Building a new identity for Solutions Engineering

Recently heard somebody say “I’d rather be lucky than smart”. I feel extremely lucky to have joined Facebook when I did in May 2010. While there were a lot of unknowns; choosing Facebook over multiple job offers wasn’t an easy decision. My wife Sumana played an important role in helping make the decision and the rest is history.

I joined Facebook with a title of “Sales Engineer” and I joined as the 3rd sales engineer for Facebook. Yes, Facebook culture helps build really high impactful yet comparatively small teams. Having been a sales engineer in my career before; I had some experience in the kind of challenges we were going to get into as we started to scale our business.

  1. The first challenge was to keep our head above water as we were only three folks at that time and if we just focus on the daily fire drills at hand; we’d never be able to organize and plan forward. We undertook a systematic organization of our team with the help or our internal IT teams by using Salesforce for task management that helped us get all fire drills out of in boxes to a queue that helped spread the work load a bit.
  2. The next challenge was recruiting. There were other similar teams at Facebook called “Partner Engineering” and we were looking for the same talent. After careful deliberation and lots of planning and forethought by my colleague Annand Sharma we changed our team’s name to Partner Engineering, Ads. This helped us simplify the hiring pipeline and process and were able to start growing our team.
  3. Third challenge was defining who we were and what we did and didn’t do. We decided to build our team around “Proactively Helping Advertisers succeed through Technology” and sought help from other teams to start looping them in when things that didn’t fall into our mission landed on our desks.

As the market and Facebook’s products continued to evolve so did the role of our team and at some point because of the heavy emphasis on Advertising Technology we decided to look for another identity for our team. I consulted many of my trusted advisors at Facebook and outside and we were in consensus that we had built something unique and very few companies had done something similar. After a lot of careful research – we aligned to a title of “Solutions Engineering” which was a merging of Solutions Architect & Software Engineering which reflected the talent on the team and the kind of folks we were looking for as well as the work we were trying to do.

Creating a newish title had advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that I am able to define the talent bar that I desired and also define the role of my team. The disadvantage was that I will have to build a brand for my team so that our role is easily understood both internally and externally.

We are an external facing team of engineers that works with Facebook’s Global Marketing Solution team to help our Advertisers and Marketing Partners succeed on Facebook through technology.

We spend half of our time meeting with customers and partners; understanding their business models and uncovering pockets of opportunities where technology could play a role and architecting a strategy road map with the clients & partners. We spend the other half of our time building technical solutions in partnership with the product teams that help address the opportunities we have learnt about.

Because of the uniqueness of this role – we learn about and solve many challenges which is fun but also demanding because the role requires a lot of context switching and hardly anything about our work is well-defined. However there are people who thrive in this kind of role and enjoy the road less clear. We still have a high bar on software engineering; we are looking for folks who would pass the bar as Facebook Software Engineers but are also excited about a client facing role and can adapt to market demands.

At the moment we have several job openings in different geographies and if you are somebody who are a great engineer and excited about a client facing role and wiling to adapt to context switching that such a role demands – we want you. Please head over to http://facebook.com/careers and search for “Solutions Engineer” in your preferred location.

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