Why Clients Get Attached to Engineers

One of the things I run into quite a bit is clients asking for a specific engineer to work their project. This isn’t always possible, because the engineer requested is often scheduled for another job. It works out well in the end, as we are lucky to have a great team, but it got me thinking. Why are these clients so attached to these engineers? Are they technical geniuses, or is there more to it than that?  I thought I’d talk that through, both from my perspective as a hiring manager, and what I think the client is looking for.

Technical Acumen: This is the area I think most people focus on when they think of a great engineer. People think, “This guy can do anything and knows everything.” Here, we are typically talking about very experienced CCIE engineers or their equivalents. Unfortunately, this sometimes turns out to be untrue. From our client’s perspective, I think the key is that they can trust the engineer on a technical level. That means the engineer needs to be competent for the level of work they are doing.  I’ve received great feedback and ABS has earned client’s loyalty thanks mid-level engineers. These engineers don’t know everything, but they are solid on what they do know and the clients see and trust it. From my perspective, I need a team of people who can handle various projects with differing difficulty.

Trustworthiness: I think this is one of the most important things for me and clients as well. Our engineers are great, but they don’t know every detail of every configuration or bug that they might be running into.  They aren’t afraid to be honest with the client and me and they let us know if there is an issue. They also aren’t afraid to reach out to the team for help.  I’m proud to have a team that helps each other.  Regardless of the level of the engineer, some of us know more about some topics than others. Having a team to support each other makes it easy for the engineers to be up front and let the clients know that they’ll get answers quickly.

Social Skills:  I remember jokes in college about the programmer in the dark room you threw potato chips and jolt cola. I don’t think I ever met that guy, but having social skills is critical for engineers working in the partner space.  It’s hard to develop trust with someone you can’t relate to or with someone who doesn’t communicate well. It can be a little harder to find someone with the technical skills I need and who is also comfortable in social situations; but it is critical. The relationships the team builds with clients help us maintain account relationships and lets the client know they have a true partner who will help them if there is a problem. This helps us immensely as a company.

Communicating with Non-technical Stake Holders:  This is related to social skills, but it’s important enough to address separately. You can have a great engineer, who everyone trusts and enjoys spending time with, but if he can’t explain things in a way that can be understood, it doesn’t matter.  We don’t always deal with IT staff.  I’ve been doing contact center for a long time.  We often spend more time with the supervisors and management of the contact center than the IP team.  It’s critical to have the ability to take the technical jargon down to a level that they can relate to.  These people are typically business experts and know far more about that than I ever could.  We just have to educate them on our systems at a level they can understand to the level they need.

So, that’s my list of super engineer requirements.  I don’t always find someone strong in all those areas, but that’s what management is about.  We find people who fit the general mold and shore up any weaknesses. I myself am lucky enough to have a team that rounds out this list. It’s great to work with people who can manage all of that.  It isn’t particularly common as I’ve seen it lacking throughout my career. As you can probably tell, I’m proud to work with such a great team.

 

curtis-stabler-1

Curtis brings over 25 years of collaboration experience to ABS. As the Collaboration Team Manager, Curtis works to ensure that ABS is consistently providing the latest collaboration technology and support to ABS clients.