Lupita Carabes was interested in understanding why the company she was working for was having a bad quarter.
As a software engineer, her plate had been full for months. She and her coworkers had performed well against their expectations and kept code moving through. So what had happened?
“It piqued my interest. How are we allocating resources? How are decisions being made? How are we producing revenue?” says Lupita, reflecting on what would become a major career shift. “That put me on a path to a customer facing role; what’s known as a sales engineer.”
She asked her then-manager if she could explore the sales side of the business, but Lupita was told she needed more experience first. A few weeks later, she got a note from a Veracode recruiter—and met a hiring manager who was more than open to helping Lupita transition into tech sales.
We sat down with Lupita, who is now a senior account executive at Veracode, to hear more about her career journey, how she made the transition from engineering to sales, and what advice she has for those who are considering following in her footsteps.
Learning How Businesses Really Work
Growing up, Lupita got her first taste of entrepreneurship when she worked with her family on their business and was inspired to one day launch her own.
“I felt inclined to go the entrepreneurial route because I enjoyed the ability to control my own outcome and make my own way,” she says. “I quickly realized I didn't really have the resources to scale.”
That realization led Lupita to pursue a career that was in high demand—she had won a full-ride scholarship that would apply to a STEM degree. She majored in electrical engineering, minored in computer science, and completed the university entrepreneurship scholars’ program.
During her time as a software engineering intern, Lupita realized the abundance of job opportunities she would have if she went to work as a developer. She also saw it as an opportunity to gain more business experience that would help her later down the line. So, she stayed in engineering roles up until the Veracode opportunity came about.
“The hiring manager asked if I was prepared to be less technical,” says Lupita of how the tech sales job was first presented. “But I’ve actually needed to be more technical. I talk to engineers with various levels of expertise about different technologies, and technology is always changing.”
When Lupita joined Veracode, her title was associate solutions architect. She took a pay cut for the role, then spent the next couple of years proving herself earning promotion after promotion.
“In order to keep moving up, I had to build a case, with metrics, and proof points to show my value and contributions I made to help the business,” she says. “It’s a lot of responsibility—it’s your own franchise. I call the shots, and that’s been a huge learning curve but extremely rewarding.”
Now, as a senior account executive, Lupita regularly talks to engineers and security analysts, and closes deals with CTOs, CISOs, CIOs, and CMOs (say that five times fast!). The exposure to business leaders and technical talent has given Lupita the exposure she was looking for to build her own entrepreneurial toolkit—and has taken full advantage of her background.
3 Key Messages for 3 Key Groups
Reflecting on her career so far, Lupita is happy to have made the shift to sales, where she can continue to bridge gaps between groups and further develop multiple skill sets.
“I was once a girl who didn’t know about the engineering role, and now I’m consulting engineers to think about security and their process,” says Lupita. “That’s the most exciting thing for me, being able to use my soft and hard skills, while interacting day-to-day with C-level decision makers.”
Here’s the advice she would give based on this experience:
For her engineering peers: consider sales engineering. “If you’re looking for more social interactions, having a fundamental understanding of the problems we are trying to solve makes for a much easier conversation with prospects,” she says. “You get to talk to tons of like-minded people, and sometimes conversations turn into partnerships. Sometimes they turn into friendships, or even mentorships. I think that’s really cool—and I wouldn’t have access to that if I was just sitting at my computer coding away.”
For her sales peers: be genuine and add value. “Customers sometimes aren’t open to sharing a lot of information up front,” she says. “So earning their trust and understanding the outcomes they are looking to achieve is really important. I ask open-ended questions and try to understand and not assume exactly what their challenges are. There’s a lot of ‘debugging’ in learning what the business is actually trying to accomplish—leverage your network because the more people you involve, the better chance you’ll have of truly solving their business problems.”
For her prospects: application security is worth it. Several years into selling Veracode’s services, Lupita has learned that a common challenge companies face is fear of slowing down developers, even when there’s a lot (read: customer data, regulatory fines, and reputational damage) on the line. She often hears, “‘We've always done it this way and we've never had a breach,’” but Lupita is a firm believer that secure code is valuable code.
“More and more companies are using security as a competitive advantage and customers are no longer willing to accept the liability for software that sees security as an afterthought. Application security requires people, process, and tech,” she explains. “I enjoy taking the guesswork out of building the right approach.”
For now, Lupita knows she has much more to learn at Veracode and is looking forward to doing so. Who knows, though—in a few years, maybe she’ll find herself on the other side of the C-suite table!
When solutions consultant Hazelle Sevilla asks her nearly three-year-old daughter whether she's excited to move to New Zealand, she never knows what response she'll get.
"Sometimes she says yes, sometimes she says no, but she's quite excited—she sees the boxes and will put your stuff in them," says Hazelle, who spent about five years post-grad in New Zealand, then moved back to her native Philippines, and is now based in Australia. She's getting ready to move back to New Zealand, where her sister still lives and where her company—web application performance service New Relic—is opening a new office.
The timing of New Relic's growth into New Zealand couldn't have been more serendipitous for Hazelle. "The pandemic highlighted how spread out our family was, and we decided that we should all pick one place and stay there. We all decided on New Zealand."
