- General Tips
- Make the Best Impression
- Research the company
- Highlight your ability to lead
- Giving the Best Answer
- What Not to Say
- Research the company
- Prepare for curveballs
- Dress well
- You Should Be Ready to Tell Stories
- Make Sure You Highlight the Right Skills
- Confidence Is Good, But Don’t Over-Rehearse
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Are Likely to Come Up
- Answering how-did-you-handle-a-challenge questions
- How do you delegate responsibility for an assignment? Who do you choose? What and how do you delegate, and what do you monitor and follow up?
- What do you do to support employees?
- Why do you want to be a manager?
- An example of how you helped coach or mentor someone. What improvements did you see in the person’s knowledge or skills?
- An example of a time when you were able to demonstrate excellent listening skills. What was the situation and outcome?
- In your experience, what is the key to developing a good team?
- How do you deal with ambiguity?
- What have you found to be the best way to monitor the performance of your work and/or the work of others? Share a time when you had to take corrective action.
- Is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion important? What does it bring about to the workplace?
- How do you approach career growth conversations? / How have you carried out career development for your employees
- How do you ensure that tasks get delivered successfully?
- How do you assess priorities? How do you then assign them?
- What would you describe as an effective staff meeting? Ineffective?
- What’s your team size?
- How do you work with a product manager in your role?
- How do you work with a program manager in your role?
- Explain a time where you did not perform your best/ you had a growth opportunity
- Name a time you disagreed and committed
- What is your management style
- How do you have a central combined data/ feature store across multiple teams
- A time where someone on the team was not performing (low performer)
- What is the best way to negotiate with a difficult person, or multiple people?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What are your greatest weaknesses? / What is your biggest management weakness? / Looking back, what would you have done differently? / Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. What did you learn from that instance?
- How do you deal with uncertainty/ambuiguity?
- What made you apply for this position?
- Why Amazon?
- What do you like the most about your current role?
- What do you not like about your current role?
- What makes you a good fit for this position? / What makes you the strongest candidate for the position? / Why should we hire you? / What do you bring to the table?
- What do you expect from your current role?
- What do you expect from a manager?
- What was it like working for your manager?
- Describe how you managed a problem employee? / How do you go about coaching an employee who is not performing where they need to be?
- Tell Me About a Decision That Was Difficult to Make. Did You Consult With Anyone? / Tell me about a time you had to let go of a team member.
- How do you measure success?
- Describe a time when you went above and beyond.
- Walk Me Through a Project You Led and What Made It Successful.
- If you knew your manager was 100% wrong about something, how would you handle it? / How would you go about disagreeing with your supervisor about a decision that you know is not the right one?
- How do you handle stress and pressure?
- What can you contribute to this company?
- What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make?
- What was most and least rewarding about your last position?
- An example of a challenge you handled in the software world?
- How do you motivate yourself?
- What is the most challenging thing about being a manager?
- How do you manage your workload?
- Why did you apply for this position?
- What do you think your employees would say about your management style?
- What are qualities of a successful manager?
- What do you think are important aspects of a team?
- What will you contribute to this company?
- How would you go about delivering bad news or a decision that will not be popular?
- How do you establish rapport with a new employee?
- When you enter a new workplace with new employees, how would you go about gaining rapport with them?
- How do you manage the performance of your employees?
- A high-performing employee has recently been under-performing. How would you deal with the situation?
- How do you solve problems?
- How do you handle failure? / When did you take a risk, make a mistake, or fail? How did you respond, and how did you grow from that experience?
- What did you do when you needed to motivate a group of individuals or promote collaboration on a particular project?
- How have you leveraged data to develop a strategy?
- How would you go about disciplining an employee who is continually under-performing?
- How do you handle different personalities of your employees?
- Have you ever challenged the status quo?
- How would you handle a decision that you made that did not have the effect that you were expecting to achieve?
- How do you evaluate what success is?
- What are your goals for the future if you are hired in this company?
- How will you hone your managerial skillset? / How do you keep updated on your management skills? / How will do you ensure your skills are being improved as you go?
- How do you show confidence in your employee’s ability when you assign them a task?
- An employee reports a problem to you, how do you go about solving it?
- You are at a point with an employee that it is best to have them leave the organization. How would you go about the conversation?
- An employee wants a promotion, however, he or she is not qualified for the new position. How would you have the conversation with the employee?
- How would you engage with your reports to understand their work status and provide feedback
- How would you motivate your team?
- How do you motivate an employee who is reluctant to take on an additional task?
- When given a new team, how do you evaluate their current capabilities?
- What was the hardest decision you ever had to make as a leader?
- Name a leader who inspires you.
- Are you a risk taker?
- What steps do you take to make sure that a project is completed timely, on budget, and to company standard?
- When was the last time someone in your team approached you with a unique idea? What did you do?
- Tell me about a time when you had to complete a task you’d never done before.
- Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership on the job.
- What do you like about managing others?
- Which qualities are most important for a leader to have?
- What do you believe creates a positive team culture?
- Tell me about a time where you led by example.
- How would you describe your management/leadership style?
- How do you define success?
- How do you manage stress among your team members?
- How do you handle conflict between team members?
- Tell me about a time two employees had conflicts and you were unable to successfully handle them.
- Tell me about a time you let an employee go.
- Give an example of a tough decision you had to make.
- How do you delegate tasks to your team?
- How do you reason about engineering excellence-type work with less-technical partners? / How do you work with less- or non-technical colleagues such as designers or project managers?
- What was the biggest challenges you faced during your current job and how did you handle it?
- Describe the current product you are working on and what is your role? Why was the project important to the company? What technology did you choose? Why?
- Tell me about a time when you had to convince senior executives.
- Most decisions are made with analysis, but some are judgment calls not susceptible to analysis due to time or information constraints. Please write about a judgment call you’ve made recently that couldn’t be analyzed. It can be a big or small one, but should focus on a business issue. What was the situation, the alternatives you considered and evaluated, and your decision making process? Be sure to explain why you chose the alternative you did relative to others considered.
- Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with one of your XF partners and had to meet in the middle?
- Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with one of your XF partners and had to compromise?
- What is the most inventive or innovative thing you’ve done? It doesn’t have to be something that’s patented. It could be a process change, product idea, a new metric or customer facing interface – something that was your idea. It cannot be anything your current or previous employer would deem confidential information. Please provide us with context to understand the invention/innovation. What problem were you seeking to solve? Why was it important? What was the result? Why or how did it make a difference and change things?
- What would you view as your personal strengths?
- Lessons learned as a manager?
- What do you look for when you hire an engineer?
- What’s your ideal team?
- How do you support Senior Engineers? Low Performers?
- How would you turn around a troubled project?
- How did you set technical direction?
- How do you define the product strategy? Questions around project execution.
- How do you evaluate a good team?
- How do you course-correct a team that’s become unhealthy?
- How do you help develop people in your team?
- Tell me about a time when you had to say no to a report
- Tell me about a time when you didn’t have enough data to make the right decision. What did you do? What path did you take? Did the decision turn out to be the correct one?
- Tell me about a time when you strongly disagreed with your manager or peer on something you considered very important to the business. What was it and how did you handle it? Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently?
- Describe a time when you took an unpopular stance in a meeting with peers and your leader. What was it? Why did you feel strongly about it? What did you do? What was the outcome?
- Tell me about a time when you had to be very strategic in order to meet all of your top priorities
- What Is Your Leadership Approach to Managing Diverse Teams and Being Sensitive to and Inclusive of All Your Staff?
- How Do You Give Feedback and Hold People Accountable?
- Describe a Time You Managed an Employee Who Was Struggling or Causing Strife.
- What Is Your Ideal Vision for Company Culture and How Have You Upheld Company Values in Prior Roles?
- What Are Your Plans for Your Team’s Professional Development?
