Just back from a business trip in Berlin, Matthew Salisbury sits down with us to share his insights into what it takes to work for a market-leading software company, and how he made it to where he is now.
So Matthew, tell us about your role as Technical Consultant
The role of a technical consultant is pretty varied. For me, it involves doing a mixture of presales and post sales activities. Common activities include: designing system architectures; writing technical proposals; running proof of concepts; coding custom functionality; and working with customers to deliver a solution.
How did your career begin?
After studying Computing at the University of Leeds I decided to set up my own website. It was for a small town in the North of England. I did all the development myself and met with business owners in the area to try and sell advertising space on the website. It was hard work but, looking back, the mix of technical and client facing work probably set me up well for where I am now.
And what did you do next?
I spent about 4 months working on my website. It was looking good but I wasn’t making enough money to live off of it, so I decided to apply for a few programming jobs. My website really helped me here – whenever I went to interviews they’d ask me lots of questions and were impressed with what I’d learnt from it. Three weeks after applying for my first job I found myself moving from Manchester to London and working as a Software Engineer writing C++ applications for the broadcast industry.
I stayed there for the next two and a half years, enjoying life as a developer. However I began to realize that I enjoyed the client facing aspect of the role as much as the development side. I’d also developed a thirst for adventure after spending a lot of time sitting behind a desk. It was at that point that I decided to make the leap from development to consulting.
What has been the most interesting project you’ve worked on to date?
Probably the most interesting project was with a broadcaster based in Lyon, France. I spent about 6 months flying out there Monday to Friday every week. The project was based on creating workflows which allowed them to transcode and manipulate video whilst being delivered by FTP – this enabled them to create news stories before a full video clip had been received. We also performed speech to text and keyframe analysis on all video so it could be indexed and searched upon.
And the best thing about your current job?
A mix between the wide variety of technical and interesting problems which require me to keep learning constantly, the travel and the people you meet from all over the world (Over the last few months I’ve visited France, Slovenia, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Israel and the UAE. I also have upcoming meetings in China, Singapore, India and Australia over the next eight weeks).
In brief…describe your average working day (if it exists!)
I’m not sure it exists. It varies project to project. Right now I spend about 60 -70% of my time working away from the office, usually overseas. A typical day when onsite usually begins at 6am with the gym, that progresses to: 9am – 7pm working with the customer, 8pm - going for a meal (often with the customer), 11pm back to the hotel (where I may do some more work if other projects require help), 1am sleep.
What skills are essential for your role?
Good problem solving skills, great communication, ability to work well under pressure, confidence in your skill-set and a sense of humour!
What advice would you give someone who’s looking to go into Technical Pre-Sales?
Pre-sales is that middle ground - you’ve got to be technical but also capable of communicating your knowledge to an audience who may not be familiar with the subject. Practice describing your solutions to people who aren’t familiar with them and see if they understand. When you’ve developed a successful way of delivering technical descriptions to a non-technical crowd – that doesn’t result in their eyes glazing over – then you’ll be everyone’s best friend.
And finally, one thing you wish you’d known when starting out...
Your biggest problem probably isn’t technical.