"The only constant in life is change." This saying doesn't just cover the professional career of Cedric Blöchlinger; it's also a great way of describing his current role. As a Sales Engineer at Zscaler, he paves the way for companies to securely join the cloud, gradually transforming conventional IT infrastructures into modern, cloud-based working and production environments. This often involves radical changes to the existing security and network architectures.
Cedric’s own personal transformation has evolved from a biotechnology degree to a Master's in Technology & Economics Management with a couple of interim steps to IT security. After his initial career experiences in management consultancy, while taking a break to travel, he decided to focus on security and gained hands-on experience in a pen testing lab as a first step.
That paved the way to his current role as a security professional. However, his next career stops were first as a Technical Account Manager to an SD WAN provider, where he looked after existing customers and supervised rollouts so that the connectivity of the data streams remained the focus. In addition, he was certified as a CISSP before he switched to sales.
"Today, I'm very happy that I didn't take a more direct route, as my wealth of experience in different areas gives me credibility with customers. I can draw on a broader understanding of network and security issues that come into play during the secure transformation of IT infrastructures. To support companies on their transformation to the cloud, you need to know exactly where the levers have to be applied in the entire infrastructure," he said, summarising a career which has finally led to him working as a sales engineer for cloud security specialists.
The need for this type of comprehensive cloud consultancy is not solely a result of the pandemic. In fact, over the last two years, the introduction of Microsoft 365–with its associated collaboration tools–has been on the agenda of a lot of companies. The switch to hybrid workplace models or digitised production environments also involves a lot of awareness raising. It's not only applications that have left the secure company perimeter, but also employees, making connectivity and secure connections a high priority. And even for connecting conventional production lines to digital control or remote maintenance systems, modern security from the cloud is now required. These radical changes are closely connected to each other and should be part of holistic transformation concepts.
Opening eyes to new approaches
Today, Cedric does not see his current job as “sales,” but rather an opportunity to demonstrate solutions that can help companies move away from traditional infrastructures to benefit from the full potential of the cloud. “The exciting part is getting to know the company better and understanding what their current issues really are. They know their infrastructure best and therefore know where it might need to change,” he said.
Therefore, discussion with the customer as an equal is critical for him. He sees himself as a technical consultant who brings the customer new ideas by presenting modern solutions. By demonstrating the technical options that go hand in hand with a highly integrated security service from the cloud, his customer contact partners often experience the eureka effect. It's best if they discover the benefits of leaving behind traditional processes by introducing new solutions for themselves. The skill here is to show how innovations can find their way into a company: "I get a real sense of achievement when the customer themselves notices that they no longer need a traditional infrastructure that's so complex to manage when they use a cloud-based security service," continues Cedric. "Then I know that I've explained something well, without directly telling the customer which hardware they can get rid of in the future."
Every meeting with a prospect is different. Experience with small- and medium-sized business does not necessarily translate to key accounts. The bigger a company, the more decision makers need to be convinced of the need for a transformation strategy for a fundamentally new solution. The bigger the company, the greater the number of interactions with the customer. This makes it important for SEs that they are accepted as consultants, and that a good relationship is established with the customer.
"I find it helps to demonstrate how a zero trust platform can support the company goals. Because ultimately, the technology supports the business strategy and ensures that important projects can be implemented," Cedric said. “The customer can determine their own speed and decide which steps are suitable when for their chosen transformation strategy.”
Meetings with larger companies are complex and often go beyond the technical department. Highly diverse executive departments are involved in the decision-making process and must be met with their requirements, not to mention their concerns. Particularly when it comes to compliance and data protection, best practice examples can help get the works council on board before the creation of a cloud-based security solution that includes the performance of integrated SSL/TLS scanning. It's a question of convincing employees about the load capacity of an approach and demonstrating tried-and-tested solutions. In the end, it is critical that the entire solution process for a holistic infrastructure change is communicated all the way up to management level.
After more than a year as a sales engineer, Cedric believes that he began his journey through the consultancy landscape after moving to Zscaler. Today, he can combine his expertise from different disciplines and contribute to the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange with technical sales.