- How Good Managers Think & Act by Shreyas Doshi
- STAR Method
- SWOT Analysis
- How do you use leverage agile frameworks for your role
- NuAIg background a bit more
- TLM vs Manager vs Product Manager in roadmapping
- How do you set expectations
- SWOT analysis
- SMART Goals
- PDCA Cycle
- Agile Project
- Six Sigma
- Balanced Scorecard
- Lean Management
- OKR (Objectives and Key Results)
- Change Management Models
- Further Reading
- Vini background
- Don’t forget to prepare answers to standard interview questions. Hiring managers want to know how you’ve conquered challenges in the past, what your long-term plans are for your career, and whether you’ll fit into the corporate culture.
- Get ready for a few curveball questions. Many interviewers like to ask difficult questions of all their prospective hires. They may especially expect management candidates to think quickly on their feet and stay cool even when the conversation veers in an unexpected direction.
- Demonstrate that you’re management material during the interview. Seek input or clarification as needed, remain positive and focused on the problem (or interview question), and look for opportunities to tell stories that demonstrate your successes.
- Remember that as a manager, you’ll set the tone for your team. If you don’t share the organization’s values, goals, and culture, you won’t be able to lead effectively.
- Actively listening to your team members, resolving conflict and boosting productivity are the three pillars of being an effective manager.
- The following tools available to you in your toolkit can help you navigate managerial scenarios:
- Define the team’s strategy and execution using OKRs and KPIs (asking the question: what does success look like?) to chart out the overall plan for the year which should convey the short term and long term north-star of the group. This plan can include tasks with priorities which are grouped into milestones. Partner up with PMs to do sprint planning, decide goals for the upcoming sprint and ensure sprint stories and their constituent tasks are on track. Involve your ICs and TLs in crafting your vision.
- Load-balance among team members if a project has the slightest chance of missing deadlines and losing track.
- Use SWOT analysis to navigate situations that involve making decisions that can have significant near-term and/or far-term effects. Analyze your options and weigh them against each other. Engage with meticulousness especially if the decision can have repercussions or a ripple effect.
- Use the STAR method to answer behavioral questions by setting up the stage/context with a Situation, Task, Action and Result (STAR). An additional dimension can be stacked on top of the STAR method leading to the STARR method where the latter R stands for reflection. Reflecting upon the how the situation being discussed panned out (especially in scenarios where the desired outcome wasn’t achieved in which case conducting port-mortem analysis is a good idea) to identify learnings from the episode.
- Establish standard processes if they don’t exist or need revamping within the company. Use (Agile, Scrum) for sprint planning, Kanban board for task tracking, JIRA for tickets, Quip for note-taking, Slack for team communication etc.
- A manager should be able to set the direction for the team and help align the team’s objectives to high-level business outcomes.
- A manager is their team’s biggest cheerleader, the captain of their ship and among the company’s tastemakers —- in a way, they represent the company. As such, they support their employees, ensure their growth and are fully committed to their employees’ success.
- Team-building is a major responsibility for a manager, so expect questions about your ability to recruit great managers, build cohesive teams, and inspire groups when times are tough. Think about how you approach career growth conversations and times when you’ve helped someone achieve their goals.
- Leaders/managers work tirelessly to earn/gain the trust, respect and confidence of their employees.
- While management interviews can often feel intimidating, reviewing these questions and crafting thoughtful responses rooted in your experience with leadership can boost your interview performance. Remember to highlight a receptive, group-focused mindset and how you feel that your skillset best positions you for this specific job.
- If I’ve learned one thing, it’s the power of telling a good story to show the talent of a current or potential manager through action, instead of asking potential employers to take your word for it.
- The hallmark of a good technical manager is a strong machine learning and engineering background, to be data-driven, and have the proven ability to lead multi-disciplinary, cross-functional teams. Furthermore, giving and receiving feedback, championing new ideas, empowering others, and balancing the needs of both research and engineering is critical for success.
- Common sayings:
- Communication is key.
- Listening is probably one of the most under-appreciated traits of a successful manager.
- Criticize in private, but praise in public.
- Never underestimate the importance of developing and maintaining good relationships with other teams.
- People make the team. People should be a company’s biggest investment.
- A great manager should (i) prioritize tasks that show merit based on elementary/preliminary data, (ii) make high-velocity decisions, and (ii) know which decisions are one-way vs. two-way door decisions (some decisions require depth of thought and understanding their repercussions while others do not).
- Use data-driven decision making coupled with high experimental velocity to steer your organization’s roadmap.
- “I haven’t failed a 1000 times – the light bulb was an invention with a 1000 steps.” - Thomas Edison
- Whisper wins and shout mistakes.
- Lead with empathy.
- Feedback is a gift – don’t judge people while giving feedback, instead inform them. Summarize their actions, as factually as possible. Explain the impact to you. Suggest what they might do differently. Finally, as with gift giving, expect nothing but karma in return.
Make the Best Impression
- The best way to make a great impression in a management interview is to demonstrate your confidence and competency in leading others, while at the same time expressing your enthusiasm for the company you are applying to.
Research the company
- When you’ve done your research of the employer and have honed your “sales pitch” (“These are the reasons why you should hire me as your next manager …”), you’ll be ready to prove to your interviewers that you’re the perfect candidate for the job. Aim to learn about the organization’s mission and goals so that you can frame your answers accordingly.
Highlight your ability to lead
- Before the interview, create a list of three to four specific experiences that demonstrate your ability to make effective decisions, delegate work to team members, motivate people and develop a team. Remember that examples of your team’s success are just as valuable as examples of your own.
Giving the Best Answer
- Show your work: You’ll want to walk through your process and the strategies you used.
- Don’t forget the big picture: If tackling this challenge changed your work flow or work style, or there was a big overarching lesson, mention it. And, don’t forget to mention the end result.
- Keep it simple: Try not to get bogged down in jargon or company-specific workflows and terminologies. Your goal is to share the challenge—and your resolution—in easy-to-follow language.
What Not to Say
- Don’t place blame: Did a challenge arise because of your supervisor’s incompetence, or a co-worker’s carelessness? This is not the right time to mention that. Avoid pointing fingers. Keep your description of the challenge neutral in tone.
- Stay away from insignificant occurrences: ideally, you’ll highlight a situation that is relevant, such as a challenge that many companies face. That way, the interviewer will be able to visualize your on-the-job performance.
Research the company
- Every company has its own preferred management style, and knowing how your potential future employer likes things done is a huge advantage during your interview. Find out about the company’s mission, values, and big-picture goals.
- If you can identify specific issues that your potential department is facing, you’ll also have a much easier time selling yourself as the perfect solution.
- Develop good leadership examples. Leadership isn’t reserved for managers only. Think about times when you’ve stepped up to lead a project, delegate tasks to coworkers, or motivated a team.
- If you can attach winning results to these stories, you’ll be in great shape.
Prepare for curveballs
- Companies like to know that those in supervisory positions won’t sweat when things get complicated. More important than answering curveball questions correctly is coming across as cool and confident.
- Be sure to relax before the interview and don’t give quick answers to questions when you don’t know the answer. Instead, think through the problem to help the hiring manager see your thought process and approach.
- Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have!
- At many companies, managers are expected to look as well as act the part. Make your that your interview attire is impeccable and professional.
- Read up on great interview attire to help sell yourself as a well-groomed powerhouse of the business world.
- Be receptive and listen to your employees. Understand each report’s areas of proficiency. Use the feedback from them and senior management as fuel to hone your skills.
