Alright, so the million dollar question: What is a Solutions Engineering intern and more importantly, what is a Solutions Engineer? Don’t worry - none of us truly knew what the role was either when we applied for this opportunity. But, we sure are happy we did! Three months at our Twilio internship gave us an idea of the Solutions Engineering role and insight into the creative, critical-thinking behind it all.
What is a Solutions / Sales Engineer (SE)?
As our Solutions Engineering internship comes to a close, it’s clear that being an SE brings to life a unique and vibrant intersection between people and technology.
The SE role is part sales and part technical - also known as the perfect hybrid of soft and hard skills. The ‘S’ or sales component requires SEs to be trusted technical advisors as they focus on solutioning for customer problems. The ‘E’ or engineering is the technical component required for SEs to secure customers’ confidence and showcase the possibilities with Twilio.
We quickly realized that SEs are skilled communicators who articulate complex technical problems into compelling, understandable solutions. They propose technical architectures, demo the product, and offer creative solutions for unique customer use cases. SEs use the two-fold skill set of business skills plus technical knowledge to propagate customer success.
The power of communication
In the words of Jerry Maguire, “You had me at hello.” Every conversation we had at Twilio started with a simple greeting like “hello”, but it often led us to something more profound.
We unanimously believe that our communications with customers, fellow Twilions, and co-interns had the most meaningful impact on us. We created strong ties even when faced with a potential hurdle of finding community in a remote, pandemic world. Through Zoom meetings, internship activities, social e-gatherings, and an amalgam of Slack pings - we built an internship family that was a safe place to ask questions and to learn from each other.
As Leo shared, “I was blown away by the support and overall amiability of the Twilions who interacted with us interns. It felt like everyone I met was incredibly invested in our success, and the effort put into our development was so high. I felt incredibly supported by my immediate support system, and I never felt like I was bothering anyone.”
The power of technology
Aside from learning how to thoughtfully communicate, it was an exciting challenge to build with Twilio products - from creating apps to developing custom demos.
Matt shared, “The challenges we encountered were fueled to push our boundaries. Believing in your own ability will allow you to continue on your path to achieving something greater than what you initially thought was possible.”
Matt pushed his creative limits and technically challenged himself to create a deep fake application without any prior knowledge. Despite the significant challenge of exploring new tech stacks, support from the Twilio community elevated us to the next level.
Brad described, “Crafting a custom demo from scratch was an enormous challenge at first, and the possibilities were endless - but guidance and conversations with my mentors, buddies, and fellow interns were extremely helpful in crafting my solution.”
Learning the tech stacks and Twilio APIs also inspired us to build real-life applications with high impact.
Naina built an IVF injection tracker, which stemmed from seeing her relatives experience fertility challenges: “It was gratifying to be able to take a real-life use case and solve that problem for someone I care about. It also gave me an opportunity to explore the possibilities with Twilio even more and I enjoyed ‘Wearing the Customers Shoes’ in considering which features would be the most useful.”
The balance of autonomy and immense support empowered us to accomplish our goals during our internship program.
Our SE internship experience through the lens of the Twilio Magic Values
We developed a strong understanding of the SE role through the lens of the Twilio Magic Values. When it comes to building relationships, we learned that Wearing the Customer's Shoes truly extends not just to our customers but to our teammates as well. We discovered the value of Empowering Others through sharing and learning from the people you work alongside. We learned about Being An Owner by taking the time to listen and learn the details about your customer and team’s goals while simultaneously building a partnership through shared interests.
As Brandon put it, “We learned how to build trust within relationships through open communication channels. It's not about getting a single win and moving on. It's about building and growing together and continuing to innovate for the future of communications, for Twilio and for all our customers.”
From a personal development perspective, we developed our skills to Ruthlessly Prioritize by balancing multiple tasks and meeting deadlines. We embraced Being Bold by not being afraid to ask questions, not shying away from using our creativity within our unique projects, and proactively reaching out to Twilions to make new connections. And finally, we leaned into Drawing the Owl when we were given free reign to create, explore, and develop our capstone milestones.
Some of our many learnings & takeaways
We kicked off our internship experience with SE Bootcamp where we established a foundational understanding of Twilio's technology through product crash courses, interactive workshops, and had the creative liberty to build our first application with Twilio APIs. Some of us built SMS chatbots using deep fakes, others created trivia games with Twilio Conversations, and some even built a hilarious meme generator that will provide Dad jokes until the cows come home.
Marek described, “What I enjoyed most about the internship was the freedom of expression. Early on in the internship we were empowered to build something on the Twilio platform and we each built something entirely unique.”
As our knowledge of the products grew, we embarked on a mock sales cycle for our capstone project. We practiced conducting customer research and led a mock discovery call to deeply understand the business needs and goals. In leading discovery, it’s paramount to learn about your customer’s pain points. We realized the most important tool in our back pockets was asking the “why”.
Tara shared, “The process of solutioning is inherently linked to the discovery process. Without having the technical requirements and truly understanding the customers current situation, building the best fit solution for a customer seems impossible.”
As part of the capstone, we also built and delivered our very own custom demo. We refined our communication skills and incorporated the WISE Demo Principles: Wow, inspire action, speak the customer’s language, and engage the audience. We focused on honing our storytelling skills through three WISE presentations to the broader SE team.
As Victor shared from his experience, “I learned how to not just show the customer a product or explain how the product works, but also to communicate the business value and advantage of using the product.
Collectively, we’ve grown so much professionally and personally in just three months. We’re glad we took the leap of faith to learn more about the exciting world of Solutions Engineering. We know there is still tons to uncover with the SE role and that only makes it all the more exciting! We can’t wait to see what we build.
- Your Twilio Solutions Engineering Interns, Founding Class of 2021
If you're interested in becoming a Solutions Engineer at Twilio, visit our Careers Page.