The technology industry is offering a huge opportunity for sales engineers but isn’t providing the necessary training. Although the number of sales engineers has only grown 9.5 percent since 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this number is expected to take off.
Because of the shortfall, some companies are being proactive about training engineers for sales positions. Beth Gage, director of Juniper’s Worldwide Associate Engineering Program, says that Juniper has created a program with the sole focus of finding new engineers that have a combination of programming and networking skills to bring them into the sales side of engineering. For highly technical sales, Juniper wants engineers who also want to work with customers, helping them solve various problems, Gage says.
Chatter and anticipation of cloud networks have been occurring for the past decade, but it is fairly recent that this technology has gone from theory to practice, which has created an IT skills gap, Gage says. A lot of IT professionals are naturally focused on the application layer, but this needs to be built in with networking and communication skills to make sure that things are going to work; and the combined skill set has been hard to get, says Gage.
“These skills are going to require an ongoing understanding between current communications and IT departments, and now you have these two groups coming together,” Gage says.
The Associate Engineering Program is part of Juniper’s OpenLab innovation center, and both strive to help IT leaders equip their workforce for the next generation of technology. The Associate Engineering Program is similar in that it looks for partners/sponsors to fund competitions, real-life scenarios, and internships for electrical engineering students who are doing their own projects with the latest languages.
“During internships, we assign them to projects that are built around putting together automation scripts or demos that can solve a customer’s particular problem, putting them in a real-life scenario where they are walking customers through a technical fix,” Gage says.
Juniper’s Worldwide Associate Engineering Program was started a year and a half ago and is continuing to grow globally, doubling from 30 participants last year to 60 this year, half of which are from the U.S.
In addition to its partners and sponsors, Juniper’s sales team provides funding for this program, invested in finding new talent.