January 22, 2020
In this interview, you will meet Matt Kalan, Master Solutions & Enterprise Architect, who has worked at MongoDB for over 7 years! Matt speaks about what makes the role of a Solution Architect (SA) at MongoDB unique, and how he and the company have both grown over the years.
Jess Katz: In your experience as an SA at MongoDB compared to other companies, what makes the role at MongoDB unique?
Matt Kalan: Two things make the SA role at MongoDB unique. Often, technical pre-sales roles at other companies can be fairly repetitive because the product being sold is an application with pre-made screens and functionality to demonstrate to potential customers. Because MongoDB is a development and data platform, not a pre-defined app, an SA has to broadly understand the goals of the customer and help architect a solution on top of MongoDB that includes other related technologies. It helps keep the job fresh. One day we can help a customer build the next popular video game when the next we may help a customer build an application that enables doctors to better care for patients and a million other scenarios.
The other part that makes the SA role unique at MongoDB is that there is a consistent focus on qualifying the time of SA and sales teams. This requires SAs and Sales teams to clearly understand the customer’s situation before demonstrating MongoDB’s capabilities. This avoids an SA or salesperson from doing the same presentation and demo over and over again, as each presentation is customized to provide the most value. Moreover, it is best practice at MongoDB is try to use any presentation or demo as an opportunity to learn more and make it interactive, instead of simply a one-way communication to the customer.
JK: In your 7+ years at MongoDB, how have you made an impact in your role?
MK: The SA role at MongoDB is really a connector of many other positions at the company (Engineering, Product, Sales, Marketing, Technical Services, Consulting, Customer Success, among others).
A few years ago, I found many customers were asking how we fit into their enterprise information management (EIM) plans, especially into their efforts to create a data lake. At the time, we did not have much marketing content focused on it. I had the autonomy to create webinars and blog posts with marketing so that the Sales and SA teams could use that as content to share with customers. Even now that we have a product and content related to Atlas Data Lake, I still fill gaps in enablement among field teams by running enablement sessions for the Central US teams, recording them, and providing them to the global technical community via relevant Slack channels.
Additionally, whenever I have been given feedback or feature requests from customers, I have been able to share that with the product marketing and product teams so they could prioritize features appropriately for those use cases.
JK: As a leader on the team, can you speak to me a bit about what the leadership opportunities are like for SAs at MongoDB?
MK: MongoDB really encourages people to build a career path at the company, either as an individual contributor or as a people manager. The company recognizes that it is important to foster leadership opportunities no matter what role an employee is in.
As an individual contributor in the Master SA role, I am considered a technology leader among the SA team and the company in various formal and informal ways. The global SA organization includes the Master SAs as part of the SA Leadership team. We are involved in quarterly leadership meetings and have ownership over tasks in order to advance initiatives affecting the SA team as a whole. For example, I had the opportunity to lead an initiative that better enabled the global SA team to understand our Stitch Serverless product. This, in turn, maximized our effectiveness with customers.
More informally, I run a biweekly virtual roundtable among the Central SA team in the United States on various topics crowdsourced from the team, so we can all share what we are seeing in the field. With a fast moving market and product, there are always gaps to be filled and opportunities for any of the SA teams to help fill them and support the company’s growth goals.
JK: What is the relationship between the Sales team and the SA team like?
MK: I am part of two teams: one with the sales people that I regularly work with on accounts, and the other being the Central United States SA team. While typically Sales and SAs usually have very different personalities and there is a different dynamic with the customer, at MongoDB, we are very much partners in the accounts we work and there is mutual respect.
Also, there is a healthy balancing dynamic between sales and SAs at the company. As an SA, I act as an advisor to the sales rep who overall owns the account and opportunities.
JK: What is the team culture like at MongoDB?
MK: In working with my peers on the SA team, there is a good sense of camaraderie and everyone works to help each other out. In a high growth company, it is important that we hire and then ramp people up quickly. This brings a lot of personal growth opportunities to mentor others, or be the regional expert in a certain technology. My team is widely distributed across the Central United States so we do a fair amount of video conferencing. We do get together regularly though at quarterly business reviews and yearly sales kickoffs, and it is a fun time to catch up in person. It is just a nice bunch of people who enjoy helping each other and having lively discussions.
JK: What made you originally join MongoDB, and how have you grown both personally and professionally in your role over the years?
MK: I joined MongoDB 7 years ago because it was in a hot area of technology, Big Data, and I understood the value proposition immediately as a software developer. It seemed like there was great potential for personal and professional growth. Even though we have been successful thus far, and have grown rapidly, there is much more to come.
Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us!