“We have always had a ‘maker’ culture at home,” says Wietse Kransfeld, “there was always some project going on in our house or garden.” With a dad who brought home computer material and made it to IT Director of a large construction company, no wonder nature and nurture set Wietse on the path to a career in IT. Wietse joined TrustBuilder at the beginning of 2021 as a presales engineer.
After having studied mathematics and science, opting for IT and engineering probably came as a natural choice?
Wietse: I have always been fascinated by IT, also because my father always worked in an IT role. I tinkered with the material that my father brought home, programmed a little, installed Linux distributions on the PCs, etc. But that didn’t immediately lead to a career in IT. I chose engineering studies at university because I knew that the curriculum was very broad in the first semesters and touched upon engineering mechanics, electrical engineering, construction, chemicals, etc. And IT, of course. It became clear to me that I enjoyed the electronics most, which came bundled with IT. It intrigues me to see how things function in daily life, for instance what is the technology that makes a LED light shine. I can spend hours watching YouTube movies of people building or repairing gear. I really want to understand how things work.
The business side of technology
It strikes me that you added a master in ‘Business Economics’ after your engineering studies. You were already aware that IT always serves a business purpose in a company?
Wietse: When you are at university, you live in a sort of academic bubble, very remote from real life and business. That is something I missed. So while I worked on my thesis, I also took on a master in Business Economics. That gave me a broader view, on accounting, on marketing, on sales,… It made me take another perspective on how IT is used. This allows me to see all aspects of a customer’s business and it helps me think outside of the box and be more creative.
Demonstrating technical know-how to the customer
Can you explain exactly what a presales engineer does every day?
Wietse: A presales engineer is the contact person for the technical people at a prospect or customer. When you sell an inherently technical product like an Identity and Access Management (IAM) platform, you need to demonstrate technical know-how to the customer. You need to prove your company is an expert in the domain. But it goes beyond technicalities, you also need to discuss the business value of a product or service. You also need to know what differentiates your product from a competitor’s offering. Presales needs to be able to convey all that content. I leave pricing and closing the deal to Sales.
Every customer conversation is different. Sometimes I talk to business people only, other times everyone present is technical but, most of the time, there is a mixed audience. As a presales engineer you have to master all the registers in such a conversation. I find that the most interesting part of my job: bringing the world of technology and business together.
Not only are you involved in the initial `sell’ to the customer, you also influence product development on behalf of the customer?
Wietse: When we have discussions with customers, we get a lot of feedback on the product and on what customers expect. That is valuable information to help define the roadmap of a product. This input from the customer can lead to the development of new features, or to an adjustment of the priorities in development.
The value of presales to the customer
What value does a presales engineer bring to the customer?
Wietse: A presales engineer delivers expertise and creativity to the customer. You have to put yourself in the place of the customers and think with them. You could compare it to what an architect does when you want to build or renovate your house. You have a certain view on what you want done, how big you want the kitchen to be, for instance. A good architect will come up with ideas that you had not thought of. You can only do that if you combine a thorough knowledge of your domain with a healthy dose of creativity. In getting the right solution for the customer, you have to think out of the box and take a broad perspective. Sometimes a customer asks for one specific capability, think Single Sign-on or Multi-factor authentication. I always try to position ourselves broadly, to see with what other capabilities we can offer them to advance their business.
Creativity, know-how, thinking out of the box. Are these the key skills of a presales engineer?
Wietse: You can’t do a presales job without those capabilities. Making complex matter look simple is also important. We work in a domain where you can easily lose yourself in technicalities. You always need to make the translation into the business value our products bring. It’s not always easy to make the link between technical capabilities and business value. That’s what I like best, and I feel that making that link is one of my strong points.
How do you strike a balance between our products and the customer’s requirements?
Wietse: When talking to customers, we don’t only discuss our current capabilities. We also discuss our roadmap and what new capabilities they can expect in the long and short term. You always have to be very transparent about what we have now, and what is still under development. That transparency is necessary to build a long-term partnership with customers. And you only create demand for new features and capabilities by talking about them.
Would you recommend working at TrustBuilder to family and friends?
Wietse: I have already done that. I think TrustBuilder is a company with a lot of opportunities, where you can extend yourself and learn new skills. It’s a fairly small team, with means that you actually see the impact of what you are doing. Teamwork is very important to me, so I appreciate the fact that developers are only 10 meters away from me. TrustBuilder is a great team, and I like the vibe in the company. Coming to the office always makes me feel good.
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