I believe that software developers who make a career detour into sales or support engineering will rapidly improve their technical breadth and depth, their social skills, and their understanding of business decisions.

Having experience as a support or sales engineer will help a developer be successful no matter what they do after, even if that’s going straight back to full-time development.

This is the first in what I think will be a series of articles on the topic.

I have been a sales engineer for 2 months. I work at Bitrise, the leading provider of mobile dev-ops solutions. Before that, I was the release engineering lead for mobile apps at RxSaver (acquired by GoodRx).

At RxSaver, my goal was to enable the team to produce high quality iOS and Android apps that were released on demand at high frequency by automated processes. Achieving this involved building and buying the necessary tools as well as coaching devs and product managers on the how and why of CI/CD and automation. Day to day, I was working in XCTest, Espresso, Terraform, Gitlab, and Bitrise.

At many software organizations, as a developer advances, the set of skills required for the work changes. The developer needs leadership skills as they mentor less experienced colleagues. They need a good understanding of the business context as they get more involved in decision-making of growing importance. And they need to be exccellent and persuasive communicators to build consensus for their ideas.

As a release engineer, my team and I were successful at building dependable release pipelines, but I felt myself reaching my limits in those non-tech skills. I figured working in sales would be excellent training in the areas. After two months in my new sales engineering job, I can declare that my assumption was correct.

But was unexpected is that I am growing my technical breadth and depth as well!

At Bitrise, my main goal is to 1, 2, 3.

Technical Skills

  • Spin up proof of concepts
  • Creative problem solving
  • Exposure to diversity of technology
    • React Native and Detox
    • Shell scripting
    • VM orchestration

Business Skills

  • Demoing
    • less is more, don’t confuse the audience
    • effective delivery
  • Understand the way software gets purchased
    • 4 roles within an org
  • Compelling Event
  • Learn from buyers
    • how they negotiate
    • how they compare options