Recently, I worked with our global talent acquisition team to lead a Splunk4Splunk Hackathon. We recorded parts of this successful event to share externally, showcasing how Splunk’s observability contributes to an organization’s success, along with diving deeper into the role of a Sales Engineer at Splunk and sharing our thoughts on why now is a great time to grow your career at Splunk.
In this blog, we are sharing the wisdom of Tony Read, Splunk’s Sales Engineer in our Public Sector. You can watch the recording here and read below as Tony answers the question featured on so many of our t-shirts: “Can you SPL?”.
What did you do prior to joining Splunk and how did you end up at Splunk?
I’ve been working in the industry for over thirty years now, as a sales/systems engineer / technical salesperson. Before coming to Splunk, I was at Microsoft, Oracle and SAP.
I was working at Microsoft when they were just releasing Windows and Office. I was literally talking to people about what this amazing new thing called a Spreadsheet can do, along with showing customers what a Word Processor was.
Throughout my professional life, I have worked hands-on with clients, dove deep into development and for many years worked as a technical trainer. I realized there were people who were a lot better than me at writing code, and people who were not as comfortable as I am with standing up in front of people to talk, so I pivoted out of the development world but I’ve always had that aptitude.
What my career journey should tell you is that being an SE is the best job in the technology industry. With all the roles I’ve worked in and companies I’ve worked for, I’ve enjoyed different aspects of this industry, but after thirty years I’ve found Sales Engineering to be the best of all these worlds.
What do you enjoy about working as a Sales Engineer at Splunk?
Every day is different and you get to challenge yourself by understanding ever-changing technologies. There’s also a real sense of excitement to go out and share with others the depth of benefits Splunk provides.
Since you’re not a salesperson, you’re not up all night worrying about sales forecasts, targets or hitting quota. Sales Engineers are very much involved in these processes, but our focus is on the technology options and providing our customers with a deep understanding of what Splunk technology can do. Much like a salesperson, every day is different as we talk to different customers to understand their needs.
SE’s listen to what the customers' needs are, and then align them with Splunk’s unlimited capabilities. We create a visualization of their data and get them excited with all the possibilities Splunk can unlock for them. What’s really special is building a rapport with potential, and after these clients become Splunk customers, we get to maintain a relationship to ensure they are really capitalizing on the vast breadth of Splunk’s capabilities.
The focus of a Sales Engineer is getting the customers to share with us their goals, so we can consistently work with them to make these a reality.
How have your unique experiences and insights made you successful in your career, and at Splunk?
I received a piece of advice early on in my career which I have repeated on several occasions: “When you’re starting your career, treat everybody you meet as if it were an interview.”
This doesn’t mean to be tense and nervous with those around you, but rather if someone takes the time to meet with you, whether it’s for coffee, a Zoom chat or a friendly phone conversation, see it as an opportunity to sparkle and shine. See every interaction as an opportunity to showcase your best self, and establish your brand.
Throughout your career work every day to maintain your enthusiasm, brightness and purpose.
Which Splunk Value (Innovative, Fun, Disruptive, Open, Passionate) resonates most with you?
I was recently speaking to someone about how Splunk could help with time travel. You can imagine how this would be a very advanced use case! We hypothesized how to track data from one time period and play in forward in another to reproduce what occurred then, now.
Needless to say, Splunk prides itself on being quirky, fun, different and light-hearted.
I remember twenty-five years ago working at Microsoft and having parties every week. Later on, one of my former colleagues and I were reminiscing, and we realized things weren’t as much fun as they used to be. We asked ourselves: “Did things change, or did we get bored?”
Then I came to Splunk and realized the problem was I previously was working at the wrong place. Working at Splunk, I feel driven again. I am having more fun now with this tech and I feel more engaged and excited about the capabilities than I have felt ever throughout my career.
What do you enjoy about working at Splunk?
Splunk has unbelievable capabilities and I’m not sure the vast majority of our customers are truly aware of just how brilliant the integration of our all capabilities can be.
Splunk was named after the North American pastime of spelunking, in which people descend into the dark, wearing helmets with lights to explore never before seen caves. Often as they explore one cavern, they see another opening to explore, which leads to another, and quite often the explorer may be the first person to have seen this new world. This is a perfect analogy for what Splunk does.
