The Problem?

For several years, the glorified spotlight of attention has been on software engineers and product managers in the tech scene.

Job growth for software engineers is quite high at 17% from 2014 – 2024.

Job growth for product manager roles is expected at 10% within 2016-2026.

Consequently, there are tons of individuals racing to snatch these coveted roles due to the hype in the job market place.

The Opportunity?

As a result, this also gives rise to an opportunity for hidden gem roles in the tech scene: hybrid business and technical customer-facing roles.

What Are the Opportunities For Technical Customer-Facing Roles?

The Sales Engineer Role in 2019

Quick Overview:

You will support the sales team for more technical conversations during the pre-sales life cycle.

This usually involves troubleshooting technical obstacles from technical stakeholders, creating POC (proof of concept) demos, solution design, and solutions implementation. 

Getting This job

You can get a junior Sales Engineer role if you graduated from college with a technical degree and a business minor or double major.

Typically, a Sales Engineer role is not an entry or junior level role because it demands an experienced command of business acumen and working technical knowledge and expertise. 

You can piece these skills together by coming into Sales Engineering via Sales, Customer Success, Product Management, or Engineering (with some customer-facing experience)

Skill Sets Needed:

  1. Coding: scripting skills (object-oriented programming language like Ruby, Python, JavaScript, etc), project portfolio, etc
  2. Customer Facing Business Acumen: basically Sales (lead generation, lead qualification, closing deals)
  3. Cross-Functional Collaboration: managing department expectations, working with other departments to achieve customer goals, responsibility hand-offers, etc
  4. Data Analytics: SQL data querying, BI (business intelligence) tools
  5. Project Management: usually translated in managing multiple sales opportunity accounts
  6. Interfacing with Executive Stakeholders: Understand decision makers goals and achieve them

Job Description (Sample from Glassdoor):

  1. Present Snowflake technology and vision to executives and technical contributors at prospects and customers.
  2. Work hands-on with prospects and customers to demonstrate and communicate the value of Snowflake technology throughout the sales cycle, from demo to proof of concept to design and implementation.
  3. Maintain a deep understanding of competitive and complementary technologies and vendors and how to position Snowflake in relation to them.
  4. Collaborate with Product Management, Engineering, and Marketing to continuously improve Snowflakes products and marketing.

Compensation (SF Bay Area Average):

  1. Average Annual Base Salary: $119,284

Demand for Sales Engineer

Job outlook for Sales Engineer is at a steady 7% between 2016-2016 period.

Career Growth

It’s tough getting a Sales Engineer role because it’s not a typical entry or junior level role. However, if you are already in this field, you can evolve your career with these options:

  1. Management: lead your own team of Sales Engineer
  2. Sales: become an enterprise sales executive
  3. Customer Success: handle technical implementation and upsells in the post-sales side
  4. Product Development: fully transition your technical skills into a dedicated engineering role
  5. Product Management: transition your diverse skill set in business and technology to build a product or feature from end to end.

More Resources

More information on the Sales Engineer career path

Zippia provided a really great, comprehensive explanation of the Sales Engineer role. 

Technical Customer Success (Account) Manager (2019)

Quick Overview:

This role is pretty similar to a Sales Engineer. Sometimes, this role can be synonymous to a Customer Success Engineer.

This is a hybrid role that requires an account (project) management, customer-facing (sales, etc), and technical skills (coding, database queries, etc).

The traditional Customer Success role is in charge of managing a book of accounts and ensure customer retention and ultimately, renewal.

The technical prefix involves technical enablement or creating POCs to help prove the value for upselling.

Getting This job

Depending on the company, there might be Associate Customer Success Manager roles, but typically, this role is mid-level. 

Typically, Customer Success talent comes from Sales or Operation. 

But following the increasingly high technical and business acumen, companies finding talent from individuals with a technical background in computer science or engineering and with some customer-facing experience.

Skill Sets Needed:

  1. Coding: scripting skills (object-oriented programming language like Ruby, Python, JavaScript, etc), project portfolio, etc
  2. Customer Facing Business Acumen: basically Sales (lead generation, lead qualification, closing deals)
  3. Cross-Functional Collaboration: managing department expectations, working with other departments to achieve customer goals, responsibility hand-offers, etc
  4. Product Management: setting metrics, framing success
  5. Project Management: usually translated in managing multiple customer accounts
  6. Data Analytics: SQL data querying, BI (business intelligence) tools
  7. Interfacing with Executive Stakeholders: Understand decision makers goals and achieve them

Job Description (Sample from Glassdoor):

  1. You’ll own the engagement, adaption, retention, and growth of your customers.
  2. You’ll understand the customer’s needs, and establish the Testim platform as the best solution that solves the customer’s challenges.
  3. You’ll train new customers on how to use the Testim platform in a way that is tailored to their specific use-case and implementation.
  4. You’ll monitor customer usage data, health indicators, renewal dates, and growth opportunities and translate into strategies for success.
  5. You’ll connect with customers by exhibiting empathy, listening actively, presenting in an engaging manner, and communicating effectively.
  6. You’ll influence and build rapport with key decision-makers in order to become their trusted advisor.
  7. You’ll display persistence and continually push so that customers get the maximum value out of Testim.
  8. You’ll balance customer needs against Testims interests and resources and prioritize accordingly.
  9. You’ll create and present research analyses and recommendations on app optimization, usability, user experience and conversion rates to customers engineering, marketing, and management teams.
  10. You’ll support the customers by phone, chat, and email and help resolve technical issues.
  11. You’ll take part in Proof of Concepts (POCs) and (occasionally) travel to customers sites.

Compensation (SF Bay Area Average):

  1. Average Annual Base Salary: $103,842

Demand for Customer Success Managers

Since the Customer Success role has been a recent innovation paralleling the growth of SaaS (software as a service) type businesses.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a historic projection of the need for this role in a traditional 10-year span.

Yet, Customer Success has been known as field Product Management, since its a heavy customer-facing role that deals directly with the success of the value realization of a product.

As for Product Manager job outlook, from 2016 – 2026, there is a steady 10% job growth.

Based on LinkedIn’s survey, (non-technical) Customer Success Manager (CSM) was the top 3rd most promising jobs of 2018. 

Median Total Salary: $82,300 (Technical CSMs get paid more similar to a Sales Engineer)

Job Openings (YoY Growth): 1,000+ (91%)

Career Advancement Score (out of 10): 10

Career Growth

Like LinkedIn’s research, career advance with a Customer Success background is quite promising because you develop a diverse set of skills in this role that are valuable in the market.

  1. Management: lead your own Customer Success team
  2. Enterprise: become an Enterprise Customer Success Manager to earn double six-figures or more
  3. Enterprise Sales: transition into an Enterprise Sales rep and earn a quarter to half a million or more
  4. Sales Engineering: move into pre-sales technical sales support
  5. Engagement Manager: external product management role to consult customers on technical and business implementations
  6. Product Management: transition your diverse skill set in business and technology to build a product or feature from end to end. 

Key Takeaways & Action Items

Sales Engineer + Customer Success

Combined, both of these roles have similar demand and growth trajectory as a software engineer or product manager. 

Yet, these roles are less known and few individuals actually actively seek these roles out.

This gives self-taught developers, coding boot camp grads, and other professionals looking for a career transition an edge to get into an equally lucrative and enjoyable career path.

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