You Should Be Ready to Tell Stories
- Once, while preparing a mid-level manager to interview for a managing director role, the candidate was asked, “Which acts of leadership are you most proud of?” His first instinct was to answer generically: “We’ll, we’ve met almost every deadline for three years in a row.” But when he was pressed for specifics about how he’d succeeded as a leader of people, she had a much more compelling and informative answer:
- “I once had this really talented direct report who was always late. Timeliness is one of our company’s core values, and the employee and I discussed and tried to troubleshoot the issue many times. He would improve, maybe for a week. Senior management noticed when he arrived late twice to company-wide meetings. I didn’t know what to do. The thought of firing him really upset me, because he was talented. Then, I had an idea. I asked him to take charge of the morning staff meetings: to review and organize the agendas the night before, introduce the main topic and structure, and manage the time at the meeting. It was risky to reward someone who wasn’t following the rules, but frankly, no one else wanted the job. He embraced it and showed up on time religiously, knowing that the team was depending on him.”
- This manager’s story revealed her ingenuity in dealing with people, playing to their strengths, problem-solving, and working with a team. The ability to convey so many details to your prospective employers is why storytelling is the most powerful tool in your interview kit.
- As you prepare for a management interview, mine your work experience for management and leadership wins. Even if you haven’t been a manager before, you’ve still demonstrated leadership in training others, managing projects, motivating colleagues, contributing ideas, thinking strategically, and holding others accountable. Take some time to reflect on your work experience and jot down significant moments when you led. These are the basis for your stories, which should reveal one or all of the following:
- A time when you influenced and encouraged others (and how you approach influencing and encouraging others in general).
- A time when you and a team were successful and what your contribution was.
- A time when your problem-solving and/or delegating skills directly impacted a coworker, team, or initiative.
Make Sure You Highlight the Right Skills
- Consider what skills are required for the job you’re interviewing for and especially focus on the stories that show you developing or using these skills. Lay out your stories in a coherent way by defining the problem, explaining how you arrived at a solution, and describing how you implemented it. Once you’ve collected a handful of tales, you’ll be able to easily modify them to answer different interview questions in a way that demonstrates your management and leadership chops.
- Remember that management across most functions and roles largely involves prioritizing and delegating, time management, problem-solving, and organization. Be sure to showcase those skills in your stories.
- And even if a company is extremely focused on having their managers drive the productivity of their staff to “hit the numbers,” you’ll still need soft skills, such as emotional intelligence or interpersonal skills, to manage and inspire your team to get there. Empathy and sensitivity are increasingly valued workplace traits. Show your capacity for them.
Confidence Is Good, But Don’t Over-Rehearse
- Thorough preparation will help you feel confident and confidence will help the interviewers see you as a leader. But be careful not to over-rehearse exactly how you will tell your stories. You shouldn’t present as overly polished in your interview. The company wants to understand your philosophy and leadership style—not be presented with answers learned by rote. A hiring team is looking for managers and leaders who are relatable and can think on their feet. And rehearsed speeches can come across as inauthentic.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Are Likely to Come Up
- In addition to developing their interpersonal skills, managers must be familiar with DEI principles and resources and why they matter in the workplace. Be sure to go over these and be prepared to speak about diversity, equity, and inclusion in an interview.
Answering how-did-you-handle-a-challenge questions
- Your interviewer may ask you to consider how you would handle a theoretical situation. Always remember to ground your responses with examples of real situations that speak to your previous accomplishments as a manager.
- “How-did-you-handle-such-a-challenge” questions are perhaps the most common in the behavioral category. Follow this three-step strategy to formulate an effective response:
- Step 1: Recall a challenge that was significant, but one that you consider a success. Most importantly, you want to be able to discuss a real professional challenge or problem, not an arbitrary or annoying occurrence. You also want to be able to define how you met the challenge successfully. If possible, mention a challenge most relevant to the role you’re applying to. In your answer, you’ll want to set up the challenge clearly and succinctly.
- Step 2: Don’t just say what you did—explain how you did it.
- The employer is interested in learning your approach to a challenge, including the actions you took and your thought process. Don’t skip ahead to the end result. Use specifics to describe what you did to contribute to the solution.
- Step 3: Emphasize the outcome and what you learned from it.
- Employers want to hire individuals who can turn challenges into opportunities. When brainstorming an answer, think about ways to emphasize how you made the most of a difficult time. Of course, in the real world, it’s not possible to wave a magic wand and transform every difficulty into a grand success. It is possible to learn from your hardships, and then apply what you learned to future challenges. Make sure to express your takeaways and how challenges have helped you grow.
- “Turn the Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders” by L. David Marquet
- “The First-Time Manager” by Jim McCormick
- “Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager” by Michael Lopp
- Interviewing at Amazon — Leadership Principles
How do you delegate responsibility for an assignment? Who do you choose? What and how do you delegate, and what do you monitor and follow up?
- It is one of my responsibilities as a team lead in my current role at Apple to delegate tasks and track them to completion.
- The way I go about delegating tasks is that I (i) figure out the proficiency level of my employees across a range of skills, (ii) take employee interests and career goals into account, and (iii) how well they would tag-team with other potential assignees of this task.
- Delegating responsibility is a blend of figuring out the intersection in the Venn diagram of these three areas — best overlap between business needs and employee interests and skill-sets.
- Important to setup intermediate checkpoints and track progress. If there are blockers and help is needed, step in and make sure to load-balance appropriately.
What do you do to support employees?
- Onboarding using training programs to ensure smooth integration of new members within the team.
- Career conversations.
- Ask them what they want to work on. Tie it in with your vision.
Why do you want to be a manager?
- From my experience as a team lead/manager in a couple of teams at Apple over the past 6 years, I have come to realize that empowering my people, seeing them grow personally and professionally while at the same time hitting milestones and launching successful products together is what I look forward to.
- Nothing gives me more joy than seeing my reports succeed in their careers; doing my part in writing their success story while ensuring that we’re building strong relationships as teammates first and manager-employee second.
An example of how you helped coach or mentor someone. What improvements did you see in the person’s knowledge or skills?
An example of a time when you were able to demonstrate excellent listening skills. What was the situation and outcome?
In your experience, what is the key to developing a good team?
- It is said that “people make the company”. People should be a company’s biggest investment. Our ideas, projects, goals and endeavors, are only going to as good as the skills, passion and drive of the people powering them under the hood.
- It is important to invest the time and effort into selecting employees with the right blend of technical and communication skills to ensure that that not only we keep the ship afloat, but also raising the bar with every project, and with every endevaor soar higher and higher. Investments in people go a long way and pay off in the long run.
- To develop a cohesive team, it is important to build mutual trust, respect, and confidence which are the three pillars of a great team.
How do you deal with ambiguity?
- It is important to gather as much information about the situation as possible, be it a problem at work, a project we’re working on etc.
- Consult with subject matter experts to get their ideas and thoughts on what would be the right direction forward.
- Consult with folks who have gone through a similar issue/situation to learn from their experiences.
What have you found to be the best way to monitor the performance of your work and/or the work of others? Share a time when you had to take corrective action.
- 1:1s serve as an opportunity to gauge the overall health of the team and have a pulse on the team’s health and day-to-day functioning. Helps build employee rapport and enables providing constructive/productive and actionable feedback privately, if warranted.
- Schedule regular 1:1s.
- Checkpoint progress by setting up intermediate milestones to check in on project status.
- Discuss blockers and figure out how you could help them.
- Ensure important tasks are prioritized.
- Guide the team execution to deliver on the vision. Hold the team to a high execution bar.
- Ask your reports occasionally if the learnings from the job match their expectations.
- Also, good idea to check in on them at a personal level. How are they doing personally? Empathy is an essential trait for being a good manager and goes a long way in building loyal reports. Lead with empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence (EQ).
- Partner up with PMs to do sprint planning, decide goals for the upcoming sprint and ensure sprint stories and their constituent tasks are on track.
Is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion important? What does it bring about to the workplace?
- Diversity adds color the group’s collective thought process. More diverse the group, more varied and complementary the ideas.
