LifeofanSE

Day to day life of an SE

Successfully Working from Home

I’ve learnt quite a bit about working from home in the last ten years and thought is was about time I shared one of the secrets to my success.

It will take longer to get used to than you will first admit. 

Working from home has some obvious benefits; no travel time, no interruptions, working all day in your pyjamas. It’s a breeze right? When I look back I can honestly say it took me over a year to get into the correct rhythm.  I had started a new job, I had a new baby (our first), I was sent a laptop, filing cabinet (don’t why I got that), chair, printer, tech. toys and I was away.  I knocked off what I thought was a day’s work by morning tea and was a very happy man. But how do you get by with no interaction with anyone at work? Monday is great but by Wednesday, outside of the odd phone call and customer conversation, who do you have the work chat with? What happens if you get frustrated at work and the next person you see is your new child or sleep deprived partner?  You suddenly need to slip out of work mode and into home mode, then back again.  You think Superman makes a fast change in a phone box, it’s nothing compared to mental gymnastics of the accomplished home worker.

As you get used to the transition you’ll be telling everyone how great life is but some times you’ll be doing this to convince yourself, more than anyone else. But working from home can be very rewarding and productive. It took me a while to work this out as I am not someone that has had much interest in physiology but you need to train your brain.

What did I do? I decided I had to identify in my mind where and when I was at work.  I picked a space and made sure everything was the same each time I started.  I created a routine of work, emails, calls and customer visits that I stuck to. I even cleaned and tided the space every week and set it up for Monday. I mentally told myself when I leave this spot I am no longer at work, I am at home. I moved a chair by the door and said to myself, work goes there when I leave this room. Over about twelve months I began to surprise myself with how quickly I was able to mentally switch roles.  I could stride through the house be dad, walk into my work space, sit down and get straight back into it. It was at this point working from home truly became great and productive.  

Without knowing it I was taking my brain through a series of mental exercises.  My brain was getting a workout and learning how to flip modes very quickly.

I have switched companies now and at Microsoft I have the flexibility to work at the office or at home. I can spend weeks in the office environment or at customer sites an then a period at home and the mental flexibility is still there. All I have to do is remember to get dressed when I go into the office.

This is a skill I’m sure anyone can learn.  I’d be interested in what makes working from home a success for you. I always say we all learn by sharing and if you have found another way don’t be shy, let the world know.

Moving On

The year moved very quickly for me indeed.  Many blog posts sit in draft; titled but not executed.  Q3 became a blur of events, installs, upgrades and deals.

I always considered myself incredibly lucky to be in a pre-sales role and to be at Citrix. After all I have talked about being at the vendor that you have built your career on before and there I was. However, I began to become increasingly aware of my customers’ desire to move to the cloud and the exciting projects they were undertaking.   At Citrix I was a small part of these as they looked to move workloads onto a cloud platform, be that PaaS, IaaS or SaaS.

Citrix has parts to play in all of this but I was keen to spend more time focused on these transformational investments.  I was determined to learn and engage more directly.  Therefore, when the opportunity to work at Microsoft presented itself I took it with both hands.

Like everything luck, in terms of timing, played a part; Microsoft were looking to expand their team just at the point I thought I had enough experience to apply for the position.  If I’m honest I’ve not been through a more testing, challenging and enjoyable process.  (If you don’t get anything out of being grilled and challenged, then you probably will not find it enjoyable)

So where to from here?  My plan is to share my Azure journey this year on here and to walk through the tech steps I take on projects.  Please note this will be very much my own experiences and there are a number of excellent blogs, tech sites and channels from Microsoft dedicated to technical tips and tricks, troubleshooting etc. that you can access.  I will look to create a resources page that I use on my journey.

For now, over and out from XenCommder Wade and hello Commander Azure!

It’s Q2 Already WTF!

I’ve learned that sales quarters roll round real fast.  I spent some time of my life studying physics, very much at an
FreeImages.com/BSKelementary level.  Time was a topic I always liked the idea of but the academics that tried to express relativity always tripped me up in explanations of travelling trains and view points, they should have given me a quota and a deadline, then worked back to the mathematics!   RFQ response deadlines loom far too quickly and customer’s purchasing departments move in a different time, yet the 24 hours in a day appear to tick over at an alarmingly regular rate and the end of quarter comes just as it should.

For me one month has past of Q2, deals are forming shape and pricing is being negotiated.  This can be a great time if you are in front and it’s easy to get carried away with how the year might pan out.  You may be behind (I know it’s the sales managers fault for setting your silly quota but I can’t change that) and trying to work out how you can climb what is already looking like a mountain.

In either position now as an SE is time to look at Q4.  How are you going to close the year out, how are you going to contribute to the greater good of your quota, where is the extra value that you bring?

You have to assist the deals on the go, you have to work on the company projects and the last thing you probably need is additional work but Q4 is where it is at and your influence is now.

Surprise your rep and book a Q4 planning meeting.  Take time to look at your account list and work out who you can meet, who you are not currently speaking to.  Grab that coffee, take a note book (how old fashioned am I – tablet!) and listen.

Remember you have the best job in the world, go out and enjoy it because as an SE time moves very fast indeed!

