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September 10, 2014 By Ozan Unlu

Debugging to Customer Hugging - Becoming an SE

"I know app developers, and that's not you!" It was a statement that I couldn't really argue with, and it was coming from one of my closest friends. It didn't matter that I was employed in a career as an app developer at one of the top software companies in the world. It didn't matter that I was performing well and the tools and applications I coded were being used by hundreds of internal developers. It didn't even matter that the friend making the conclusion had never written a single line of code in his life, nor had he any idea of my technical ability. The funny thing was, he meant it as a compliment, and so began the biggest career transition of my life.

Coding and logic puzzles were always very intuitive to me, so I always enjoyed solving a variety of technical challenges. Yet, articulation, interpersonal communication and cross-team collaboration were some of my other strong suits I felt weren’t being used in my professional life. My career ambitions to be the biggest success possible combined with my desire to fulfill my potential always had me wondering if there was a role better suited for me where I would be able to leverage both diverse skills sets. Over the years I had many mentors and through all the various conversations and constructive criticism, the same trend was always prevalent. They all thought I could be more successful within a Program Manager or Technical Lead role as it would allow me to take advantage of these strengths that were being under-used in a purely development-focused role. So I made those career moves, but decided to stay within the company. After all, I didn't want to cast away the experience and knowledge I had gained during my role there, and believed it would propel me in my new roles as they were in a related field. It did; I continued to be successful, and it was certainly a step in the right direction, but needed to be taken further. I had tunnel vision and when I looked at my career, all my choices seemed a little too safe. It was time to take a risk.

I was informed of the Sales Engineering role as it could be the perfect position for me to stretch my wings and use my full potential. The more I looked into it, the better it seemed. I would be a technical expert with deep knowledge of the product while at the same time selling the value of the solution to potential clients. I would be listening to the customer's needs and educating them on whether or not our product would be the best fit for them. After spending so much time on research and development teams creating software with the same handful of peers every day, the prospect of working with a mixture of clients who were the top engineering minds in the world across a plethora of different technologies was enticing. Just the ability to work with these industry leaders in a variety of different challenges allowed me to solve more technical problems than I was ever able to do as a developer working on a only a handful of projects over the course of a year. I had warmed up to the idea and it was time to commit to something new.

There is one area of the world that people consistently consider the "Mecca of Tech," and that is the San Francisco / Silicon Valley Bay Area. That was settled. If I was going to go into sales, I had promised myself I would never sell a product in which I didn't have full confidence, so I needed to find a company with a product I really believed in. Enter Sumo Logic: a fully cloud based data analytics and machine learning solution.

Curious, I created a free account and played around with the product. In a very short time, I could see the impressive power and versatile functionality, the value it could provide to nearly any tech company. Also growing at a tremendous rate, supported by the top investors and sporting a unique combination of relatively low risk and high upside, I couldn't craft an argument to deter myself from joining the company. I interviewed, and when offered, accepted the job. After committing, what awaited me next felt like a breath of fresh air.

Joining a start up from a large company and transitioning into the sales field from development, I didn't know what type of culture to expect. What awaited me was a company culture where team members are genuinely and actively supportive, and it was awesome. In the first couple months I learned more about various technologies in the market than I ever knew existed before. I work with customers and drastically improve their systems, processes and consequently their careers. I did not expect to be able to contribute to our internal product development process yet I have our best engineers coming to ask which direction we should take our features. Being able to work with customers and feel like you're truly helping them while at the same time continuing to design and engineer a product on the cutting edge is the best of both worlds, and the sizable increase in compensation isn't a bad side effect either. I have no regrets in making the biggest career transition of my life, I'm happier than I've ever been and I'm not looking back.

If you want to join Ozan and work as a Sales Engineer at Sumo, click here!

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Ozan Unlu

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