Should you be worried about losing grasp of technologies if you go the Sales Engineer route? Or should you be worried about becoming stagnant and not needed in a few years as a Software Engineer?
What if the Sales Engineer opportunity was hands on along with the pre-sales and post-sales roles, the presentations, prototypes, proof of concepts, seminars, and so on would it not matter?
In my opinion, if you keep some sort of grasp with the lastest technologies and keep your IT skills up to date as much as you can, the Sales Engineer role might be a better career path if you like that kind of role. It's a lot different than being just a Software Engineer though.
As a software engineer, unless you move to the top of some company, you rarely deal with many of the same people salesmen ever deal with. And many times that is a good thing. You become and expert in your area.
Sales Engineers have to do a lot of talking and smoozing. They have to deal with varoius management issues and sales people. As well as talking to other technologists. Lots of travel. Many presentations and prototypes need to be delivered. A lot of pressure to have something delivered by your team and/or company, especially if the salesperson sold something that might not be able to be done and if something fails, the executives and other high level managers or both companies look at you. And that might come back as a bad thing if your career depends more on your assumed reputation than on your skills.
The Sales Engineer role deals with a lot of customer and management interaction whereas most Software Engineers rarely deal with high level executives and/or managers. I think in the long run if you bring both technology and sales/customer/management facing skills to the table, you'd be more valuable than if you were just in Sales or just an Engineer.
But I guess it depends on the role. If it's a real hands on Sales Engineer role compared to just a Sales role you'd gain more experience and knowledge. But then again, it really depends on what you want and like.
Some people hate dealing with customers and/or people. They'd rather sit in a cubicle and figure out complex problems. Other people like technology but hate cubicles and like dealing with customers.
It probably depends more on you as a person than the role. But to me, in the long run, if you keep your IT skills up to date and become an asset to a company for recognizing, understanding and delivering complex soltuions to executives, customers, IT people and so on, you'd probably gain a lot more respect, bonuses, money, and a better future than if you simply were sitting at a cubicle and nobody really knew who you were.
I've always been more of the "leave me alone" type of person. I get my job done, I figure out complex problems or simple problems, I do attend meetings and other various requirments, but for me, dealing with customers, high level managers, and the like everyday would get way too exhausting. It would seem you are more concentrated on what might be able to be done to please the client rather than actually building and getting it done.
Different roles or sure as the above poster said. While i'm not a huge fan of the cubicle, i am a huge fan of getting things done with as little interaction with non-it people as possible.
But if you like giving presentations and socializing with everybody and their mother, the role probably is for you. And if as you say, you still get to keep your IT skills up to date, even better.