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How a company with punk roots is competing with SaaS giants

Sales Engineer Matt Dunphy explains WebLinc's punk ethos and an exciting three years on the horizon.

DataDive in NYC, October 2011. From the DataKind Facebook page.

WebLinc is a Technically Talent client and reviewed this article before publication.

It’s safe to say that for WebLinc’s Matt Dunphy the only thing that stays the same is change.

And that’s the way he likes it.

It’s not just that “a typical day is atypical” thing. His Sales Engineer (SE) role is a hybrid position requiring skills in programming, sales and marketing. It’s also that Dunphy treats every day as a chance to create something new or meet someone unexpected.

“You’ve got so little time,” Dunphy said. “Use it. Do stuff. Make things.”

Dunphy traces his “seize the day” mentality back to his formative years as a punk rock musician.

“Punk is diverse, open to trying new things, getting outside of your shell,” said Dunphy. “When I start feeling like I’m comfortable, I know I’m not doing my best to grow as a person. It’s exhausting, but it keeps things interesting!”

That punk ethos has also served him well professionally. Perpetually living outside his comfort zone has allowed him to continue learning, shifting and reimagining what’s possible for his career. For instance, Dunphy began his trajectory at WebLinc as a developer 12 years ago. Since then, he’s propelled himself to take on a bevy of different roles within the company.

View open positions at WebLinc

WebLinc, as well, has gone through a transformation over the last year. Originally established in 1994 as a website services provider, WebLinc has strategically evolved into a thriving software company. Today its core product is Workarea, a proprietary software platform for ecommerce retailers to customize and manage their websites.

As its business model shifted, so too did demand for new roles within the WebLinc operation, including Dunphy’s role as SE, which he sat down to chat with us about.


TT: Tell us about the trajectory of your career at WebLinc, and what you do today as a Sales Engineer.

MD: I had worked in just about every facet as a developer. I transitioned from .NET to ColdFusion to SQL Server and going full stack, then developing in Ruby on Rails. There’s typically a project manager who acts as a liaison between the client and the developer, but I was a little more patient with clients and often worked directly with them.

Now [as an SE] I work in Sales and Marketing, which if you’d asked me two years ago if I’d ever work in Sales I’d have said, “Are you kidding me? That’s the worst!”

I demonstrate the WorkArea software. I talk to prospective clients, and keep in touch with those who’ve purchased the software to see how things are going. I act as a translator, taking my tech knowledge and explaining things in a way that people’s eyes don’t cross.

I am not the salesperson. I am the nerd who keeps the sales person honest.

TT: What are some of the challenges in your role as Sales Engineer?

MD: Being an SE keeps me really busy. I might deal with seven different, very involved prospects at any point in time, with different sets of needs.

There are days when I’ll have two to three 60–90-minute demos. Three is a marathon. It’s a lot of talking. When I know I’ve got three demos in a day, I’ve got Throat Coat tea with lemon to keep the throat in good shape.

I compare it to when you play in bands. You’re playing the same songs every show, but you’ve gotta put the same energy in it. It’s a performance. The person you’re talking to doesn’t know you’ve said the same thing to 10 other people that week. You have to put the energy in every time, and that’s exciting.

Matt Dunphy. (Photo by Abby Mosconi)

Matt Dunphy in the stairway of one of WebLinc’s buildings. (Photo by Abby Mosconi)

TT: So if there’s no such thing as a typical day in your role, give us an example of what any given day in your life might look like.

MD: My alarm goes off at 8:15, I’m out the door by 8:25 [he assured us he showered at night], and I walk to work.

On any given day, I might…

…have a revenue team stand-up with Sales and Marketing, and we talk about what we did yesterday, what we’ll do today, what we’re doing tomorrow.

…meet with another SE I work with, Brian Wexler, who’s working on an RFP. He comes from more of a sales background, so I’ll help him out with complicated tech questions.

…I’ll give remote demos. We’ll fire up an UberConference with a prospect and I’ll demo the Workarea platform, talking through why our solution is better at meeting the prospective client’s needs than Shopify or Magento or Salesforce.

…I might work on internal documentation, or a competitive landscape, or have a meeting with the product team to tell them what I’ve encountered out in the field that helps drive the roadmap of the product.

That’s all if I’m not traveling. My schedule is very erratic. I’ve had Mondays where I’ve come in and had a message saying, “You’re going to Toronto tomorrow.”

There are many different modes that I’m in.

TT: Tell us about the culture at WebLinc.

MD: There’s an ease of being able to move around within the company. There’s always room to learn and improve, and we are encouraged to do it. If you see something that you feel like you can do better, or different, just do it. You have the opportunity to try new things.

There’s also room for mistakes.

I work with smart people. Most people here would say that everyone they work with is smarter than them. We all help each other out.

TT: What do you look for in job candidates who are interested in working at WebLinc?

MD: I want people who are interested in challenging themselves, and who want to work with other people. We don’t want somebody who is isolated. It’s a team-oriented company, and a very collaborative company.

I also look for someone who has side projects. When you’re so excited about the stuff you work that you do it in your spare time, that’s a perfect illustration of being the kind of person I’d want to work with.

TT: You mentioned there’s a “core punk ethic” to WebLinc. Tell us about that.

MD: There’s this staircase [in one of our buildings] that’s plastered with flyers and stickers. When I think of WebLinc, I think of that staircase as a personalized illustration of our soul. Even National Mechanics, the restaurant on the first floor, used to be a punk venue in the ‘90s.

Floor to floor, it looks like you’re in different buildings. Teams move around every year or two, and when you move to a new floor, sometimes you come in over the weekend and paint a mural, or just bring in tchotchkes and posters. Aesthetically, it sets the tone. It’s an environment that reflects being simultaneously collaborative and autonomous. Speaking your mind. Welcoming differences.

There’s that punk undercurrent of doing-it-yourself, making something better — it’s woven into the soul of the company.

Matt Dunphy's home synth setup. (Courtesy photo)

Matt Dunphy’s home synth setup. (Courtesy photo)

TT: What gets you excited when you think about the future of WebLinc?

MD: I see incredible momentum in terms of who is going to be using our software, the companies that we’re going to work with.

Going to trade shows (which is a new thing for me) and seeing global, behemoth brands in the industry coming to us, and saying “We need to work with your software” — I think it’s going to be a very interesting next three years.

I feel proud to be in our niche of ecommerce software. We’re the innovators. I feel like I’m ahead of the curve, and I see things going really well. As we’ve shifted in direction as a company, and as more of these big clients come through, things will move faster and more chaotically. And that’s exciting.

Companies: WebLinc

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