Women of Qualified: Joanne

Women of Qualified is a monthly blog series celebrating the female employees who make an impact to our business and team every day.

Women of Qualified: Joanne
Shelly Weaver
Shelly Weaver
October 21, 2022
min read
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Meet Joanne Lee! Joanne is one of our Solution Engineers, specializing in working with prospective customers to understand their technical needs so we can make sure Qualified products fit perfectly into their organization.

Joanne hit the ground running six months ago and has been a stellar addition to our team–learn more about her experience as a Solution Engineer at Qualified, how the role has shifted as the tech landscape changes, and what it's like for her as one of our international employees. ⬇️

Talk to us a bit about what you do here at Qualified.

Joanne: I am a Solution Engineer here on the Solution Engineering team at Qualified. For those of you who don't know what a Solution Engineer is, essentially we’re part of the pre-sales team. We work very closely in partnership with Account Executives in order to sell our software. You can think of us as the technical salespeople on the team, but we come in and get a better understanding of what our prospects and customers need and then we pull that into a demonstration and we do the actual product demos of our software and tools. 

One of the coolest things about being a Solution Engineer is that often people think, “oh, you just do a demo and that’s kind of it,”  but there’s a lot more to it. It’s a super versatile role because we know the product really well, but we also know the sales cycle really well. It ends up diving across back and forth the entire organization where Solution Engineers get to touch a little bit of everything. 

We need to understand what our marketing looks like. In order to do our selling proposition, we need to understand how the product works so we get to work closely with the product management team. We get to be the first ones to know what features are being prioritized and we get sneak peeks at what’s being developed so we get insight into the product engineering org as well. Nobody knows a customer and their business and technical needs better than us, so when it comes time to do a handover or upsell to additional products, we get to work with post-sales.

It’s really a fascinating role that’s multifaceted that gives you aspects and peeks into every part of the organization.

How does one find themselves in the Solution Engineer world?

Joanne: I didn’t know what a Solution Engineer was, I was doing IT consulting and IT strategy consulting for a while, and a really good friend of mine, a Solution Engineer at Salesforce, started selling me into becoming one. I had never heard of the role before but every time we met she sold me a little bit more, and she sold me on Salesforce. 

Salesforce is probably one of the best places to learn how to be a Solution Engineer in the world. I spent four years there, across different industries and markets, and then eventually Qualified found me. 

I don’t come from a technical background at all. Some solution engineers come from a tech background and have a software engineering degree, whereas I come from a business background and learned the technical skills. I had the soft skills–the presentation skills and understanding of the business side, but I picked up the technical knowledge along the way. I learned the technical skills, but I also leaned on the rest of the team that have stronger technical skills when I started. 

What does your day-to-day look like as one of our international team members?

Joanne: I am the first Canadian Solution Engineer on our team, there are other Canadians at Qualified, which I love, but it was one of the things that sold me on joining honestly. With Salesforce, because it’s so huge they have entities in every country, I was working for Salesforce Canada when I moved here. But here, I get to be based in Canada, in my hometown where I’m raising my two kids and get to be near my family while working for a San Francisco-based tech company. 

We have a pretty strong East and West coast presence. Half of our team is over on the East Coast, and almost half is on the West as we try to grow our West Coast presence. 

I get the occasional joke about Canadians but it’s all in love. It's nice to have a team that’s spread across both coasts because if you sign on a little early, you have your East Coast team ready to help, if you’re working a little later you know you have your West Coast folks ready to help and support as well. 

As an internationally based team, we meet once a week at a time that works for everybody so we all get a chance to see each other. I’ve found that it actually works pretty well being split on both coasts and having coverage across the country in all the time zones. 

How do you stay connected with your team?

Joanne: That’s been one of the challenges, but a challenge that’s not necessarily unique to Qualified. Being fully remote has its huge benefits but it definitely has its detriments as well. I think one of the things we’re all greatly looking forward to is having a company-wide get-together again in person because you can’t replace that. 

On a day-to-day basis, Slack helps immensely. We have a great team and everybody has their own personality and it really shows even on Slack, and in our abilities, and willingness to jump in and help one another on deals and small things, jumping onto Zoom if someone has a question. 

Last weekend I went out to New York for the first time and got to meet a few of my team members in person and that was incredibly special. I’m hoping that as we move forward we’re going to get to do more in-person stuff, but I would say that my leader Joe has fostered a really great group of people that feel genuinely supportive of one another. 

I feel like I could lean on my team members at any time.

The tech landscape has shifted quite a bit–what’s the biggest challenge in your role today that wasn’t there a few months ago?

Joanne: This year has certainly been a trying time for selling software. I think anyone in software sales can agree with that. 

What’s been interesting is being able to observe those trends and I think the sales leaders will agree with me, it makes you a better seller. When times are good and everybody’s just handing out money left right and center, anybody can sell because our product almost speaks for itself. But in those hard times, that’s when the best people, the best solution engineers, the best salespeople really shine and come through. The process is harder. Buyer styles change. There are more people in the cycle. The cycle is dragging on longer.

I think that’s where our team is really differentiating itself. We hear things like, “We’ve really enjoyed this buying cycle, everybody on the team has been so professional and great to work with, that’s why we’re choosing you,” and it just makes us feel that much better about our jobs. 

It’s a lot harder to sell these days, but on the flip side, it hones your sales skills and forces us to get more creative and it also forces us as Solution Engineers to take on and join in a bigger part of the buying cycle. 

Previously, if you were so busy all you do is churn out one demo after another, you check it off and you were done. Now, with buying cycles being dragged out longer and customers needing more, we have to get more creative and involved in the deals, and that helps make me a better Solution Engineer.

Hit us with a humble brag!

Joanne: This one I’m excited about because part of being a fully remote-first company is that it can be hard to recognize and celebrate people’s successes. Everybody here works really, really hard in order to get our company where it is and continue where we’re going, so we have an award called The Fireballer award. 

What’s really great about this is that the entire company jumps in to nominate who they think is embodying the company’s values and really going above and beyond to help push our company forward. 

My humble brag is that while I have not won it yet, I’ve only been at the company for six months, yet I’ve had the honor to be nominated for this very coveted and very prized award in both the last month's and the month previous to this. 

It gives me all of the warm and fuzzies considering the phenomenal people that are on this team. 

Joanne, thanks for sitting down with us and giving us a peek into the Solution Engineer life! You're crushing it, and we can't wait to see what your next six months bring.

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