Be Great Right Now with Dom Delfino – Ep 85

Sales engineers are a self-admitted strange breed. They’re technical, yet they make their living working with people. What makes them tick? Is this a job for you? This week we talk with Dom Delfino, VP of Worldwide Systems Engineering for Networking and Security at VMware.

The SE is the conscience of the sales force. (Or the jockeys of the sales force?)

Yes, it’s about sales, but the SE has to be an advocate for your customer – that’s underestimated by the market as a whole.

Most people in pre-sales engineering come from post-sales engineering or an internal IT background.

Work ethic – you can teach people technology, but you can’t send somebody to a class to teach soft skills like work ethic, ambition, self-starting, and how to collaborate successfully.

Sales engineers must have access to training. Dom wants to train people at least 4 weeks a year in technical skills and perhaps 4 weeks in conferences and other development activities.

On the spectrum from pure technologist to pure sales, anybody on one extreme end or another tend not to be good sales engineers.

When you move into a management role, you have to give up the idea of being a hero. Often you move to being a player-coach, and eventually a pure leadership role. You inevitably will have to give up some hands-on technical experience, but you have to retain some conceptual understanding of the technology you’re working with. You have to develop the areas you’re weakest in.

The technologists who will succeed are embracing change, not holding on to legacy. They’re the ones saying “I’m an enterprise architect”, not “I’m a storage person” or “I’m a networking person.” People are moving up the stack and being able to interface with developers is becoming more important.

It’s ok to like what you do, but eventually your skill set will age out. People get cut when they can’t transition.

If you’re stuck in your career, there might be a variety of reasons. But the biggest reason you can’t move to something new in your organization is that you’re not good at what you’re doing right now.

Be Great Right Now at what you’re doing. At least try to be great at what you do.

Contact Dom on Twitter @domdelfino or LinkedIn



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  1. […] Sales Engineer / Solution Architect – you are the technical smarts that sales teams bring to the table to make the deal. You will spend your time, 50%+, on the road OR 100% of your time on the phone. I can tell you from experience that the latter is not enjoyable. But when the travel and the technology and the customers align, you’ll barely feel like you work as you have whiteboard sessions and presentations to incredible people who are excited to listen to you. The best resource to learn more is Dom Delfinio’s episode of Geek Whisperers. […]

  2. […] days off.  While you’re on the clock, focus on doing the work that needs to be done to be great at what you do.  It won’t be easy.  It will challenge you to stretch you past your current limits.  It […]

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