have fun! Whether its partaking in Halloween Costume Contests (Yes, i was the back to back winner in Dublin and New York ;) ), or the countless laughs with colleagues as we are driving around the remote areas in Netherlands or on an airplane heading to Stockholm, each day is fun.
You are the person you are. Embrace it! Own it!
Does the Engineer part of the title scare you, as it did me? My first question when exploring the role was “how technical is it?” Well let me be the first to demystify one big misleading factor about the SE role at Salesforce for everyone out there. Solution Engineering is not a technical role. It’s a sales role. A consultative sales role. But of course, I do get the odd conversation as outlined below:
Q: What do you do?
A: I am an SE.
Q: Nice! What did you study?
A: Well… International Relations for Undergraduate, and International Business for Graduate.
Q, with confused look: How did you become an SE if you’re not technical?
During school for my undergraduate, I studied International Relations and Politics, and for my graduate, I studied International Business. This was very far from technical, other than occasionally smacking my laptop when it crashed during finals week. But, what my studies did teach me were people skills and how to articulate an argument and present it well.
And, it turns out that as an SE you can apply all of that (lucky me). You present. Actually, you present A LOT. You present at customer meetings. You present at events. You present at Salesforce meetings. I even have to explain what Salesforce does at every Christmas dinner to my grandmother.
Solution Engineering has been less about whether I could code or demonstrate how to set-up something super technical. I still to date think that being an SE at Salesforce is all about amplifying the skills that you do possess and less about the skills or knowledge that you are missing. In my case, my soft skills quickly overshadowed my lack of technical skills.
And honestly, I look at technology today and how quickly it changes. How can I even prepare myself for technology that we don’t even know exists? But nevertheless, Salesforce gives us a lot of time and patience to develop our product and personal skills.
So, my advice is to not be afraid of the word “Engineer” in the title, because at the end of the day, being a Solution Engineer is all about what you make of the role. I know from my personal experience that I was fortunate to define what being an SE meant for me. It's kind of one of those hidden perks that no one ever advertised, but you pleasantly uncover as you settle into the role.
Make your own luck happen. Don't wait for it!
Why not Solution Engineering?!?! I’ll confess…. I still do not understand the full job description or what percentage of my skills would actually qualify. But for me that is the beauty of being an Solution Engineer! I can sort of be anything I want to be.
Someone very close to me from High School back in Muscat, Oman gave me a perspective that I never saw before. Over a cold drink, he told me that out of everyone we grew up with, it seems I am one of the few that truly enjoy what I do for a living. That statement didn’t truly sink in until a week later and I think it goes back to the role I have and that it continuously develops and changes as Salesforce grows and innovates. I have never felt stuck or bored.
So what is it that I do on a daily basis? Well... let me break down what a typical day for me was. Bear in mind…there never really was a “typical” day. So here is my best attempt to illustrate my day when I was with Salesforce in Ireland.
8:30am: Arrive to work with headphones on. (Not a morning person)
8:45am: Book my travel to Milan for a customer on-site with an automotive brand
9:00am: Call to understand the customer’s pain points and begin to prepare for the on-site. (We call this a Discovery Call)
10:30am: Since the call covers Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, and Community Cloud, we will have a quick sync with some people to align our solutions. (Selling in Salesforce is a team sport)
11:00am: SE Team Meeting (Top of Mind topics with a lot of jokes and laughter)
12:00pm: Lunch + chit-chat with colleagues
1:00pm: Build Presentation Deck + Customer Deck for World Tour Keynote
3:00pm: World Tour Dry-Run
4:00pm: Check-in for flight to Amsterdam & administrative work
3:30pm: Final prep for a demo for a Dutch lingerie company
5:30pm: After work happy-hour :)
Sure it is sexy to be traveling to the Nordics, or Netherlands/Belgium, or Spain and Italy almost getting to know your flight attendants on a first name basis. Or one day presenting in the Netherlands to a high-end lingerie brand and the next week being in London for our main Salesforce conference, helping an Area Vice President get ready to speak in front of thousands of people with a presentation that I had built.
But, I truly love the freedom and flexibility to make this job my own and control my own destiny in a way.
I recall to this date a very nerve racking conversation about 3 months into my role as a Solution Engineer. We had just started our new fiscal year and I had my first official one-to-one with a new manager. Outlining my plan for the year and giving some feedback on my first 3 months, I brought up that I wanted to try some new and different things on how I approach my work compared to my colleagues. Maybe some things that were a bit unconventional at the time. Funny thing is that I sat in the meeting room anticipating major push-back and hearing how to say NO in 10 different ways. But instead I was shocked with “Great! Go with it. Just let me know how can I help you”. Talk about gaining a sense of empowerment and importance.
The picture below is one year after our One-to-One chat and they say a picture says a 1,000 words... in this case it paints an image of how close your colleagues become to you.
In summary, you have the control and the freedom to push the boundaries and help shape a continuous evolution to the role and what it means to be a Solution Engineer. Salesforce and Solution Engineering will present you with so much flexibility, opportunity, and growth to the point where it can almost be overwhelming. My journey really came down to becoming the person that always looked to the left when everyone else looked right for opportunities and having ALOT of fun while doing it. What would your journey be like?
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