If you have completed your undergraduate degree in engineering and are keen to get a job away from the conventional engineering disciplines whilst utilising (and gaining) technical skills, then industry experts believe that you could work as a field application engineer (FAE). In this role, your communication skills, along with soft skillsets, play a vital role. So if you are an engineer who can communicate well, you are cut out for a career in FAE.
There are many companies hiring FAEs, ranging from factories to large-scale corporate firms. However, one major reason that discourages potential candidates to join this field is labelling of field application engineering as a ‘salesman’s job.’
We spoke to experts with both domain knowledge and expertise in FAE, to bust associated myths and decode the success mantra of a field application engineer.
Is it purely a ‘sales job’?
“Field application engineering is not exactly a sales job. Here, acting as an engineer, you give correct explanations and solutions for the clients to understand the product,” shares Utsava Rathi, a manager at job search engine Neuvoo, who closely analyses the FAE industry.
According to Utsava, the best thing about being an FAE is that you get to debug errors, alongside influencing clients technologically. You may also need to offer technical support to prospective clients so that they become customers of your company. So, in a way, you would be remotely influencing clients’ purchase decisions.
Fundamentally, when you start working as an FAE for a project, you are seen (by clients of your company) as a pure engineer with effective communication. Good communication skills are important as you would interact with people to impart knowledge on the products of your firm; products here could range from machinery hardware to software offerings.
“As an FAE, the onus is on you to help clients understand technically what your company offers. You are also responsible for delivering technical solutions through your skills. On completion of this, you will intimate the post-sales team so that they can close the business deal with the clients,” shares a field application engineer working with Micron Semiconductor India.
The technical side
As you possess a BE/B.Tech degree, you also get to work on technical aspects of products, including testing, design, research & development (R&D), and in certain cases re-engineering.
“It is always good to study the company and its machinery or product before taking up the job,” suggests Utsava.
With you acting as a technical consultant, there is always scope to develop more knowledge and skills. Even if you land a job in a manufacturing firm, you will have plenty of opportunities to utilise your technical skillset, which could extend to your business skills as well.
“Technical solutions are vital for any technology product development company. Upon introducing yourself as an FAE or a technical sales and solutions consultant, your skills horizon immediately expands,” says a senior application engineer at Altair Engineering.
Prerequisites for the job
With field application engineering now recognised globally as a white-collared job, it is vital that you possess below-mentioned technical skills along with general ones:
1. As stated above, the primary requirement to work as an FAE (often referred to as technical sales engineer) is an engineering degree, irrespective of the discipline. However, elementary technical skills are a must-have. Some companies even seek a master’s degree in VLSI or embedded systems.
2. As per job listings on Naukri.com, the common skillsets for field application engineers include (but not limited to) System Verilog, technical support skills, VLSI, embedded systems, HDL, C, product designing (both hardware and software), software testing and technical sales.
3. Effective communication skills.
In addition, there are skills depending on the sector and the company you choose to work in.
Career progression and pay packages
Experts opine that a career in field application engineering or technical sales is not suited for fancy job title seekers, but rather those looking at utilising their technical talent in sales.
To start with, fresh engineers are hired as trainees or offered designations such as application engineer, field application engineer and technical sales executive. There is a possibility that you could be offered business-oriented job titles like project manager and account manager based on your experience level.
“With experience, you improve your business skills as you work with clients closely. There are many opportunities to travel in this job as you may need to meet clients or manufacturers personally,” shares Utsava.
Making the right decisions throughout the course of your career could fast-track your progression and even lead you to the CEO level. Business qualities and talent are the deciding factors in such scenarios. The more positive business that you generate, the faster your career progression.
As far as pay packages are concerned, fresh engineers can expect pay packages starting at around ₹ 240,000 per annum. This again depends on your area of expertise, job requirements, work profile and the company’s reputation. Experienced candidates can expect anywhere between one and two million rupees per annum.
“With new products and technologies popping up in the market every other day, the demand for field application engineers is increasing and there is a good scope for engineers to start their career in this field. Apart from attractive compensation, the job comes with advantages of learning business, travelling, meeting lots of people, continuous learning, challenging professional environment and a lot more,” says Utsava.
The applications engineer at Altair Engineering advises FAEs to remain optimistic about their remuneration. In case they stick to one company over an extended period of time, their pay package would be directly proportional to the amount of effort put in.
It is a level-playing field
Unlike core information technology enabled services, field application engineering domain is less competitive. However, your interview would still be challenging as you will play a critical role in the success of your prospective employer organisation with the combination of your technical and sales skills.