I’ve been working at Coveo for eight months now, and I still don’t know everybody’s role among the 400 or so employees who are involved in the success of the company. Among the positions that are a complete mystery to me, we find Solution Developer.
I asked my colleagues who I should speak to, they suggested that I contact Eric Lafleur, who works in the Montreal office, and Louis-Guillaume Carrier-Bédard, who is at the Quebec office. Both have been with us for three years.
I wanted to know: a solution developer at Coveo, what is that all about?
I started my search for information with Eric. Working in Quebec, and having still not yet visited our beautiful new Montreal offices, I ask him to reserve a room for our meeting. I learn that “It’s pretty much ‘first come first served’ for now.” Ok, we will figure something out!
- First observation: Our new office in Montreal is awesome!
- Second observation: At Coveo, solution developers are crucial.
To put it simply, a solution developer is a consultant who deals directly with customers for their business solutions through technology. More specifically, at Coveo, he or she works to implement our platform in our clients’ companies to their satisfaction. Some companies call this “Delivery Services”. When the sales team has closed a deal, the technical team takes the reins in order to materialize what has been sold. This is where the professional services team, including the solution developer, comes in.
“This requires not only extensive product knowledge, but also back-end and front-end programming skills, and ease of working directly with customers. Often, people have one or the other. Developers sometimes tend to be less business-oriented,” explains Eric. “On the technical side you can always learn, but on the client-side, it’s more difficult. You either have it or you don’t.”
At this point, I say to myself, “Wow, they have to know how to do everything! “. The rest of my conversation with Eric will confirm this first impression.
Eric explains that when he arrived at Coveo, he was less comfortable with front-end development, ie “what is visible to a user” on the platform. So the role also requires UX basics (user experience). Sometimes customers have their own designers, so the implementation team can work with them. But this is not always the case.
Like all fast-growing companies, new employees joining Coveo tend to specialize. Eric Lafleur and his colleagues in professional services are a bit of an exception. “Our team does projects from A to Z. It’s challenging but you really see the impact of your work. You own your project to the end and you get to see your magic at work,” he explains.
Solution developers are essentially one-man-bands who can play all the instruments. “Every customer is different. Every project is different.”
Their work seems so crucial, that I then wondered how they manage to work with and onboard their interns. “They work first on our internal projects, and are gradually initiated afterwards,” he explains. Trainees go through a structured integration process, including a program called Coveo20: A checklist of tasks to accomplish during their first four weeks, both at the human resources, and technical levels. The trainees attend meetings with clients, first in shadowing, then gradually get involved in the projects, in relation with the customers.
After his studies in Quebec City, Eric wanted to move. He began a consulting career, where he worked for Bombardier in Quebec, Dassault Falcon Jet in Arkansas and Volkswagen in Germany.
When I inquire about his experience at Volkswagen, he explains that yes, they are a prestigious employer, but it is not the job in which he felt the most accomplished. “It was a big team, it did not always work as I would have liked.”
His years in Europe gave him valuable professional experience… but he also had the opportunity to meet his girlfriend. As another Eric said so well: “No one is safe from this merciless evil: the call of the fatherland”. Eric Lafleur felt that he needed to come back here with his family. His wife, of French origin, had always dreamt of moving to Montreal. “Since my studies, I’ve followed what Coveo has done. I saw in the media that the company was expanding and that there was now an office in Montreal,” he explains.
The planets were aligned. He applies to the position of solution developer.
He tells me the content of the technical test for the job. “I had to index the website of the SAQ. I had access to the search API and I had to create the entire system from that, back-end, front-end, facets, everything. Dominic and André later told me that my site was a lot nicer than the real SAQ site!” He jokes.
Upon arrival, there are 15 pioneers working in the Coveo Montreal work space. He witnessed colleagues being added one by one, until the move to Windsor Station. Then the second move, still at Windsor Station, to the 4th and 5th floors of the heritage building. Coveo wants to hire more than 200 people in Montreal in the next two years.
Dedicated to the customer
I contacted Louis-Guillaume Carrier-Bédard right after my summer vacation. Let’s call him LG for the rest of the article!
He told me several anecdotes related to his work as a solution developer. Like the time his boss asked him if he wanted to go to Australiato meet a customer, with just a few days notice . Or this video conference meeting with a client whose deployment team is in Mexico that ended abruptly. “We understood a few minutes later that there had been an earthquake! They finished the meeting in an Internet café,” he says.
Solution developers are constantly on calls. “We have regular conference calls with big customers, who are often in other time zones, or even on another continent. The most recent technologies are implemented wherever our customers are,and I can do all that from Quebec! We get the dynamism of American tech, all from right here in our home town”.
Do you think you have what it takes to bring Coveo Artificial Intelligence technology to customers such as Aecom, Honeywell or VM Ware? Consult our offers and join the #CoveoLife.
“Sometimes we create great relationships with the customer. I even have one who adapted the implementation project for me, because I was coming back from paternity leave,” says LG.
Things move fast!
“To do this job, you have to be able to handle your stress,” says LG. This is because the customer was in contact mainly with the sales team, and the solution developer must now deliver the project. “The client now wants to know where each of their dollars will go. You have to be self-confident when you suggest changes to the original project. “
They deal with a lot of people in many different departments, both at Coveo and in the customers’ organizations. “We act a little like a transmission belt. We must also understand the interests of everyone within organizations.
“We have to supervise the customers so that they learn to use the product in an optimal way, that is part of our role and it is very important to make sure that the customer is satisfied with their investment,” explains Louis-Guillaume.
I ask him if he has experienced implementation failures. He takes the time to think carefully, but does not find one. On the other hand, there are some customers with whom it has been more complicated. Contradictory orders, or the internal complexity that affects the implementation project. “Sometimes our job is to put our foot on the ground and you always have to consider the human factor. When we start an implementation, we never know who we are going to end up working with! You have to adapt.”
I ended my discussion with Eric and LG and said, “Their role is really critical in the business. We can work with an extraordinary product and salespeople who are extremely convincing, but we must be able to deliver the goods in extremely different contexts to really be successful. Thanks to this team, Coveo has achieved more than 1,200 deployments!