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Enjoying the January sun in Beirut

A week with… #businessman (a.k.a Philip Nordenfelt) — Tales of a Fintech Solutions Engineer

So Life at Backbase asked me to “pick a nice, different” week which made this whole task incredibly hard. There’s not a single “nice, different” week which stands out simply because no two weeks are alike as a Solutions Engineer with Backbase and they’re all pretty much awesome in nature. It sounds like a trope but I challenge you to spend more than a couple of weeks as an SE and then tell me with a straight face that these weeks were a mundane repetition of each other.

Hashtag galore.

The fact that I have the time to actually write this signals that I’m probably on a flight somewhere, enjoying my flight-sized Gin & Tonic next to my single-serving (sleeping, snoring) 16 hour friend. I’m travelling to Paris from Jakarta, after finishing off two days of intensive workshopping with a prospect in Indonesia. This is not something extraordinary as we travel up to 50% and globally.

As the dust settles and the workshops are done and over I like to take the time to reflect on all aspects of the visit. What went good, bad, awesome etc, you understand. This, and the feedback from my direct peers, is key to growing myself and to becoming a better, more efficient SE. Typically there are a lot of different things, varying in importance, to pay heed to after a lengthy session with a customer. Sales is all about understanding the needs and challenges of your prospects and when you work with people all over the world it pays off to reflect on your interactions to be able to fine tune them and to optimise them until the next time you’re in front of the same situation.

On a personal level I’ve lately had to develop my communication skills when dealing with anyone speaking the south east Asian languages, to be able to convey my message and understand my prospects in the best way possible. It’s truly humbling to take part of so many different cultures on a daily basis, and in a professional setting. …but the red-eye flights can be exhausting ;)

Before Backbase I typically didn’t visit 3 different continents in less than two weeks. It’s still feels a bit unrealistic when it happens. Could be the jetlag though.

The Solutions Engineer is very much a role of contrast. On the one hand you have the tight connection to sales and business where a true understanding of value to customer is every day at the forefront. On the other hand you have the affinity for, curiosity for and understanding of technology. As an SE you’re expected to be able to clearly communicate the value of the solution to the prospect no matter if the person you’re talking to is a lone cowboy developer or a dignified C-level executive.

They all have their own hopes and fears regarding the potential selection, and it’s your job to properly convey the value of Backbase in a language and manner that they can understand. Doing a product demonstration is so much more than just showing where to click and what happens; it’s about transforming your message in real-time to something that your audience will connect with and internalise, you’re in-effect building the foundation of their understanding which is necessary for them to have to be able to form informed opinions about your product.

Without those informed opinions, the sales cycle will go exactly nowhere. Few things are as satisfying as performing a demonstration to a room filled with people who absolutely do not understand what Backbase is.. until after the demonstration. Typically you see it on the fact that heads start nodding once the point has come across. #success

Without the understanding in place we can not properly communicate the value of what we offer. I truly believe that Backbase is a company which will (and already has!) instigate large-scale changes in the financial industry to the benefit of the people; the end-user.

I also believe that thanks to the Backbase product, our customers are able to provide their services to a larger group of people faster and cheaper. Often this means providing access to digital banking where it previously wasn’t available. In regions with a lot of poverty, for instance, being able to access banking services digitally can make a big difference day-to-day if the nearest branch is too far or somehow inaccessible. We are accelerating the digital transformation of these banks, making the day-to-day life easier for banking customers all over the world. This is one of the aspects I value the most about my work.

In regions with a lot of poverty, for instance, being able to access banking services digitally can make a big difference day-to-day if the nearest branch is too far or somehow inaccessible.

Going in together; for workshops and PoCs we typically go in as a powerful squad of heavy hitters.

We, the Solutions Engineering team, are ultimately supporting the Sales organisation with alleviating any technical challenges, objections or questions during the full length of the sales cycle. After the signature is in place, we perform a warm handover to the project teams, typically within the construct of an inception phase. This means that our tasks are extremely varied, as we work with formal documents, technical deep dives, workshops and proof of concepts — the latter being work at the customer’s premises for at most a couple of weeks, building out a prototype which proves the quality and efficiency of our product and that it matches what the customer is asking for. Basically, in layman’s terms (feel free to use this line if you start working here and need to impress a date), we go and build a bank in a couple of weeks.

We’re quite often in situations of high-stakes, delivering a pitch or making the story tangible for the audience by providing a crystal clear demonstration of our offering.

We’re quite often in situations of high-stakes, delivering a pitch or making the story tangible for the audience by providing a crystal clear demonstration of our offering. These are skills which are earned in the field but of course not before being taught and practiced at home. We have a system of buddy-support built into the DNA of the team, and we cover each other’s backs, give each other accountability and support in whatever way needed. “Play” is very important to be successful with our mission and way of living and is something we have a strong affinity for. It’s never a dull moment with these people in this team who I now call my real friends (love you guys!).

An important part of the journey is the Window. From the seat, hotel room, office-space or any other new space you find yourself in.

As the crew just signalled that we’re about to land, I’m wrapping this one up. Working for Backbase as a Solutions Engineer is the best job I’ve had in my career, hands down. The stakes are very high and I often have real impact on the sales cycle, sometimes turning them from losing to winning situations. It’s amazing to sense the air of confidence in the room shift in your favour as you’re delivering a rock solid performance.

I would recommend everyone with the right caliber and capacity to join us, not only because we definitely need more colleagues (we’re expanding heavily) but because the experience is of such top-notch, genuine, crazy, fun, rock-solid quality that no one at least a little interested in life would want to miss it.

So let’s go; work hard, play hard. If this text connects with you, I’m looking forward to welcoming you here.

PS. practice proper use of the #businessman hashtag. With great power comes great responsibility. Follow my adventures on instagram

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Philip Nordenfelt

Philip Nordenfelt

Musings on contemplations and occasional Fintech insights