- I’ve been in brainstorming sessions with teams that are all-male belonging to a particular ethnicity vs. discussions with a diverse set of individuals from varied cultures, genders, race, skill-set (technical/non-technical) and background and I have always found that the latter group had much more diversity in terms of ideas, viewpoints, perspectives and overall, a richer mindset that helped us think and plan better.
- These colorful ideas that a diverse group brings to the table in turn propels the success of our projects.
How do you approach career growth conversations? / How have you carried out career development for your employees
- As a team lead in my current team at Apple, I am responsible for supporting my employees and ensuring their success. A manager is the team’s biggest cheerleader. As such, career conversations form a big part of contributing to the success of an employee and playing my part in writing the success stories of my employees is important as the team’s manager.
- For initial onboarding, I prepared learning material for the team to help them learn the ropes. Once they’ve settled in, I setup career conversation meetings with my employees every couple of months and ask the employee to come up with a list of skills, projects and technical/non-technical areas they’re interested in exploring beyond their usual projects. I ask them to makes these notes before our meeting. Understand the employee’s interest in career growth as an ICT or Manager, chalk out a career growth plan. Based on an overlap of their interests and the needs of the team, we agree on pursuing certain projects. In parallel, I do my homework in identifying relevant projects that we need to focus on which align with the employee’s interests, and I suggest those to the employee. Suggest resources for reading, learning new skills and growing as a professional. As the next step, we flesh out the plan by chalking out a list of tasks and priorities to execute on these projects.
- This not only gets them to hone their technical skills but also gets them some valuable exposure to new cross-functional partner teams working on these projects and senior management visiblity. This has also has the by-product of helping bring about a career boost for my employees by making them an easier candidate for a promotion when the time comes.
How do you ensure that tasks get delivered successfully?
- As the captain of the ship, I’m responsible for the success of several projects within the team.
- There’s this space of trusting people and letting them do the job you hired them to do vs. this other space of being a micromanager and constantly interfering with people’s day-to-day plans and rubbing people the wrong way. It is important to maintain a balance here and know when to roll up your sleeves vs. when do you let them do it. Operate in the area of intersection within this Venn diagram. Depending on the competency/proficiency level of the employee, grant autonomy appropriately.
- It is also important to know that you haven’t abdicated responsibility or relinquished control for the project and stay connected to the details and audit when necessary, especially if metrics and intuition/anecdoates differ.
How do you assess priorities? How do you then assign them?
- Sometimes there are a number of projects taking place at once. Hiring managers know that without clearly agreed-upon priorities, a workforce can become split and frustrated, waiting for key pieces of work in order to be able to complete their own tasks and meet deadlines. So how would you ensure that members of your team know how to organize their day and what to work on first?
- For this question, you can share a story about a time you needed to establish priorities for yourself at a past job. How did you decide which tasks to attend to first? If you’ve led a team or been a project manager, what criteria have you used to determine priorities for the team and how did you communicate them? Make sure the story is representative of your leadership style: For example, do you tend to let each worker figure it out on their own or with each other first and come to you with questions or do you step in from the get-go? Does it depend on the employee or situation?
- And you can add specifics:
- Priorities need to align with the overall direction of the business unit and the OKRs set at the beginning of the year.
- They also need to gel well with the company’s leadership principles.
- Priorities can range from P0 to P3, where P0 means need-to-have (showstopper), P1 means expected, P2 means important and P3 means nice-to-have.
- Track tasks in stories with reasonable acceptance criteria/outcomes. Track stories in sprint planning meetings. Track sprints in milestone meetings. Track milestones in OKRs.
- Use software (Agile, Scrum, Kanban Board) for project management. Reinforce priorities during weekly team meetings or daily stand-ups.
What would you describe as an effective staff meeting? Ineffective?
- An ideal staff meeting involves cross-pollination of ideas. A blocker may have already been solved by another teammate, spending cycles on reinventing the wheel isn’t effective so it is important to let ideas permeate across team members.
- The way I structure my staff meeting is by having every team member discuss their key highlights and lowlights. As part of lowlights, it is important to have blockers being discussed to help folks out, tying in to my cross-pollination point earlier.
- Also, I take notes for later reference in case somebody wants to go back and lookup something.
What’s your team size?
- 4 scientists + 5 backend engineers and we collaborate with QA/Product/ Data/Other Science teams.
How do you work with a product manager in your role?
- Strategy and Vision: The product manager would be responsible for defining the overall strategy and vision for the music AI app. They would consider market trends, user needs, and business goals to shape the product roadmap.
- Requirements Gathering: Working closely with stakeholders, including customers, musicians, and internal teams, the product manager would identify and prioritize features and functionalities for the app. They would gather user feedback and market research to inform decision-making.
- Roadmap Development: Based on the gathered requirements, the product manager would create a product roadmap that outlines the key features, milestones, and timelines for the app’s development. They would balance short-term priorities with long-term goals.
- Cross-functional Collaboration: The product manager would collaborate with various teams, including engineering, design, data science, and marketing, to ensure effective execution of the product roadmap. They would facilitate communication, prioritize tasks, and address any issues or roadblocks.
- User Experience: The product manager would focus on enhancing the user experience of the music AI app. They would work closely with the design team to create intuitive interfaces, smooth workflows, and engaging interactions for users.
- Performance Monitoring: Once the app is launched, the product manager would track key performance indicators (KPIs) and user feedback to measure the success of the product. They would identify areas for improvement and iterate on the product based on data-driven insights.
- While the product manager focuses on the overall strategy, vision, and user experience of the music AI app, the program manager is more involved in project management, coordination, and ensuring successful project execution. Both roles play crucial parts in the development and success of the product.
How do you work with a program manager in your role?
- Project Management: The program manager would oversee the execution and delivery of specific projects within the music AI app company. They would ensure that projects are properly planned, resourced, and executed within the defined scope, budget, and timeline.
- Cross-team Coordination: The program manager would coordinate efforts between different teams involved in the development of the music AI app. They would facilitate communication, resolve conflicts, and ensure alignment to achieve project objectives.
- Risk Management: Identifying and mitigating risks is a critical responsibility of the program manager. They would assess potential risks and develop contingency plans to minimize their impact on project outcomes.
- Stakeholder Management: The program manager would interact with internal and external stakeholders to provide project updates, address concerns, and manage expectations. They would act as a point of contact for project-related inquiries.
- Resource Allocation: The program manager would oversee resource allocation, including human resources, budget, and equipment, to ensure efficient project execution. They would work closely with relevant teams to identify resource needs and address any constraints.
- Quality Assurance: The program manager would be responsible for ensuring the quality of deliverables within projects. They would define and implement quality assurance processes, conduct reviews, and verify that project outcomes meet the defined standards.
Explain a time where you did not perform your best/ you had a growth opportunity
- Situation: During a project, my report delivered a strong performance and I wanted to give them the opportunity to get more visibility by presenting their work to senior management but I wanted to also make sure I set them up for success.
- Task: I asked them to prepare the presentation and have a dry run with me first as I could help mentor them and make sure they went their prepared.
- Action: However, during their presentation, they went into excessive technical details, losing sight of the higher vision and key points that would be of interest to senior management. Recognizing the need for improvement, I provided them with feedback on the importance of balancing technical details with a broader perspective. I emphasized the need to convey the project’s impact and align it with the audience’s understanding.
- Result: Despite my feedback, the following week, we did another dry run and their presentation still focused heavily on technical aspects. Confused by their approach, I engaged in a conversation with them to understand their perspective. They expressed shock, as they believed they had improved by incorporating more background information to explain the technical details. This experience made me realize that feedback is only effective if it is fully understood and implemented. I learned the importance of not only providing feedback but also ensuring comprehension and clarity.
