A sales engineer at Zscaler is, first and foremost, a contact partner to help future customers get their modernisation of security off the ground and provide transformative advice about network and application security. I met with two colleagues to hear about their first year at Zscaler and how they explain the benefits of the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange platform.
What was your background before joining Zscaler?
Simon: “At my previous employer I was jointly responsible for introducing the zero trust exchange across the company, so I was already familiar with the solution. On the customer side, I was able to include the intricacies of the product portfolio and had already learnt to appreciate the cloud-based approach. As I'd always wanted to work on the manufacturer's side, it was a comparatively small next step as I had a good idea what the role of sales engineer entailed.”
Andreas: “Over the course of my career, I've spent 20 years getting to know the different aspects of security, network, and visibility requirements. In my previous job, the focus was on security appliances; the cloud was only a sideline. During digitisation, cloud and multi-cloud solutions increasingly became the focus of company strategies, so I looked around for a manufacturer who shares this vision. For me, a cloud-based security approach was a logical move. The elaborate recruitment process that I had to go through won me over, right from the start. It was all about preparation because you were going to be presenting at the whiteboard!”
What's your day-to-day work like now?
Andreas: “I was won over by the fact that the account team at Zscaler is multi-layered, and everyone within it has their place and defined responsibilities. So, you are highly appreciated for what you do in your role. Each project is tackled as a team, so that tasks and external conditions on the customer's side are the focus and always addressed–which is anything but the norm. As every customer has different requirements for security, employee access rights, and existing infrastructure, it is important to not just give a textbook presentation. You need to prepare for every meeting using the facts in front of you.”
Simon: “For me, in the first year, it was important that I started by gaining a wide range of experiences as to how requirements are presented in companies within the large enterprise team. The cadence of the various meetings on the customer's side, all with a range of different participants in the decision-making process, is very high. That helped me enormously to grow and, after half a year, to take the plunge as a Sales Engineer for large companies. So, for me the opportunity for further development came very quick.”
“I also appreciate the teamwork approach at every meeting. Preparation is key so I can talk with the technical contact partners on the customer's side, but also demonstrate that I understand their challenges. Because I am personally responsible for the introduction of cloud-based security on the customer's side, I have a lot of credibility.”
Does it take a lot of persuading to get companies to transform their security?
Simon: “The strategy of handling security from the cloud via a highly integrated platform does require some change management on several levels. Arguing for a new form of security from the cloud requires a lot of tact, as a lot of companies still rely on on-premises solutions to protect their cloud data and services. However, you can be very persuasive using arguments around the added value, which also addresses worries about loss of control. We really gain momentum when we can show how a cloud platform frees up time and resources so companies can focus more on other projects. At the same time, zero trust has really arrived as a concept that supersedes conventional security solutions in the age of the cloud, so the market is really coming to us.”
Andreas: “In my experience, large companies are cloud-savvy. In small- and medium-sized companies, generally the switch to Microsoft 365 is a driver to also transform the network infrastructure, and, while they're thinking about that, also consider security from the cloud. Too often the mantra of the data centre prevails here, ‘I have all my data in one location and if I need new services or security solutions, I add a suitable box each time.’ It is important that many participants engage in the conversation of a transformation process at different levels. For example, administrators generally prefer to continue with work ‘as usual,’ because for them, changes are usually associated with considerable effort. However, if you talk to IT architects and the managers at management level, opinions change. So, you really need to be able to see things from the different perspectives of all your contact partners, from administrators to decision-makers, and listen to where their challenges lie.”
How has the pandemic influenced your work?
Andreas: “The past few years have required companies to restructure daily business and implement new concepts in record time. Often, it was a question of whether companies were able to keep their own business going despite the government restrictions. That increased awareness to a high level of the importance of building your own strategy for security solutions that also guarantee the company agility. Part of Zscaler's recipe for success was that we were prepared for the hurdles of a completely changed working world as we ourselves use a decentralised company concept and are used to teleworking. This also helped when onboarding new employees, despite geographical distance, and it meant we developed best practices for the new way of supporting customers, which has proved to be completely worthwhile.”
Simon: “I can only add that after those two years company executives now know who Zscaler is. That is because our security solutions enable us to effectively guarantee security while projects for digitisation are driven forward, among other things. With Zscaler you are, so to say, involved with the critical infrastructure of the company. If you do a good job there, then it's quickly noticed.”