Solutions Engineering at Wise
Solutions engineering is both the most accurate and most problematic job title I’ve ever had.
It describes exactly what my team and I do at Wise, which is great, but it can also be interpreted in countless different ways, creating challenges for us. In fact, the title is used in all of those different ways (and more) to describe different roles at different companies. This makes it hard for people to understand what we do; and hard for us to understand what others might be doing elsewhere, too. The confusion means that finding the right people to join our team is tough and that great candidates might not be able to find us, either.
This isn’t anybody’s fault. As engineers always say, naming things is difficult and we suck at it. So, to help clear it up, I thought it best to write about what the solutions engineering team at Wise do and don’t do, the type of work we take on and the people we work with in our day-to-day role. Hopefully it will help us to find the right people — maybe even you? — but regardless we’re keen to hear from other solutions engineers about how their job differs from ours, despite being called the same thing.
To begin, a little context. At Wise, solutions engineering is a very small team compared to the wider engineering organisation. Wise has over 600 software engineers across different roles but fewer than ten of us are solutions engineers. We work within the Wise Platform squad, which focuses on building, selling, implementing and supporting products for partners to integrate Wise into their systems. These partners might be major banks, tech giants or anyone whose customers need to send, receive or spend money internationally, for example Shinhan Bank, Monzo and Google. Our goal is to spread Wise’s mission via these partners, allowing their customers to discover and access our revolutionary products right where they need them, be that sending an international transfer inside your bank or paying an invoice in a foreign currency from your accounting app.
At Wise, Solutions engineers are the external face of the engineering team during the implementation of a partnership. We work to discover requirements and design technical solutions to help partners launch their integrations. Of course, this involves a fair amount of talking to different people, both at the partner and internally, from product and tech to operations and compliance. Our goal is to make sure everyone understands how the integrations work under the hood and to learn what requirements we need to consider based on the product, regional or technology constraints that might exist.
But our role certainly isn’t all talk. We need to take away what we learn and design solutions to solve any issues that have arisen, employing engineering best practice as we do so. We need to get deep into the Wise codebase, understand the possibilities and propose where and how we can make the required changes. As we do this we always keep one eye on minimising effort and maximising reusability of features for future partners. It is rare that we ourselves will develop the features, as mentioned there aren’t that many of us, so instead we need to get support from the rest of the business to ship what we need.
This is where Wise’s autonomous team structure helps us. Rather than creating tickets on some endless backlog, we instead collaborate with the product engineering teams who own the areas that need to change, showing them the impact of being able to launch the partnership we are working on to rally support. In almost all cases they are happy to devote time to collaborate with us, but of course sometimes we need to work to convince them, or trade a few favours. Fortunately, we don’t do this alone and have the help of the rest of the Wise Platform squad to make our case.
As part of the role we get to work with a huge variety of businesses and with people from many different cultures, disciplines and professional backgrounds, keeping us engaged, always learning and frequently getting chances to travel to collaborate with them.
Over time we also develop a broad understanding of Wise’s product and tech due to us working across many different services and teams. Solutions engineers work especially closely with our incredible implementation management team, who we tag-team with on partner integrations. IMs handle the non-technical parts of an integration like contracts, operational processes and marketing, allowing us to focus on the engineering side of things.
At Wise we consider solutions engineering a post-sales role — working mostly with partners who have already agreed to go ahead and integrate one of our products, and for whom we have a good idea of the solution we plan to deliver.
Before that, we have a different function helping out on the technical side, which we call technical presales. This is one of the major areas where tech companies seem to have blurred lines with job titles, from solutions consultant to sales engineer. The only thing consistent is everyone’s confusion! Wise’s solutions engineers will always work closely with their counterparts in technical presales, especially on prospects with more complex requirements, but the solutions engineers will take forward those requirements and get the project delivered.
Hopefully this blog clarifies the role of solutions engineering at Wise and how we work to support our partner’s and Wise platform’s needs today. This setup is working well for us and we are happy with it, but we are aware this cake can be cut many different ways and over time it will likely evolve as our product matures and our teams grow. We’d also love to hear more about how your technical sales and implementation teams are structured and what their responsibilities are — we’re always up for a coffee and to learn from our peers.
To me, “solutions engineer” describes best what we do because we are literally engineering solutions to unblock our partners, and I’m confident of this role as the most effective way to do that, at the crossroads of tech, product and partnerships. Solutions engineers have a huge impact, whether they are designing new APIs, finding ways around tricky edge cases or helping to define the next generation of Wise Platform products and how we will deliver them to partners, and are a crucial part of the next phase of Wise’s growth and eventual mission success.
We’re expanding our solutions engineering team. If you have a strong engineering background and are just as comfortable in a boardroom as you are an IDE then we would love to talk.