Solutions Engineer, Cloud Architect what does it all mean?

There are a ton of titles in the software industry. Two slightly misleading ones are Solutions Engineer and Cloud Architect. These sound like technical roles but they are not on the software engineering career ladder. Solutions Engineer and Cloud Architect are pre-sales roles. 

What is Pre-Sales? 

Pre-Sales is the part of a project that happens before the sale. If you are selling a software product or digital transformation, you need someone technical to evaluate where the prospect’s software stack is. The Solutions Engineer is the technical expert who joins the sales team and helps build out what needs to be included in the deal. That entails researching the prospect’s tech stack, interviewing their engineers and doing technical demos for the potential client. Solutions Engineers sometimes need to travel to client offices as part of the job. You might do some coding to create demos and prototypes but that is about it. Don’t expect your technical skills to grow while working as a Solutions Engineer. But you will get lots of opportunities to interact with clients, make connections and learn about what different companies are doing on the tech side. 

Then what is a Cloud Architect?

A Cloud Architect is a solutions engineer working with potential clients of public cloud services. A Cloud Architect would work with clients on what services they need and how to migrate their websites and services to the cloud. They will demo cloud services and help develop plans for customers to migrate their workloads to the cloud. 

Why become a Solutions Engineer?

Becoming a Solutions Engineer is a great way for software engineers with decent social skills to move into a more sales focused role. You will have opportunities to present and learn about customers that you probably do not as an engineer on a product team. 

Knowing more about the sales process can help you prepare to run your own agency or move up the corporate ladder on the business side. 

Software advances are slower than you expect.

Most people think of technological advances using the eureka metaphor. But software doesn’t work like that. Take a clear technological advance like a self-driving tractor. They are on the market now but there was no eureka moment, no sudden breakthrough. Self-driving technology just advanced to the base level required for tractors on clearly mapped fields, then a team of software engineers built a working system over several years.

There’s no invention or breakthrough moment, just a slow build in none software capabilities than an investment in building out software to leverage those capabilities. 

There were no software engineering advances that enabled the self-driving tractor. Instead machine vision improved until it was good enough to unblock the software solution.

What advances in software are in sight?

Reproducible builds are one of my favorite advances in software recently. Strictly speaking reproducible builds have been available for quite some time, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a real advance. Having a trustworthy build environment where you can debug the inputs vs the outputs for different machines is a big benefit. Without reproducible builds software engineers end up spending extra time fixing build failures and figuring out dependency resolution overrides. 

Golang is in my opinion an advancement in software engineering. Instead of focusing on productivity for a single or small number of engineers, Golang is focused on maximizing productivity for large software projects with thousands of engineers. It does this by simplifying the language as much as possible to ease readability and eliminate magical effects. Everything in Golang is very procedural and easy to follow. 

Easy to use gradual typing is a more recent advancement in the Python and Ruby worlds. You can now build your MVP in a dynamic quick evaluating language and then after you reach product market fit you can add types to the code base. Typing is no longer and either/or thing but a sliding scale where you can chose the most opportune time to transition. Overall I think gradual typing has huge advantages compared to the old standard of rewriting the codebase in Java.