The dashboards Splunk creates is the proverbial light on our helmets, as we help our customers explore their data chaos in a sensible and methodical way. Think of Splunk as using data to explore what was previously uncharted.
As an SE working at Splunk, we get to be the person to bring the “wow” moment to our customers. I’ve seen this countless times. I will go to the customer, show the first few people what Splunk can do for them, and they invite others to come to see these dashboards created specifically to meet their needs. Before I know it, the one or two people I have met are excitedly sharing across all levels of their company how Splunk can unlock their data in ways they’ve never noticed before.
I use the example of a spreadsheet. Splunk has commands to learn which take real-time data to convert to a usable way. There is no cutting or pasting needed for a spreadsheet, and the information is always current and accurate. It takes a little getting used to, but when learned, you can easily maintain the ethos and realize it’s not that difficult.
Splunk is a bit like a spreadsheet on steroids. We have all the capabilities of Excel. I've found it’s the people who have always used spreadsheets who have the best insights into their companies. Splunk empowers users with the benefits of data in real-time, rather than being a spreadsheet dump of static data with a definitive beginning and endpoint. Splunk provides a constant pipeline of real-time data flowing in from all areas of your business.
Splunk is infinitely capable of showing data in any way you wish to see it. If you’re a spreadsheet person, think of all the things you can do with data once you have it into a spreadsheet, how you can tumble it and sort it, flip it and aggregate it, collapse it, and perform miraculous calculations upon it. I’ve challenged various audiences with this over the years, as this gives you a glimpse into what Splunk can do.
During the Hackathon, you shared with us an example of how companies can use Splunk.
One of the elements I showed during the Hackathon was Cyclical Statistical Forecasting.
I like to use the example of your car. If your car is using fuel at the same rate it normally does, that’s good. If it isn’t we see the alerts light up our dashboard, and as drivers, we tend to be quite tuned in to when things sound, smell or feel different.
Another example is your bank account. We understand the mentality of “normally at this time, this happens” If we know a bill is coming, we can forecast a dip in our account, however, if for some reason all the money is drained out of our accounts, you want to be notified asap.
At Splunk, we use Cyclical Statistical Forecasting to look at historical data as a benchmark for consistency. Things come alive at Splunk when you can analyze data in more depth.
Let’s look at traffic on a website for example. We can filter to find out how many people there are at five-minute intervals. We can immediately see peak and slower times for consistency over a seven-year period. I’ve used this pattern in all sorts of use cases. One of the highlights was a fellow who was a fifteen-year employee working in Telco telling me this is the best thing he’s seen. For this customer, we were looking at Telco broadband traffic and using it as a way to check the weekly cadence of what that traffic should look like. Pre-pandemic, if you look at the network houses around your local community, the broadband traffic aggregate would be fairly consistent. Quiet during the weekdays because we were all out at work and gets busier over the weekends, and on a Friday evening in particular you will see a pattern play out.
When you start to notice patterns, you will see consistencies visually, along with any inconsistency spikes up or down. As IT or security monitors events, Splunk notifies and can rectify these issues in real-time.
Splunk is infinitely capable, and the most amazing tool I’ve encountered across all my thirty years of experience.
Why is now a good time to grow your career at Splunk?
There’s more and more of what we call machine data as we digitize everything. Every mouse click, every app on your phone, every digital interaction leaves machine data in your wake. For companies, there is an awesome amount of intel into this data.
At Splunk, we call the person who can come to grips with this information a Data Hero. We use Splunk to show companies when people have stopped buying a product or when they’re buying ten times more of a product than normal.
You don’t need to be so technical to be a Sales Engineer. For me, this has been a revelation in my career as fluency in these languages have enabled me to go into any environment and show what we can do with Splunk. Anyone can write simple queries in Splunk along with more sophisticated ones.
I think back on my career, and there have always been business analysts who do the work others go to when they want to better understand the business. These are visionaries who use this intel to steer the business and that’s what Splunk does. We help people get to grips with what’s going on in their world, be it IT, Security or even just a business analyst perspective.
Every company is more and more concerned about this as digitization becomes more prevalent. We are more relevant now and becoming more relevant every day. This is why now is a great time to grow your career at Splunk.
If you would like to learn more about life at Splunk, or about our open career opportunities, please visit the Splunk Careers page.