- Takeaway: For this instance, I learned that providing analogies and having them sit in a few meetings with senior leadership would be the most helpful. This experience taught me the significance of effective communication in providing feedback. It highlighted the need to ensure that the recipient comprehends the feedback and is able to apply it. As a result, I now prioritize facilitating a clear and mutual understanding of feedback to maximize growth and improvement.
Name a time you disagreed and committed
- During a discussion about the strategic direction of our team, there was a point of disagreement that arose. I strongly advocated for investing more in machine learning techniques, specifically by implementing ensemble contextual bandits for personalized recommendations. I had come across a research paper by Snap that highlighted how this approach could effectively address the cold start problem and enhance user engagement.
- However, the leadership had a different perspective and emphasized the importance of expanding our team of software engineers to focus on building and integrating the app with various devices, making it readily available to users. They believed that this approach would have a broader impact and attract a larger user base.
- Despite my disagreement, I fully committed to the decision made by the leadership. I recognized the value in aligning with the team’s collective vision and objectives. To actively support this direction, I enthusiastically participated in the recruitment and onboarding processes for the new software engineers. By doing so, I demonstrated my willingness to set aside my personal preference and contribute wholeheartedly to the team’s success.
- This experience taught me the importance of balancing my own convictions with the broader organizational goals. It highlighted the significance of embracing a collaborative approach and being adaptable in the face of differing viewpoints. Ultimately, by disagreeing and committing, I demonstrated my commitment to the team’s unity and the pursuit of our shared objectives.ugh I disagreed, without hesitation, I committed and helped with interviews and onboarding of these engineers.
What is your management style
- I like to lead with empathy, but within reason. And let me explain that:
- I believe that empathy is a crucial aspect of effective leadership. It enables me to understand and connect with my team members on a deeper level, acknowledging their perspectives, needs, and emotions. By demonstrating empathy, I can foster a supportive and collaborative environment where individuals feel valued, heard, and motivated to perform their best.
- However, it’s essential to balance empathy with reason. While I strive to be understanding and compassionate, I also recognize the importance of maintaining productivity, meeting goals, and upholding organizational standards. This means making tough decisions when necessary and holding individuals accountable for their responsibilities and performance.
- Leading with empathy within reason allows me to strike a balance between understanding and achieving results. It means providing support, guidance, and resources to help my team members succeed while also setting clear expectations and boundaries. By practicing empathy with reason, I can create a harmonious work environment that encourages growth, collaboration, and ultimately drives positive outcomes.
How do you have a central combined data/ feature store across multiple teams
- To establish a central combined data/feature store across multiple teams, we follow a comprehensive process that ensures data consent, GDPR compliance, and efficient data handling.
- First and foremost, we prioritize obtaining explicit user consent for data collection, ensuring that privacy regulations and guidelines, including GDPR, are strictly adhered to. This commitment to user privacy and data protection is a fundamental aspect of our approach.
- Next, we leverage PySpark, a powerful data processing framework, to transform the raw data into the Parquet file format. This format provides columnar storage, efficient compression, and excellent support for distributed processing. By utilizing PySpark’s capabilities, we can process and optimize the data for subsequent analysis.
- To enable discoverability and ease of access, we leverage Athena, a serverless query service, on top of our Parquet files. Athena allows teams to easily explore and query the data using standard SQL syntax, providing a user-friendly interface for data discovery.
- Additionally, we implement robust ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) pipelines to ensure a streamlined and automated process for ingesting, transforming, and loading the data into the central combined data/feature store. These pipelines handle data integration from various sources, perform necessary transformations, and populate the data store in a consistent and reliable manner.
- By following these practices, we establish a central combined data/feature store that is compliant with regulations, optimized for distributed processing, easily discoverable through Athena, and supported by efficient ETL pipelines. This enables multiple teams to access and leverage the data effectively, fostering collaboration and driving valuable insights across the organization.
A time where someone on the team was not performing (low performer)
- Set expectations.
- Start coaching plan with metrics.
- 60 days focus and pivot - performance improvement plan.
- Requirements are set up to the bar.
- An efficient team is like a well-oiled machine – everyone should be pulling their own weight, if one person is holding the team back (being the team’s weakest link), its time for a discussion.
- Criticize in private and praise in public.
What is the best way to negotiate with a difficult person, or multiple people?
- This question is asked to see if you can solve conflicts with diplomatic solutions. Make sure you emphasize your patience and willingness to work with diverse personalities.
- I think communicating privately with people who are experiencing tension in the workplace is the most positive and productive way of resolving it. I would be sure to approach this person and keep the conversation calm and respectful. Once I get their attention, I would take a moment to express my appreciation for their work as a way to keep things positive and boost their confidence. Then, I would discuss whatever issue is causing difficulty and do my utmost to solve it without conflict.
What are your greatest strengths?
- Organization: break down a task into steps.
- Communication: conveying ideas to senior management with the right data and how it affects the big picture.
- Interfacing with different teams: Never underestimate the importance of developing and maintaining good relationships with other teams.
- Driving the team to excellence: Giving them all the tools they need to be successful and communicate on an open level.
What are your greatest weaknesses? / What is your biggest management weakness? / Looking back, what would you have done differently? / Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. What did you learn from that instance?
- In my last role at Apple, I was a team lead who was responsible for the success of several Mac products. I started off as an ICT, learned the ropes, created one of the primary tools that the team would use day-to-day, and graduated to a team lead in a couple of years.
- In my current role at Amazon, I am responsible for query understanding and personalization for Alexa. When I joined the team, in order to gain familiarity with the team’s flows and processes, I spent a couple of months onboarding to them, training models, offline evaluating them, running an A/B testing and in this process – even launched a model.
- Because I was pretty familiar with the codebase, whenever there was a issue with one of our projects at work, I’d have this urge to dive into the codebase and fix the issue myself. So there have been times when I have to remind myself that although I’m the team lead and ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a project, I also have to trust my employees to do the jobs I’ve hired them for. In the past, when problems would arise I would often find myself jumping in and fixing the problem myself, bypassing the person who was assigned the task.
- While my jumping in did solve the immediate problem, it would often lead the team member to feel as though I didn’t trust them or lacked confidence in their ability. To give you a particular example -— when we had an important deliverable for one of our execs, I got the task done myself to ensure that we’re able to deliver on time, but this led to my report, who owned the part of our pipeline responsible for generating metrics for this ask, bringing this up in on our 1:1 saying they would appreciate some independence and would prefer it if I can let them finish their tasks. This set a bad tone with some of my reports which I soon realized and have been working on fixing that since.
- It was a hard pill to swallow and one I still struggle with, but now, when I am faced with an issue, I step back, take a deep breath and assess what’s going on and how I can get the issue fixed without stepping on toes or undermining my teammates.
- All-in-all, I think it is good to be self-aware about your weaknesses or mistakes so you can learn from them and consciously work on not falling into the same pitfalls again.
- (can also talk about micromanagement is not a trait appreciated by your reports.)
How do you deal with uncertainty/ambuiguity?
- In our line of work, scenarios where you do not have the liberty of having all the data pieces necessary to make a call are common which require us to take calculated risks with half-data.
- Consult with SMEs from your own team and XF partner teams to understand if they’ve been through something similar – why reinvent the wheel if a proven solution exists? So I like to do my due dilegence/homework in this aspect.
- Secondly, it is important to make data-driven decisions based on preliminary experiments, intuition and pay meticulous attention when metrics do not line up with intuition.
What made you apply for this position?
- The intersection of e-commerce and AI is an interesting space which has been revolutionized by your company’s products.
- Facebook’s mission of connecting people is one that I really resonate with. Being an international, connecting with my parents and family back in my home country has been made possible with Facebook’s products. Sharing life’s precious moments through a FB post, day-to-day happenings over Whatsapp and weekend hikes with IG is what helps me stay connected with with near and dear ones.
