I've been explaining to a lot of people why I took a sales engineer role so I thought it would be nice to codify it somewhere so I can refer to it.
I felt something nagging at me at the end of my summer internship as a software engineer. I found that I wasn't super happy on the days where I was heads-down in my IDE for 8 hours a day. Particularly this summer, I had very little agency over what I was building.
I felt like I would be leaving something on the table in any full-time engineering role. It just doesn't excite me enough to be a top 1% engineer. I know a fair amount of people who study computer science in school and discover that software engineering isn't for them—many of them transition into design, product, or venture. But none of those really appealed to me either, and I never really admitted that to myself until recently.
The original plan was to actually spend the next couple of months unemployed—reading, writing, hacking, and generally just figuring out what to do next.
What got me interested in startups in the first place was the idea of having to wear a bunch of hats and not just coding. But even at companies of 40+ employees, engineers often don't have a bunch of agency about what they end up working on (that's generally the scale at which a company brings on a PM or two).
I'm a technical generalist at heart. I like coding as a means to an end but not in and of itself. I'm also pretty good at communicating and explaining concepts to people. I had no idea what a sales engineer was before I found out about this role but I knew it was perfect as soon I heard the description. It allows me to cash-in on my unique skill set by interfacing with customers, work that most engineers probably don't get excited about (but I do).