Being a sales engineer can be a taxing job. It’s competitive, fast-paced, and requires a lot of people skills. As part of my Career Life Education 10 course, I interviewed an Ex-Sales Engineer. Surprisingly, it also ended up being my dad.
During the interview, I learned that his job title wasn’t actually a “Sales Engineer”. He was considered a Customer Systems Engineering Specialist, and he worked for Telus. He dealt with sales to big customers like BC Hydro, Fortis BC, Government of BC, and the RCMP to name a few. As an employee of a telecom company, I asked him what he sold, because through my research Sales Engineers often sold products. He responded by saying that he sold “hardware and software solutions for wireless networking” just as wireless systems were becoming more and more popular. Basically, he helped his customers develop their wireless systems. For example, making sure RCMP cars had laptops that connected to RCMP servers across the country; that was him. He was continually selling and designing wireless solutions for TELUS and selling them to big businesses that were going wireless in a digital age. I figured out that “Sales Engineering” is a very broad field and depending on who you work for your job varies.
Since I never knew my dad was a Sales Engineer, I asked him what it took for him to get there. The first thing I realized was that nowadays, doing what he had done is virtually impossible. He worked his way up through Telus, and with no engineering degree, he landed the job because of his technical abilities, people skills, and knowledge. In his words;
“It was unorthodox, but it opened many opportunities in the future”
There was a downside that my dad mentioned. He said the whole sales department was very competitive, and that TELUS had a bad reputation when it came to job security. He worked off a mixed commission and base salary, so everyone was always trying to make more money. For me, I always like a bit of competition, but I can also see how much pressure and stress it could cause me.
Lastly, I asked how the customers and sales were done at TELUS. He said that the majority of the time he would meet with customer executives and pitch a sale. He wouldn’t find the customers, but they would be funnelled to him through the sales department. He would work with company executives, users, and lower-level employees in order to make a sale. A lot of the time he learned about the inner workings of the different companies and formed relationships with people in many different branches and sectors of business. My dad said one of the most important skills the job gave him was networking through other people, and learning how to work alongside many people.
I learned a lot about what sales engineers do, what it takes, and why it can be a great job. I never knew that my dad was a sales engineer, and it was interesting hearing about his personal experience. When I first started researching sales engineering, I had a vague idea of what it took, but this project opened my eyes even further. Sales engineering is challenging, but it’s definitely a path I could pursue in the future.