Ever been a Solution Architect?

I have a lead on a Solution Architect position that looks promising, but I have always been in more of a network/system admin position that does everything from the day-today maintenance to designing/deploying network expansions and changes.

It sounds like this new job would have a pre-sales component (going with the sales people, talking English to management and tech to the IT guys) and minimal maintenance (they don't do break/fix support, but will do upgrades, etc). A lot of the job appears to be design and installation.

For me, the pluses are that I enjoy the design and installation part a LOT more than the daily maintenance, I will get to learn a lot of new products, and after commission I am looking at a very sizable pay bump.

Who here in TechExam land do this too? Any thoughts or concerns from people who have made a similar move?
WGU - BS IT: ND&M | Start Date: 12/1/12, End Date 5/7/2013
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Comments

  • powmiapowmia Posts: 322Users Awaiting Email Confirmation
    Usually this is purely a pre-sales role. Most of your time will be building LOMs and BOMs for customers, maintaining relationships with them and wading through vendor propaganda for their latest and greatest products. Typically not a very technical role (sorry if that offends some solutions architects... but dudes, it isn't when you're working for most VARs).
  • CyberscumCyberscum Posts: 784Member ■■■■■□□□□□
    powmia wrote: »
    Typically not a very technical role (sorry if that offends some solutions architects... but dudes, it isn't when you're working for most VARs).

    Says the guy with an alphabet of certs.
  • N2ITN2IT Posts: 7,483Inactive Imported Users
    I agree most solutions positions aren't technical, but that doesn't mean that is always the case. I think understanding the selling process and how to engage both parties would be your primary focus.
  • PurpleITPurpleIT Posts: 327Member
    Only 3 replies so far and this is already very different than I imagined!

    From what I am told (and I understand their pitch to me may or may not be accurate) is that roughly 30-40% of my time will be for customer facing (some with the sales people; some with the IT folks); another 30-40% will be design and installation and the last 20-30% for training, labbing, etc.

    This talk of it not being too technical is a little scary, but it seems to me that if I am responsible for delivering a working network it has to be fairly technical. I don't just get to say, "put in three switches and two routers and then plug them all in".
    WGU - BS IT: ND&M | Start Date: 12/1/12, End Date 5/7/2013
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  • networker050184networker050184 Posts: 11,962Mod Mod
    I have to agree that most Solution Architect positions I've seen aren't very technical. From what I have seen they are basically Sales Engineers that have a decent tech knolwedge with good customer facing skills. They usually have the actuall in house engineering teams to fall back on for the real technical portions of the work.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • shodownshodown Posts: 2,271Member
    It depends on the company, but if your at an established partner its gonna be 99 percent sales, and your only technical work will be in labs when doing POC. The post sales team will take care of the installation. If you are at a smaller partner/vendor I could see you getting more post sales work as well. However most guys that get the solution architect jobs enjoy going home every night and not staying up late for cuts. They also can get some pretty fat paychecks. I've seen a commission check over a million dollars more than once for some SA's who worked on large projects(they told me the actually account managers commission was 3x theirs) . But unless your at a pretty large partner(WWT, Presidio, CDW) I wouldn't expect that.
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  • N2ITN2IT Posts: 7,483Inactive Imported Users
    shodown wrote: »
    It depends on the company, but if your at an established partner its gonna be 99 percent sales, and your only technical work will be in labs when doing POC. The post sales team will take care of the installation. If you are at a smaller partner/vendor I could see you getting more post sales work as well. However most guys that get the solution architect jobs enjoy going home every night and not staying up late for cuts. They also can get some pretty fat paychecks. I've seen a commission check over a million dollars more than once for some SA's who worked on large projects(they told me the actually account managers commission was 3x theirs) . But unless your at a pretty large partner(WWT, Presidio, CDW) I wouldn't expect that.

    Great post + I agree

    I have several college friends who moved on to these roles, solutions, sales, pre sales, principal architect etc. I wouldn't trust one of them to fix my network or computer. They aren't technical and quite frankly they really don't need to be. Like most of you they have networking backgrounds but have long since used those skills. It's more about engaging and managing relationships and of course selling. Maybe not closing the sale but being a liason.


