Want to Future-Proof Your Career? — Try Technical Account Management

Siiri Hakulinen

The way to differentiate yourself in the future in the online marketing industry is to combine technical expertise with substantial customer experience. Technical Account Managers rock at both customer work and deep-level technical problem solving. At Smartly.io, we aim to have technical people in at least 50% of our customer-facing roles by hiring new talent as well as teaching our current employees to tackle tricky tech problems.

Our customers appreciate the fact that they only have to talk to one person at Smartly.io to get their problems fixed, as opposed to being ping-ponged between account managers and engineers. Technical account managers boost the quality of the customer experience to a whole new level. They don’t just fix bugs and assist with technical implementations, such as configuring passing tracking data server-to-server, but are strategic partners to the customers in their online marketing.  

Tech-savvy account managers see around corners, and fix customer problems before they appear. They also play a crucial role in maximizing product development speed, as they keep an eye on what manual work could be automated, and which best practices could be productized into features for all customers. 

We see that the best technical account managers come mainly from two different backgrounds: 

  1. Business talents with sideline programming projects and a drive towards product development
  2. Professional developers who are itching to take responsibility for customer cases and to learn sales

For example, our technical account manager Juho previously worked as a financial analyst and tinkered with programming projects in his free time. “I’ve been writing web apps for fun for years. I learn by doing, so whenever I run into a new, interesting technology, I experiment with it by building something, like one Flask + PostGIS + Angular app I made with my colleague Pekka to create a Foursquare for beer enthusiasts,” Juho explains. 

“My development experience has taught me to think in terms of scripts and automation which helps me to do well in my current role at Smartly.io. In my previous work, I’d rather write reporting scripts than do all the work manually, and at school I made statistical simulations with Python to avoid using Excel”, Juho says, and then adds, “I guess you could say I’m a bit lazy with doing stuff by hand.”

 

10 characteristics we’re looking for in an ideal technical account manager 

  • Hunger to become a world-class expert in both customer work and technical problem solving
  • Background (educational, professional, or pastime) in programming and statistical problem solving
  • Accustomed to working through experimenting and testing vs. playing by ready-made rules
  • Self-driven approach to solving tricky technical problems (a.k.a. pro googler)
  • Laziness in manual work—you think in terms of scripts and automate everything you can
  • Enthusiasm to assist and train your teammates to handle customers’ technical issues
  • Drive to constantly develop your own technical and industry knowledge
  • Capability to cooperate efficiently with both our and Facebook’s product development and customer teams
  • Ability to shine under pressure
     

“How hard can it be?” — Experimenting your way around obstacles  

What really makes the ad tech industry interesting is that it develops at full speed, and the rules and best practices change constantly. People like Juho thrive in this challenging environment, because they’re driven to test and experiment new things whenever they hit a wall. As Juho puts it: “there’s no predetermined industry playbook that you can resort to—you’re making the playbook, and that’s pretty exciting.”   

Figuring stuff out as you go requires tireless learning and a highly independent and self-driven approach to solving complex technical problems. “Yes, we have a skilled engineering team working on new features and fixing bugs. However, highly technical account managers can solve most of the technical issues directly at the customer interface, which is faster, more enjoyable for the customer, and allows engineers to focus on the trickiest cases”, Juho explains. 

An extreme example: When Juho opened our SF office back in 2015, he was our first technical account manager in the US, with a 10-hour time difference to our developers back in Europe. “If a US-based customer had a problem with product feeds, I couldn’t make them wait 24 hours for the fix to be made back in Finland”, Juho says. “So, I’d dig through the code, find out the root causes, fix them, or find workarounds to get the customer back on track as quickly as possible.”  


You’re the master of your trade 

“For me, one of the biggest selling points of this job are the freedom and responsibility I have to make decisions and prioritize my own work. All Smartlies are expected to be strong self-leaders and have the best expertise of their own field, which leaves little need for someone micromanaging your tasks”, Juho says, “basically your goal is to maximize the customer’s success in the long run. How you do it depends on you.”

“A big plus is also how challenging the work is. As my tech AM colleague Julius puts it, it’s those what-the-hell situations that teach you the most”, Juho adds. “In this job, you get to learn about hustling sales and nurturing customer relationships, but also about solving technical problems, developing the product, and productizing new features. In addition, you develop killer domain and product expertise, which is invaluable in this quickly changing business.”

 

Would you like to unleash your biz and tech skills to scale business for some of the largest online marketers globally? Become our next Technical Account Manager at www.smartly.io/careers

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