Hazelle was worried, though, that she might have to leave her role as a solutions engineer at New Relic in order to make the move. Then she heard that New Relic was looking to hire a solutions consultant in New Zealand and decided to tell her manager she was interested in relocating there, and that she could help out until they hired the solutions consultant they needed.
Instead, her manager responded by encouraging her to try for that role—and she got it. "It's a big challenge, but I'm so excited because it's a huge opportunity to grow my own skills as a solution consultant, while also helping New Relic to grow in a new market," says Hazelle.
We sat down with Hazelle to hear more about her role, how she's balanced her career with motherhood and her family, why she enjoys her work at New Relic, and what advice she has for other women thinking about pre-sales.
Pre-sales engineering: an empathetic introvert's paradise
Hazelle knew from a young age that she was interested in technical challenges, so computer science just made sense.
"I like solving problems, I like coding. I'm not going to lie, I'm a very introverted person; I can work all day at my computer without complaining," she says, smiling. And though she did exactly that as a software developer, she realized after a few years that she wanted something a little more dynamic.
She's always been a logical yet empathetic problem solver, whether dealing with arranging care for her father when he fell ill or tackling issues at work. She ended up finding a role that relied on all of her skills.
Hazelle found her way into pre-sales when an employer was looking for someone proficient with integration technology. She was hired as a solutions engineer and quickly realized that the job was a great mix of hands-on-keys technical work with client-facing thrills.
"I get to play with a lot of technology and I get to solve different types of problems. No problem is ever the same," she says. "I love the opportunity to influence how clients solve problems, and to be exposed to how technical problems are tied to their business or revenue."
The variety, problem-solving, and knowledge sharing elements of her role have kept her busy at New Relic for over a year—and now they're about to grow in scope with her recent promotion to solutions consultant and her move to New Relic's new office in New Zealand.
Finding the flexibility to pursue her goals at New Relic
As a solutions consultant, Hazelle will move away from focusing on just the technical aspects of a sale and will have more of a responsibility for the relationship with clients and prospects. "You want to be able to not only build long-term relationships with clients, but to be able to build champions," she says. "It's about working with your sales counterpart to navigate the organization, uncover opportunities, and become the trusted advisor to your clients."
That's an especially important set of responsibilities considering that New Relic will be entering the New Zealand market for the first time. "We're the ones who are going to be responsible for building the New Zealand business," says Hazelle. "There's more opportunity for me to prove my value."
Hazelle is especially appreciative of this opportunity after her priorities changed post the birth of her daughter.
When she first got pregnant, she'd switched from a role as a solutions engineer to a role in support. "It was a little easier to manage around, and it gave me the opportunity to have more time with my baby," says Hazelle, who enjoyed not having to travel or set her schedule around client meetings. But a big part of her missed the dynamism of the pre-sales environment, and she felt like she had more drive than ever to succeed in it.
"I felt like I wanted to become more successful for [my daughter], so I can be a good example for her," she says.
That's when she applied for an opening at New Relic for a solutions engineer role and transitioned back into the environment she'd missed. She was upfront with her recruiter about her commitment to her family and her desire to work from home some days, and wasn't sure that would work for them.
"I love solutions engineering; there's no question about that. I wanted to find a company that would not only challenge me technically, but also help me balance life as a mom. My daughter was my priority and New Relic never made me feel like I should change that." she says.
Hazelle found that to be true when she joined and was pleasantly surprised by the number of women in leadership roles, including working mothers. "Being in computer science, women are usually outnumbered, but you don't feel that in our Australian office," says Hazelle of the New Relic team.
That care for people has extended into Hazelle's promotion and move. When she mentioned she wanted to move to New Zealand, Hazelle wasn't expecting anything more than a "congratulations." But now that she's been promoted to that new office's solutions consultant and is being allowed to work from her future city of Wellington instead of being based in Auckland with the rest of the team, Hazelle finds herself truly impressed.
"They're my employer—they didn't have to be supportive at the level that they were with me," she says. "Them supporting me is what made me brave enough to do the actual move."
4 skills every solutions engineer should have, per Hazelle
- Problem-solving prowess. "You can't just showcase a product or features and hope that that's going to stick to your customer. You need to understand their problems and find a way to solve them."
- Flexibility. Hazelle once stayed with a client throughout the night until early the next morning to make sure that their launch went well. "It wasn't in my job description to stay with them during the big event, but they shouldn't have to ask you—you should be flexible enough to adjust to your client's needs," she says.
- Honesty. "Sometimes it's really hard, especially when you're selling," says Hazelle. "It's hard to say no; you always tend to just kind of say, 'Yes, yes, we can do that.' Be straight and mature with your clients. You gain their trust [that way]. Clients know that nothing's perfect, no product, no technology is perfect. It's about how you help your customer solve their problems"
- No fear of looking stupid. "Don't be scared to ask questions!" says Hazelle. "And if you're in a customer engagement and they mention something you have no idea about, tell them that even though you don't know the answer, you'll find out for them, you'll learn, you'll try."