    PS I can validate the the account manager role they CAN make a kings ransom. One of the guys I am speaking about in particular was the head account manager for the HBO TO GO project. From brainstorming to delivery and everything in between, of course he did NONE of the engineering work but made one of the biggest checks I have ever seen. Well over a million dollars for the deal, I believe it was close to 2 million. This was a project over 2 - 3 years and plenty of 100 hour work weeks but the pay was amazing. Not to mention he was still getting a base of 130.
  • pinkydapimppinkydapimp Posts: 732Member
    Its going to depend on the job. I work in the pre sales world and i can tell you my job is very technical. In fact, in the right position, you can build up your technical knowledge as you get exposure to many different environments and can see what works what doesnt and then make recommendations based on that. This type of knowledge can be extremely valuable to an organization. You also can network. The other plus is they usually pay very well.

    And to add, your not really doing the selling. your just getting the technical wins. your account executive does most of the salesy stuff. Your there to influence the tech folks, make recommendations and ensure the product works in their environment.
  • wahrheitwahrheit Posts: 21Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    Solutions Architects at our company (a Services Integrator) run the gambit from pre-sales/bid-proposal to post-contract engineering support. From my side of the house, most of the time they are the guys that draw the technical solution with a very broad brush, then turn it over to the actual engineering team to complete all the underlying detailed work.

    As a disclaimer, I'm on the fence between the two groups (i.e. half the time doing solutions architect work, half the time acting as an engineer).
    WGU - BS in Software Development (9/1/2014 Start)
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  • powmiapowmia Posts: 322Users Awaiting Email Confirmation
    powmia wrote: »
    Usually this is purely a pre-sales role. Most of your time will be building LOMs and BOMs for customers, maintaining relationships with them and wading through vendor propaganda for their latest and greatest products. Typically not a very technical role (sorry if that offends some solutions architects... but dudes, it isn't when you're working for most VARs).

    And while I have worked for one VAR.. it was as a resident... never as a Solutions Architect. Personally, I care too much about technology and how it drives business to be a salesman. MO.
  • philz1982philz1982 Posts: 978Member
    I work for a Fortune 70 corp and coordinate the partner eco-system (think channel partners), design new construction technology everything from structured cable to clinical systems (think Layer 1 to Layer 7). I also, go and talk to the CIO, CTO, CISO on sales engagements.

    First off you need to like people, second off, depending on if your on the sales or pre-con side makes a big difference. My designs don't need to be perfect they just need to not cost us money. That's a hard thing for analyticals (including myself) to accept. Also, you need to like people, and I mean go hang out talk about no pertinent stuff kind of like.

    Also, you must have patience, explaining the design to the customer whilst they quote the latest news article as to why your design is wrong...

    Also, you kinda need writing skills, at least most people do, I kinda snuck my illiterate butt in the backdoor icon_biggrin.gif.

    PM me if you have any specifics or post the ?'s here, I've done everything from small CRE (Commercial Real Estate) to Complex Industrial/ Data Center/ Airports.
  • philz1982philz1982 Posts: 978Member
    shodown wrote: »
    It depends on the company, but if your at an established partner its gonna be 99 percent sales, and your only technical work will be in labs when doing POC. The post sales team will take care of the installation. If you are at a smaller partner/vendor I could see you getting more post sales work as well. However most guys that get the solution architect jobs enjoy going home every night and not staying up late for cuts. They also can get some pretty fat paychecks. I've seen a commission check over a million dollars more than once for some SA's who worked on large projects(they told me the actually account managers commission was 3x theirs) . But unless your at a pretty large partner(WWT, Presidio, CDW) I wouldn't expect that.

    I agree with most of what you wrote, but the folks I deal with at Di-Data, WWT, Tech-Data, (the list goes on and on) most of them are on the road training, selling, and then spend nights in the hotel building designs and BoM's.
  • philz1982philz1982 Posts: 978Member
    Cyberscum wrote: »
    Says the guy with an alphabet of certs.

    You don't need certs when you've got the Google.
  • stlsmoorestlsmoore Posts: 515Member ■■■□□□□□□□
    Would love to move into this type of role one day. Not quite sure how to transition there currently being a network engineer for an enterprise.
    My Cisco Blog Adventure: http://shawnmoorecisco.blogspot.com/

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  • shodownshodown Posts: 2,271Member
    If you want to be an solutions architect you have to be able to communicate effectively. Also looking the part is very important. Even though you aren't an account manager put yourself in the customers shoes. Are you going to spend millions of dollars on equipment and services if the people show up and look and present like the dollar meal from mcdonalds? Probably not. Just to sum in up the skills I think that are important in no particular order

    1. SPEAK, and WRITE above average

    2. Take technical stuff and break it down for the customer who may or may not be technical(even though they should be since u will be speaking to engineers)

    3. Try not to be the smartest guy in the room when dealing with the technical staff, try to be on the same level as them. Nobody likes to feel they are being looked down upon.

