Tackling technology terms: what is an applications engineer anyway?

Added: Over a year ago by Dorset Software Services

Confused about what technology jobs are out there? Heard about programming roles but not much else? There are a wealth of graduate technology vacancies in the job market and a high demand for people who can fill them. The first thing you need to do is figure out which one’s right for you. Last time we focused on the elusive network and infrastructure role. This time it’s the turn of the applications engineer.

What they do

At the heart of it all, applications engineers are responsible for making programs work in a way that’s useful to the people using them. That means a lot of working with COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) products, which are bought as packaged solutions and then customised to particular business needs. Software such as Umbraco, SharePoint, and customer relationship management tools are prime examples of this and offer a whole load of different functionality. Applications engineers look into that functionality and configure the appropriate features according to how people use it.

Ultimately, this means considering what people and organisations actually want from the software and coming up with ways to configure it to make sure it keeps meeting their needs. It also means having a good grounding in different technical roles, such a networking, to help identify the source of any issues. Applications engineers really are in the unique position of possessing both high-level technical expertise and an appreciation of commercial business – a killer combination.

So what would you be doing in the role? Well, you’d be involved in the full lifecycle of a product including deployment and commissioning. That involves:

  • Setting up new software packages for clients.
  • Customising the software to suit clients’ needs.
  • Delivering user training.
  • Carrying out ongoing maintenance and upgrades.
  • Providing internal and external technical support.
  • Interpreting feedback from end users and addressing issues as necessary.
  • Helping the customer get the most out of the product for their organisation.

Alongside all of those things, you’d need to ensure service disruptions are kept to a minimum. But don’t worry, you won’t be doing all of this on your own! This would be done working as part of a wider team, all working together to provide a reliable, useful service for the users.

Once you’ve really honed your skills, you might get involved in higher level services like technical risk management or strategic planning and advice on corporate policies.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. For graduate roles, you won’t be expected to know a huge amount about any of this. And some companies provide substantial training to get you up to scratch. So if you’re interested in delving into the technical side of things, while keeping in mind the business value of what you’re maintaining, this could be the career for you.

Who they are

As application engineers rise through the ranks, they develop a wide range of knowledge about the core applications and technologies used by particular businesses. A lot of this comes from sheer curiosity. If you’re the kind of person who’s always exploring what more can be done with the software you use, even if you don’t have any specific experience, you can go a long way. Here are some other qualities you’ll need to possess.

A calm, methodical approach to problem solving. This can’t be stressed enough. Sometimes you’ll come up against exceptionally tricky problems that need to be solved quickly. Keeping a cool head and working through things one at a time will help you to get to the resolution, not to mention making future issues easier to solve too.

Another related trait is an analytical mind-set. This means you’ll be able to take stock of what needs to be done, and assess the best way to go about it. That kind of approach leads to a more structured process, which means you can be more effective.

Last but not least, you’ll need strong communication skills and a commitment to excellent customer service. Your ultimate goal is providing a reliable and positive experience for whoever is using the applications. As a result, you need to be able to communicate clearly with colleagues, clients, and users, as well as having a desire to truly improve the software you’re working on.

Examples of typical projects:

To give you a bit more context about the work involved, here are some typical projects that an applications engineer plays a vital part in:

  • Automating data management in a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
  • Writing scripts to extract business data from a large database.
  • Running training sessions for customers to show them different features of the software.
  • Optimising performance in Skype for Business.

Of course, the kind of projects you’ll experience depend on the company you join. There are thousands of different technologies and industries out there. It also depends on the function of your department. Some service their own organisation, while others work on a broader selection of applications for a range of clients.

Wherever your interests lie, keep reading up on what’s available and ask questions! Whenever you can and to anyone who’ll help. This is an unbelievably helpful, yet often overlooked, tool at your disposal. Not only will you gain a better understanding of your options, but you’ll also send out a great impression to potential employers as someone who’s being proactive about their future.