- Amazon is at the forefront of speech AI. I’ve read tons of papers, felt inspired and thought that I’d love to engage and join forces and build something awesome.
- Moreover, the intersection of e-commerce and AI is an interesting space which has essentially been revolutionized by your company’s products.
- The scale that Amazon operates at would enable me to explore and contribute to this space and bring about great impact.
What do you like the most about your current role?
- The scale of impact that my current role provides me is phenomenal. Your company is also similarl in terms of the billion-scale so I’ll be able to continue to have a similar level of impact in this role.
- Also, in my current role, I’d find it very rewarding to help my employees achieve success and move on to different roles. There is nothing more satisfying than watching someone grow and achieve their potential.
What do you not like about your current role?
- There is not much to not like. Apple is a great company with phonemenal people who strive for perfection and do some of their life’s best work here, much like Facebook.
- It’s just that it’s been close to 6 years at Apple. I’ve grown a lot both as a person and as a professional during this time. Led two different teams, built a bunch of relationships and delivered over a hundred projects during this time. It’s time to tackle a new set of challenges.
- If there’s one thing though that you’d like me to point out — publications are challenging at Apple.
- Facebook has a significant presence in the AI space, I follow a lot of research coming out of FAIR and I’d love to join forces and empower our researchers and help lead some interesting AI projects.
What makes you a good fit for this position? / What makes you the strongest candidate for the position? / Why should we hire you? / What do you bring to the table?
- Team lead for two different teams.
- Coming from a similar sized company, I’m aware of organizational logistics — the XF nature of the work, aggressive time-to-market timelines etc.
- I bring a blend of technical skills, a strong background in AI, am confident, goal-driven, and can motivate your team. I have those qualities and will be able to take the team to the next level that your organization needs.
- I’ve been on the hiring committee, scaled the team up from 2 people to 7 over 3 years, mentored 5 new engineers, held weekly 1:1s with them, unblocked them on issues. Built internal training programs to ensure smooth integration of new members within the team.
What do you expect from your current role?
- Managing people with different personalities within the team.
- As a manager, you have what it takes to successfully coordinate and manage personnel with various backgrounds and skill levels while at the same time taking direction from your own superiors.
What do you expect from a manager?
- The managers I’ve had in the past, who I now emulate, had open-door policies with their teams—one always felt comfortable going to them to discuss tricky workplace issues. They respected our opinions, collaborated with us to arrive at positive solutions, and maintained our confidentiality.
What was it like working for your manager?
- Working for my manager was an enriching experience. He was clear on priorities, always open to my questions and offered a lot for me to learn from. All my prior managers were pretty similar. Fortunately, I’ve never had a difficult manager—only difficult project challenges that we always worked together to resolve. I’ve been lucky that the managers I’ve worked for maintained open lines of communication so that we could nip any rising issues in the bud.
Describe how you managed a problem employee? / How do you go about coaching an employee who is not performing where they need to be?
The hallmark of a great supervisor is that they know how to bring out the best in their workforce. This sometimes involves working with a challenging employee to resolve performance issues. Use the STAR interview response technique to structure your answer in advance.
Supervising employees is a key function in a management role. A strong response to this question shows that you are able to prioritize communication and problem-solving skills for and with your team. When answering this question, select an example that demonstrates your interest in actively listening to your team members, resolving conflict and boosting productivity.
- Answer 1:
- In my last role, one of my team members consistently missed his deadlines which could possibly prevent us from reaching our monthly goals. I scheduled a meeting with him in order to get his perspective on his work performance. I learned that he was struggling to use our new software, so I arranged a training session for him. As a result, he quickly increased his workflow and felt more comfortable proactively asking for help.
- Answer 2:
- I will go over what the expectation of their performance is and show them where they are currently at. I will ask them what they think they can do to help improve their performance. Depending on what their response is, I will offer additional suggestions and reinforce my confidence that their performance will improve if they take suggested actions. If needed, I would offer to coach the employee on how to manage their time or prioritize their own workload. At the end of the conversation, I would set the expectation that their performance must improve.
- Answer 3:
- Last year, I had an employee assigned to my department who was a brilliant (but very young) financial analyst, onboarded straight out of college. His people skills left something to be desired. Soon, his team members were complaining that he was dismissive of their ideas and belittled their contributions. So, I called him into my office, and we had a conversation about our company culture and how collaborative teamwork is crucial to our operations. I also alerted him that he was on notice to drop his ego at the door and improve his manners—which he did.
Tell Me About a Decision That Was Difficult to Make. Did You Consult With Anyone? / Tell me about a time you had to let go of a team member.
Managers are always making decisions, including really tough ones like firing employees who aren’t working out, redistributing work when someone falls ill, making budget cuts, reporting to upper management that a project has failed, or promoting one person over another, to name a few. Interviewers want to see that you’re up to the task.
It’s also useful for hiring managers to see that you include others in your decision-making, rather than trying to make all the decisions by yourself. Work cultures are trending away from an overly hierarchical, top-down, command-and-control style of leadership. And a leader who relies on the input and expertise of subordinates and others in decision-making, also known as a collaborative leader, is often more effective and inclusive than those who do not.
This question is also posed to gauge how you handle difficult and potentially awkward situations. Make sure you understand the gravity of letting a team member go. Express how you would show empathy while still keeping to what the company needs.
- Answer 1:
- For this question, you’ll want to recap the difficult decision, share your thought process around how and why you came to the conclusion you did, and tell the interviewer what actions you took, including who you consulted with along the way. You can simply tie this question in with the prior question — managing a problem employee who was eventually let go. You can sum it up by sharing the results of your decision-making for the team or project. For example, if you fired someone, was it due to an immediate ethics breach or a long, slow haul of inefficiency that included many conversations with the employee but failed to result in better performance? Was consultation with any staff, board, HR personnel, or outside counsel about your decision useful to you in making it? And how did the team operate after the person was let go? Was it a struggle to fill the gap? What did you learn or take with you?
- Answer 2:
- While letting go of a team member is always a difficult decision, sometimes it is the best thing for the team, and the company. When letting go of a team member I always found time to speak with them privately. In one specific case, one of my team members had been considerably late far too often, and regularly underperformed in the workplace. It is important to maintain a calm and positive attitude towards the employee during this process. Motivational discussions did little to help him improve, so the company and I made the decision to let him go. After thanking him for his work, I calmly and empathetically explained to him that he was being let go, and why. I then allowed him to finish out his posted schedule that week, before I removed him from our system.
How do you measure success?
- Setting goals and evaluating success is an important managerial duty. This question allows the interviewer to see how you identify, set and meet goals. It is wise to describe your orientation toward group success in your answer rather than focusing on personal goals.
- Just as I set attainable goals for myself, I aim to measure my team’s progress toward a large goal by creating and celebrating small milestones. In my last position, I led a marketing campaign that required everyone on the team to finish several assignments per week. I held weekly meetings with my team to ensure I had a pulse on any roadblocks preventing them from meeting their goals, and we finished the campaign above and beyond the client’s standards.
Describe a time when you went above and beyond.
- A couple of years ago in my last role at Apple, I was overseeing a Mac project that was about to be launched the next month. Unfortunately, we had a last minute goof-up where we observed that as we ran some of our computationally-intensive neural net workloads, we weren’t seeing the level of performance we expected.
- We figured out the issue and reported this to senior management. This led to a round of daily exec reviews, which meant crafting experiments, working with XF teams and creating and presenting slides to report on results and doing daily updates to senior management.
- This ultimately meant we had to spend 12-14 hour workdays over a span of 3 weeks to get this done, but we put in all of this effort to ensure we don’t miss the launch date for the product.
- In the end, we launched the product with much fanfare, it was well received and we felt proud of our achievements.
- Also, I offered my reports a week off for all of this great work as a token of appreciation.