    4. Look good. Haircut, shave, clean clothes, nice shoes. Keep your car clean you never know who you will be putting in it.

    5. Master Microsoft office suite, powerpoint and excel will become your friend.

    6. Learn to find the facts on whatever you selling website
    Currently Reading

    CUCM SRND 9x/10, UCCX SRND 10x, QOS SRND, SIP Trunking Guide, anything contact center related
  • pinkydapimppinkydapimp Posts: 732Member
    shodown wrote: »
    If you want to be an solutions architect you have to be able to communicate effectively. Also looking the part is very important. Even though you aren't an account manager put yourself in the customers shoes. Are you going to spend millions of dollars on equipment and services if the people show up and look and present like the dollar meal from mcdonalds? Probably not. Just to sum in up the skills I think that are important in no particular order

    1. SPEAK, and WRITE above average

    2. Take technical stuff and break it down for the customer who may or may not be technical(even though they should be since u will be speaking to engineers)

    3. Try not to be the smartest guy in the room when dealing with the technical staff, try to be on the same level as them. Nobody likes to feel they are being looked down upon.


    4. Look good. Haircut, shave, clean clothes, nice shoes. Keep your car clean you never know who you will be putting in it.

    5. Master Microsoft office suite, powerpoint and excel will become your friend.

    6. Learn to find the facts on whatever you selling website

    spot on. Often, you go into these meetings and you are the expert in the room because you work with countless organizations and know what are the best ways to implement. But its so important not to "start a ******* contest" so to speak. Dont try to be the guy who knows it all. Really, try to be the guy thats there to help. Dont be a salesman. thats for the sales rep. Be the consultant and advisor. Im there to make the sponsor look good, not the opposite. Basically we are there to help them solve technical and business problems.

    And don't be afraid to ask questions. I'm always digging to see what organizations are doing to for example monitor and track PII, or what processes they have in place for ensuring compliance. Did you have a breach last month? Tell me about it. I may be able to suggest ways to prevent that(using the software i am selling of course :)). But never lie. If the software i have cant do it, i will tell them. If i know of one that does, i will let them know.

    As you can see in these roles there is a lot of communication required.

    Regarding dress. I always tend to dress based on who im working with. If im meeting with regular IT folks, i may dress down. Don't want to be wearing a suit while sitting in a Network closet with the Network Admin. But if your meeting with C-Levels, then you obviously need to dress up for that. I tend to wear my beard. Again, i work in pre sales, but im not a salesman, and i don't want to come off as one.
  • stlsmoorestlsmoore Posts: 515Member ■■■□□□□□□□
    Great replies, loving the advice being given.
    My Cisco Blog Adventure: http://shawnmoorecisco.blogspot.com/

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  • darkerzdarkerz Posts: 431Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    N2IT wrote: »
    Great post + I agree

    I have several college friends who moved on to these roles, solutions, sales, pre sales, principal architect etc. I wouldn't trust one of them to fix my network or computer. They aren't technical and quite frankly they really don't need to be. Like most of you they have networking backgrounds but have long since used those skills. It's more about engaging and managing relationships and of course selling. Maybe not closing the sale but being a liason.


    PS I can validate the the account manager role they CAN make a kings ransom. One of the guys I am speaking about in particular was the head account manager for the HBO TO GO project. From brainstorming to delivery and everything in between, of course he did NONE of the engineering work but made one of the biggest checks I have ever seen. Well over a million dollars for the deal, I believe it was close to 2 million. This was a project over 2 - 3 years and plenty of 100 hour work weeks but the pay was amazing. Not to mention he was still getting a base of 130.

    I'm in the wrong field...

    I've been curious about going into a SE space. One good Fortune 50 client & revenue cycle can set you for life if you land in the right spot I'd imagine.

    1-2 Million for a check?? Jesus. That's really hard to imagine.
    :twisted:
  • PurpleITPurpleIT Posts: 327Member
    There's certainly been a variety of replies; some more applicable than others, but my thanks go out to everyone who posted.

    I don't think I will be working on any jobs that will give me the $1,000,000+ checks, but I can always hope...
    WGU - BS IT: ND&M | Start Date: 12/1/12, End Date 5/7/2013
    What next, what next...
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