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Breaking new ground: Jonathon McDougall builds on technical expertise with move to sales

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Before Jonathon McDougall came to Signifyd, he pioneered cross-departmental job moves at his previous company. In 13 years with that employer, he worked in tech support, technical documentation, implementation and solutions engineering. 

“I was the first person to stay in the company and change departments,” said McDougall, who is originally from Australia and moved to Denver, Colorado, to take that job. 

At Signifyd, he has continued to use his strengths to chart his own unique career path. He joined Signifyd in early 2019 as one of the company’s first solutions engineers — and two years later, he became an enterprise account executive.

“My skills are being able to learn and communicate technology very quickly,” he said. This was key to solutions engineering: Solutions engineers are the technical liaisons between sales, technical teams such as data science, and customers’ technical contacts. 

“Think of us as the technical arm of the sales organization,” McDougall said. “In that role, there are people on the very technical end who just happen to work in sales, and on the other end are people who really act as a face to customers, who are very sales-oriented with a technical background. Throughout my career, I’ve progressed from the middle of that spectrum more toward the customer-facing side.”

McDougall knew the workings of the enterprise sales team

This progression made him a good candidate when Signifyd needed to fill an enterprise account executive position. McDougall had been working closely with the enterprise team as a solutions engineer, joining account executives on calls with merchants and helping solve the larger organizations’ more complex problems. 

Jonathon McDougall

“I was working in the background on sales strategy: talking with the salespeople about what angle we should take, what problems we should emphasize and try to solve on the merchant side,” he said. 

When Signifyd’s leaders asked him to consider a move to the account executive role, he was intrigued.

“I liked the concept of not changing roles and companies at the same time,” he said. “Being able to change roles in the business that I’m comfortable with felt safer.”

The move wasn’t just a rubber stamp.

“I went through our full interview process, doing case studies presented before a panel,” McDougall said. Because he had in-depth knowledge of Signifyd’s solutions, the team asked him to research and pitch a different product so they could gauge his sales skills. “I did not have quite the leg up that you would think – they were trying to make sure I had all the skills involved, not just inside knowledge.”

On the other hand, being “a known quantity” helped, he said: The team knew that he fit in with the company culture and that he had a strong work ethic. 

A thorough process, followed by a smooth transition

The transition was eased by the fact that he took over as the account executive for some accounts he had already worked on as the solutions engineer. The move was also well managed internally, McDougall said. Although he briefly helped out with his old position while learning the new one, his old boss and new boss agreed to a firm cutoff date after which he would be solely devoted to his new role. 

The move from solutions engineering to enterprise account executive isn’t common, said Alex Goodman, HR business partner, but it makes sense due to the overlap of skills.

“Our solutions engineers work very closely with our account executives on deals to provide integration and technical guidance with prospective customers,” Goodman said. “That deep technical knowledge of the platform is incredibly transferable as a seller, because he is able to bring those technical insights into meetings with prospective customers to demonstrate how Signifyd’s solution can help drive value and solve for their pain points.”

Signifyd’s sales organization has benefitted from McDougall’s technical expertise. Although McDougall’s main territory is California, he also takes on technical accounts like software companies in other locations due to his technical background. 

“They utilize my technical background in a very positive way,” he said.

A good fit for sales

McDougall said his new role has given him a broader view of Signifyd’s business. As a solutions engineer, he became involved in deals after the relationship with the customer had been established, and he moved on to his next customer before the contract was signed. Now, he is part of the entire sales process, from when a customer comes to Signifyd with a problem to when the problem is solved.

“As a solutions engineer, you tend to work on a lot more accounts with less depth,” he said. “As an account executive, I deal with fewer accounts but with more depth, and I like that. In a less technical role, those become less technical conversations. They become more holistic conversations about trends and problems in the industry.”

Another change: Both solutions engineers and account executives receive a combination of base salary and commission, but the commission is a larger percentage for the account executives.

“As a solutions engineer, you get commission, but your control over that is pretty limited,” he said. “When you’re an account executive, the burden’s on your shoulders. You’ve got to hit that quota. The pressure is definitely different.”

Signifyd was an ideal place for McDougall to take on his first sales role, he said, partly because he was already familiar with the company and also because he believes in the product.

Helping merchants and consumers makes for a fulfilling role

“It was much easier for me to start my first sales job with something that I really believe in,” he said. “We do really good work – it’s us and the merchants against fraudsters. And we’re making sure that people who are actually good shoppers get through with no barriers in the way.”

Although McDougall’s specific career path is not common, Signifyd does provide structure for employees looking to broaden their horizons. Internal career ladders help employees understand the specific skills and experience needed for each role, for example. 

“If you find a good company and they have a way for you to progress your career, it’s great,” McDougall said. 

The company benefits when employees move from one department to another, since they bring to their new role with a strong understanding of Signifyd’s culture and product. 

“It’s always a great moment to celebrate because they are taking a step in their career journey that they’re excited about and can bring a wealth of knowledge and interesting perspective from their prior role to their new one,” Goodman said. 

Feature photo by Getty Images

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Margaret Steen

Margaret Steen

Margaret is a writer, editor, writing coach and regular contributor to the Signifyd blog.