Walk Me Through a Project You Led and What Made It Successful.
When asking this question, interviewers are looking for your knowledge of people and project management as well as communication skills. It should be easy for you to think of the most impactful project you led to answer this question, but a story will truly demonstrate your abilities. Saying something like, “We had a goal to acquire 3,000 new customers by March and we hit it,” reveals a great win, but no leadership skills. Your answer, like the story in the last section, needs to spell out what you specifically did to influence the successful outcome. The more specifics you include, the better able the interviewer will be able to see your talent and impact.
- I was recently in charge of designing a marketing strategy for a premium version of our top-selling hiking shoes for new and existing customers on a short timeline. I led the team through several brainstorming sessions on potential campaigns, and since we were on a tight schedule, I laid out the exact type of ideas we were looking for ahead of the meetings and kept a close eye on the clock to make sure the discussions stayed on topic. We came up with three campaigns we wanted to pursue, then laid out each step of all three to really break them down and see if we could implement the work on time. It became clear that if we wanted high-quality execution, we could either hire temporary people or implement two of our three ideas by the deadline. It was tough, but I chose to only focus on two with the existing team rather than risking not finding the right people to help us on short notice. To me, quality always wins over quantity. I consulted with the project manager and the team to determine who was in charge of and responsible for each part of the campaigns. Together we developed key performance indicators (KPIs), such as how many customers we wanted to reach and how many interactions would lead to direct sales. Additionally, each team member came up with two personal goals, such as: ‘to reach out to colleagues more for input’ and ‘to slow down when I’m rushing so I don’t make a mistake.’
- Lastly, we agreed that if someone was falling short of their deadlines, they needed to let the rest of the team know through our project management software and we could discuss the best way to proceed from there. Because we were all so clear on what needed to get done, who was doing what, and where they were in the process, we managed to accomplish our first set of goals ahead of schedule and the campaign ultimately exceeded our original sales goal by over 10%. It really helped me see that being thorough and deliberate about my expectations, making tough but realistic choices about what we could accomplish, and outlining priorities and clear goals were tremendously effective strategies.
If you knew your manager was 100% wrong about something, how would you handle it? / How would you go about disagreeing with your supervisor about a decision that you know is not the right one?
- Answer 1:
- They say, “crticize in private; praise in public”.
- On those very few occasions where I felt like my manager made the wrong call, I’ve never hesitated to speak with them privately about the situation, laying out my rationale in a non-judgmental fashion.
- In every single case, they admitted that there had been an oversight, and they thanked me sincerely for my “good catch.”
- In a couple of cases, I’ve also partnered with them to help resolve the issue by doing a divide-and-conquer. In this particular instance, my manager was presenting some data to execs where he had mixed up data from some experiments we had done to gather metrics from some AI models and thus, was presenting the flipside picture entirely. I texted him on the side.
- No one is right all of the time—everyone has a bad day occasionally when they just aren’t focused and make mistakes. However, some mistakes can be grave - they can have tangible repercussions and ripple effects, so it’s critical to correct such errors right away.
- Answer 2:
- I always build a strong working relationship with my supervisor so, in situations like these where I have a different opinion, I can openly speak to them. I would stick to the facts. I explain the implications of that decision to my supervisor. Then I would help come up with alternatives.
How do you handle stress and pressure?
- Formulate a plan with prioritized tasks and set intermediate deadlines to make sure things are on track.
What can you contribute to this company?
- I can add value to your company not only because of my eight years of experience—which I’m sure many of your other candidates have—but also because of my energy, flexibility, and commitment to being a great team cheerleader.
- Many accounting managers are introverts who prefer to work alone, but I thrive on human contact and collaboration. So, not only do I do my management tasks accurately, but I also try to ensure that my office is a congenial place to work. I’m impressed by your frequent “Best Place to Work” awards, and know that I could help ensure you continue to receive this recognition.
What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make?
- I always find it challenging to decide who to promote, probably because I personally train my employees and always have a few candidates in line for the next available advancement.
- I find that the best way to justify my final decision is to honesty explain my rationale to the candidate who has been passed up, praising their skills while also defining the areas they should improve upon in order to have a shot at the next promotion.
What was most and least rewarding about your last position?
This is another situation where it’s how you answer that is most important. Align your answers to what you know the employer is seeking in their next manager – your “most rewarding” scenario should reflect a quality they want, and your “least rewarding” example should describe a skill or situation that isn’t relevant to your ability to succeed in your new management role.
- I found that the most rewarding part of my last job was the opportunity I was given to train new departmental hires. They were always eager to succeed, and it was great to contribute to their progress.
- The least rewarding part, quite frankly, was the sixty-minute commute to work each way, which could be exhausting in Atlanta’s gridlock traffic. That’s one reason why I’m excited at the possibility of working for you—I only live twenty minutes away.
An example of a challenge you handled in the software world?
- When the software development of our new product stalled, I coordinated the team that managed to get the schedule back on track. We were able to successfully troubleshoot the issues and solve the problems, within a very short period of time, and without completely burning out our team. I was able to do this by motivating the senior engineering team to brainstorm a technologically innovative solution that would solve the customer’s issues with fewer development hours on our end.
How do you motivate yourself?
- I enjoy my work, so I am always looking for new ideas to bring to the table. With my passion being the work that I do, I am always giving my full potential to all my tasks.
What is the most challenging thing about being a manager?
- The most challenging thing about being a manager is also the most rewarding. As the team’s manager, I’m responsible for not just my own success but that of my team as well. In that sense, my charter typically involves a much bigger scope than as my prior role as an individual contributor. However, navigating a big ship comes with its own set of unique responsibilities. You are responsible not only for yourself, but for your team. So you must continually measure their performance, set clear expectations/goals/priorities, make sure the communication is crisp and clear, motivate them, and keep them focused. At the end of the day, it is a great feeling to be able to accomplish this.
- Also, another important aspect of this position would be to build the relationship with my employees because that will take time. However, I also feel it is one of the most rewarding part of this position. I enjoy relationship-building and helping others to achieve their success.
How do you manage your workload?
- I prioritize my task by what is most important and urgent to least important and urgent. If there are some tasks that I can assign to others, I will also delegate.
Why did you apply for this position?
- I wanted to join a company like ABC that values their employees and helps them achieve their potential. This position is a great fit for my current skills, so I will be able to contribute to the company immediately. There is also an opportunity to continue to develop my abilities to the next level and help in company’s continued success.
What do you think your employees would say about your management style?
- They would say that I’m straight-forward and my actions are aligned with the goals of the company. They would say that I am an open communicator and give them the tools they need to succeed.
What are qualities of a successful manager?
- A successful manager must also be a leader because that is how you can motivate and influence your employees to perform at their peak ability. A manager must also have the vision to take the team and company to soaring heights.
What do you think are important aspects of a team?
- To have a diverse group of people who have a basis of trust and respect for each other. The communication level must be high and the ability to work together as a team.
What will you contribute to this company?
- I will contribute my experience and knowledge. I have vision. Moreover, I have necessarily experienced in the areas that this company will need to grow and I have a plan that will facilitate that growth.
How would you go about delivering bad news or a decision that will not be popular?
- I would state the news, the reasons behind the news/decision, and I would focus on the positives. I would also take time to have my team ask questions or feedback and answer accordingly.
How do you establish rapport with a new employee?
- I will have an initial one on one meeting with the new employee to let them know what my expectations are and also learn about how they like to be managed. That’s a way I will understand how to be effective when I communicate with them.
When you enter a new workplace with new employees, how would you go about gaining rapport with them?
- I would meet them all on a one on one basis as soon as possible. I would use that time to get to know each employee individually. I would ask them what their strengths and what they want out of the manager. That way I can adjust my style to each employee accordingly.
How do you manage the performance of your employees?