 

Images supplied from http://www.freeimages.com/license

Losing your Religion

The new year has begun, in truth we are well into it, accounts and numbers have been finalised, processes, personnel and strategy have been reviewed and through all this the job continues.

I’d like to take a little look back at Q4, the role of the SE in Q4 and what follows can be an interesting one.  It’s the time of year I am at the mental edge of the role, I spend more time thinking about decisions and actions than any other.  With a smirk I’m sure you will have had a sales lead say “this is the most important week, of the most important month, of the most important quarter.”  Every sale is important to a sales team, as the year closes out they gather momentum.
http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/maxpate-62416For some Q4 will have shuddered to a halt, the final days might have felt like riding a truck with failed breaks, turning the wheel at this late stage is not going to change the end result.  And this is the key to it all, you are not in the final throws as an SE going to change the overall result.  Your work should have been done.  You can and should support and help; start the planning process, take a meeting with a partner or two make a cup of tea for the sales admin team.  (As much as reps think they work the hardest at the end of the quarter it’s actually those that have to process and book all the orders they have thrown together that do – all other times its us ;-))

There will be things you would have done differently through out the year and there will be decisions moving forward taken by management, that you don’t agree with.  This however is no time to judge your role by, this is no time to lose the SE religion. Before you know it you will be back in the wagon, the engines will have started, breaks checked and the GPS guiding the way.

Take a breath and remember you are part of the greatest community on earth, who doesn’t want to be an SE!

Q4 The Pressure Cooker

As an SE I’ve never had an easy Q4. http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/ryly-61697

Even if you are in the rarified air of having completed your quota there will always be pressure from the business to bring in the right deals now. This pressure will come down onto the sales team and a portion of it to you. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it; it’s months like these that you remind yourself you are the SE and not the rep and should be able to sail through the rough waters without getting thrown off the boat, head downstairs and batten down the hatches.

You will work with reps in your time as an SE who will attempt to throw you off the boat, this highlights a poor understanding of the roles and responsibilities and a poor working relationship. You either need to fix this, directly or with your manager or find another partnership. That’s a big call as you might be wedded to the vendor you are working for, we often are as SE’s, but reps that take all the glory and are not prepared to take any of the blame for a poorly executed quarter are dangerous to your health. In my experience these reps don’t often last long, the step up and pressure of vendor sales has been a leap too far for them. You’ll know if you are there or not.

Why am I talking about pressure? I am in the end game, its Q4, the last month, the last weeks. Time is running out, I’ve just stepped off a plane, my 4th week away in a row. I’ve crisscrossed the country eight times, I’ve burnt a lot of jet fuel, I’ve stood up in front of countless customers, written two multimillion dollar proposals, seen reps and SE’s breaking down as purchasing departments decide to change the procedures and sign offs at the last minute and I’ve watched the pressure literally melt some minds.

So as an SE what do you do? I think I am lucky, in that my generation of SE’s have all had other jobs before we landed on our feet as a Sales Engineer. It’s that experience that gives us perspective at these times. We know that the pressure cooker we are in is different to those in the armed forces, police, education or health care . It’s still real, it still causes real problems but we have the immediate release of perspective.

What if you are new to the game, what if this is your first Q4? Everyone is different but I highly recommend in practising how to switch off and not bring Q4 home with you. If you work in an office this could be finding a spot where mentally you dump work and pick up home, a corner or set of lights on the way home is the point you  tell yourself you are in home mode now. It takes time but this does work. Or as many do these days burn it off by cycling home.

If you work at home, as I do, you’ll need to practise switching on and off work.  This is hard, you’ll have no train or bus journey to manage this over, you’ll need to be able to do this like flicking a switch. This is a really important SE skill, you’ll need the full support of your family to get this job done right, to travel as much as we do without worry.  Make time for home, especially in Q4.

I’m home now, my kids are laughing with me, I’ve dropped work off outside and the pressure has been lifted.

Hang in there my SE fraternity, good luck closing out, Q4 is almost over.

Image: Boat by Stephen Jones

#LifeofanSE – Let’s Begin

Welcome to the Life of an SE.  The world of the SE, a.k.a. Sales Engineer, Systems Engineer and more recently Solutions Engineer is for me and I’m sure many aspiring and current SEs an interesting one.

No day is the same, demands are constant, travel a given and listening and talking at the same time required. No one really knows how on earth they ended up doing the job, I’m sure that is changing but for  my generation we are a band of high functioning misfits who just know how to explain stuff.

There are some good resources out there  that can help you on your path.  The best for me is Mastering Technical Sales the website is full of interesting information and resources and the accompanying book Mastering Technical Sales by John Care and Aron Bohlig a book you will need, I reference it on a regular basis.  

Here I don’t intend to repeat their good work but to give you a blow by blow account of my working life.  Through that I aim to draw on what is working and what is not.  I will drift into the past I’m sure but there has been a lot of that and experience in this role can be a good thing.  I’m starting this 8 years in and in Q4 (I must be mad) but hopefully you’ll discover why I consider myself very lucky indeed and many describe being an SE as the highlight of their career.

Wherever you are good luck!