Distribution World – Ones who've made it

Distribution World – Ones who’ve made it John Culver as the technical manager and Sandeep Ram as the marketing manager are FAEs who have succeeded in climbing the ladder to senior management at Sequoia Technology. Richard Wilson
If we are looking for FAEs who have succeeded in climbing the promotional ladder into senior managerial roles then we need look no further than John Culver and Sandeep Ram. Both work for Sequoia Technology where Culver is the distributor’s technical manager and Ram has been recently promoted to marketing manager.
They share a background that includes a relatively general engineering degree, albeit with a heavy electronics bias, and an apprenticeship in design, before moving into distribution in their late 20s. How important is this kind of background – first in making an FAE, and second in allowing that FAE to progress to a more senior level in a distribution organisation?
Although Culver is the first to admit that it is not absolutely essential to have a degree, it is a huge help.
“As an FAE, you need to be a master of all sectors, and only a degree course will give you the general grounding in electronics that you really need to be successful,”says Culver. “Your next call might be from a designer working on a mobile phone, a DC measurement application or a computer.”
Culver believes that while self-taught engineers can be brilliant in specific areas of experience, they can be quickly out of their depth beyond this.
Design experience is also invaluable.
“A graduate FAE without the design experience will be equally lost,” says Culver. “Commercial and marketing aspects of design (Should I specify this 50p device, or is it worth using this one costing ?1?) are not, and can never be, a feature of a degree course. Equally, an awareness of the company context in which a customer is working can only be acquired through experience.”
Culver was Sequoia’s second employee, and he initially provided sales and support rolled into one before moving into the office in a full-time technical support role. He now runs a team of six FAEs covering a host of franchises from West Coast start-ups to Mitsubishi, Sanyo and Sharp. How does he differentiate his role now, as manager, from earlier, as FAE?
“It’s a question of breadth of view,” says Culver. “My role now tends to be to create the opportunities that other members of the team will fulfil.”
Sandeep Ram has moved further away from his technical roots. Despite this however, he regards his engineering degree, which included a final year specialisation in electronics, and his six years developing avionic systems for GEC in Kent as an essential platform for his subsequent progression within the distribution business.
So what does he think characterises an FAE with the potential to move up the ladder.
“A strong technical background gives you the tools with which to make judgements on which franchises, customers and products are likely to be worth supporting,”says Ram, who adds a note of caution for any engineer star-struck with the idea of moving into sales.
“Not every engineer is equally well equipped to make the right commercial judgements,” he says. “There are millions of great computer engineers out there but only one Bill Gates!

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