Distribution World – So what makes a first-class FAE?…

Distribution World – So what makes a first-class FAE?…Flint Distribution took three design engineers and put them in the field. Richard Wilson
Most distribution FAEs will focus on one or just a few franchises, but increasingly distributors are looking for engineers who can work across a product portfolio which may range from connectors to quite complex silicon, such as microcontrollers or telecoms ICs.
The recruitment experience of Flint Distribution is becoming more typical. It recently pulled three qualified and experienced electronics design engineers out of the development lab, and put them in the field as Field Applications Engineers (FAEs) to work with its customers on their designs.
Commenting on the selection criteria used, Flint’s sales director Phil Atherton points out that there were three particular skills looked for in the candidates: design experience, social skills and organisational/ management skills.
“We only considered candidates with a suitable qualification,” says Atherton. “Although a degree always impresses, we sometimes found that the people who meet our requirements very well didn’t have one.” Atherton adds: “We ended up with one graduate, and two people who had gained HNDs through part-time study at night school. This, to me, says a great deal about both their motivation and their ability to organise their time.”
Practical experience is a big plus. It seems that there is a huge difference between designing a circuit on a piece of paper and actually making it work in real life.
Atherton wanted people who had the experience of the two and who understood the difference. Ideally they will have had learned through the application of the theory.
“We wanted people who had a breadth of knowledge and experience, covering both digital and analogue design. This was important because we expect each FAE to support all products that we have,”he adds.
Then there are the FAE’s social skills. Some good practical engineers can have difficulty in communicating with people and particularly feeling relaxed in the one-to-one sales situation.
“Obviously for a sales based role this is a key skill so we were looking for people who had a relaxed easy manner in a social environment,” says Atherton. “In our interviews we spent quite some time working with our candidates together as a group in order to test these sorts of skills.”
Finally, good FAEs must be able to organise themselves. In the sort of role that the FAEs have to fulfil there are a lot of inputs and a huge need to prioritise. They also drive themselves in order to get projects completed on time.
“As the people are not being supervised all the time this is another key skill and we spent some time testing for this,” says Atherton.
The three individuals Flint ended up choosing were John Jones, who joined from Druck, Michael Muncey from FM Electronics, and Keith Bramley from Kane International.
John Jones previously worked on pressure transducer development at Druck, with responsibility for analogue circuit design, EMC, programming and documentation. He is the graduate in the group, being educated to degree level in Electronic Engineering at the University of Leeds, Jones is a Chartered Member of the IEE.
Michael Muncey has eight years experience as a design engineer, having worked on analogue, logic and microcontroller circuits at wireless security product manufacturer FM Electronics and industrial electronics maker Meco Electronics.
Keith Bramley also covered a great deal of ground in his previous role at Kane International, working on small hand-held gas detectors. This involved both board design using CAD and the development of software for 8-bit micros in C and assembler.

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