- Me and the employee, together, will create achievable goals based on the company goals and their own goals. On a regular basis, I will give actionable feedback to my employees on how they are performing to help them grow and succeed. Some employees prefer real-time feedback, so it’s important to adapt to their preferences.
A high-performing employee has recently been under-performing. How would you deal with the situation?
- I would show them their performance history so they can see the drop in their performance. I would then ask them why it has changed. I would reaffirm my commitment to help the employee get back on track and offer actionable steps. I would ask for the employee’s input as well and draw an action plan for improvement based on this.
How do you solve problems?
- I will find out as much as possible about the problem. Then I look at all possible solutions. Do a SWOT analysis and weigh each solution to figure out the most promising one. If there are others who may have some valuable input, I will also find out what their thoughts are. Based on this information, I will choose the course of action that will be the most effective.
How do you handle failure? / When did you take a risk, make a mistake, or fail? How did you respond, and how did you grow from that experience?
Thomas Edison said “I didn’t fail a thousand times. The light bulb was an invention with a thousand steps”.
- I take failure as a learning experience. I go back and understand why I failed. Conduct a post-mortem analysis on failed projects to trace the root-cause of failure. That way I can ensure that I don’t make the same mistakes again/fall into the same pitfalls again and thereby, ensure that I’ve grown in the process.
It is important to understand that failure is a necessary part of innovation, especially in research. It’s not optional. I believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right.
What did you do when you needed to motivate a group of individuals or promote collaboration on a particular project?
- Team level —
- In our day-to-day jobs, I think we’re often too fixated on the small picture —- it’s important to zoom out and grasp the big picture.
- How does this project fit into the grand scheme of things? How will this impact the bottom-line? Will our customers welcome this change with open arms? How will this improve the user experience of our end-users? How will this lead to a product that we can all say is one of the products that we’re the most proud of as a company?
- Secondly, understanding your people at an individual level helps too since motivation isn’t a one-size-fits-all policy. Some people appreciate real-time critical feedback, some appreciate positive reinforcement etc. —- it’s important to do your due diligence/homework and adapt your management style to suit what your employees prefer.
- Lastly, work on building a strong rapport/relationship as a teammate first and a manager-employee relationship second — make them feel that you’re walking with them in building their career every step of the way — this builds cohesiveness in the team.
How have you leveraged data to develop a strategy?
- As the team lead, there have been scenarios where I’ve had to choose the right course of action by weighing multiple solutions against each other. Chart out the data, select the right success metrics, understand how it impacts the big picture and make a proposal.
- Even without immediate support, I conducted a pilot showcasing the efficacy of this approach. I carried out preliminary experiments, obtained, and analyze data to do a SWOT analysis -— understand the pros and cons of each approach, the near-term and far-term ripple effects of each and the trade-offs involved with each option.
How would you go about disciplining an employee who is continually under-performing?
- I would have given them the opportunity to improve their performance first and set those expectations. In this conversation, I would also ensure they understand what will happen if they do not improve their performance.
- However, if they are still under-performing, I would refer to the guidelines of the organization first to take the necessary action steps. Then I would meet with the employee and show them how they have not been performing.
- I would tie that to the action steps that are necessary from this point. We would then set expectations and a plan to improve performance. If the performance issues continue, then we will continue the disciplinary steps.
How do you handle different personalities of your employees?
- I get to know each person on an individual level so I can adjust my management style to suit each person effectively. It’s a positive thing to have people with different personalities because you can get a lot of different viewpoints that are valuable for ideation and decision-making.
Have you ever challenged the status quo?
- Yes, I looked at processes that have not been successful, to find ways to improve that process. Once I have my plan, I will take it to my leader. I keep to the facts and show how the current way of doing is not effective and how a new approach would be beneficial.
How would you handle a decision that you made that did not have the effect that you were expecting to achieve?
- I would trace the root-cause and try to minimize the damage. I would then take this as a learning opportunity and try a different solution for the current problem. However, if it is not possible to do this, I would ensure that I do not take the same decision in a future situation.
How do you evaluate what success is?
- I evaluate success by meeting the goals that have been set forth by my leaders and team.
What are your goals for the future if you are hired in this company?
- To continue to learn and take on additional responsibilities. I see myself contributing as much value as I can.
How will you hone your managerial skillset? / How do you keep updated on your management skills? / How will do you ensure your skills are being improved as you go?
- Online and offline aspects to honing your skillset.
- Online: Listening to feedback from both seniors and reports. When opportunities arise that provide a challenge to my current skills, I like to take on such tasks to hone my skillset further. A challenging experience is an opportunity to learn and grow.
- Offline: Reading managerial books, attending training that the company offers, attending seminars, attending courses at universities etc.
How do you show confidence in your employee’s ability when you assign them a task?
- When I delegate the task, I talk about how I thought that they were the best person to handle this task. I give them all the resources they need to achieve success. I follow-up and set deadlines as well. During these follow-ups and deadlines, I make sure to show my confidence in the person on their progress.
An employee reports a problem to you, how do you go about solving it?
- I will review all the relevant facts to consider options. I will then decide on the most appropriate action.
You are at a point with an employee that it is best to have them leave the organization. How would you go about the conversation?
- I would clearly state what the expectations from this person have been and the track record so far. I would tie that in with the decision that it is time to let them go from the organization due to performance goals not being met. In these situations, it’s important to stick to the facts.
An employee wants a promotion, however, he or she is not qualified for the new position. How would you have the conversation with the employee?
- I would sit them down and let them know what the qualifications are for the position and explain the reasons why they are not ready for the position. Then we would work with the employee to put together an action plan that will help them work on the skills they would need for the position. I would regularly check on how they are progressing to ensure they are on the right track.
How would you engage with your reports to understand their work status and provide feedback
- I take one of my team members out for a twenty-minute coffee break each day, on a rotating basis.
- These “dates” are scheduled ahead of time, so each person knows when their turn will be.
- Our one-on-one time allows them to raise any concerns or worries they might have, and lets me build rapport and privately provide constructive/productive, actionable feedback, if warranted.
How would you motivate your team?
- Motivation in the workplace can help lead to higher productivity levels. As a manager, it is important to help your team members stay motivated, especially when morale levels may be low. When answering this question, consider examples of how you were able to motivate your team during challenging times.
- Hiring managers want to see if you’re capable of motivating your team towards better performance. Remember that communication with your team is key, and if you can, use an example of how you motivated your team in the past.
- Answer 1:
- I believe that communication, blended with a positive and rewarding work environment, leads to motivated teams that perform well. However, it is important to realize that motivation isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so I like to really get to know my team on an individual level. Understand what makes people tick. People respond to different forms of motivation, so I try to motivate my employees using the method they prefer. In my last role, one team member told me she preferred regular positive reinforcement, while another wanted critical feedback on her projects. When our team faced high output pressure, I gave them the motivation they needed, and both employees consistently submitted good work.
- At my previous position, my team found themselves in a rut after the company made some hour cuts. At the time, I communicated with each of them individually about their concerns. Then, I talked to everyone as a group about our goals and inspired them with positive feedback about their role at our company. Doing so made them feel heard in the workplace, and increased their performance. Also, I believe that as a leader, I have to be the one who is constantly driving an atmosphere of positivity and focus. As the team’s cheerleader, I make sure that I’m keeping employees motivated by emphasizing the results and impact from the work we’ve done so far and how our work has influenced the big picture. While keeping track of goals is important, it is also important to celebrate as we accomplish them.
- Answer 3:
- Motivation isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so I like to really get to know my team on an individual level. I feel like this gives me a good feel for what works for each person. A few years ago, I was overseeing a sales team. While our numbers were good, they weren’t great, and a big part of that was a result of one of the members of the team dealing with a child going through cancer and chemo. Because of the gravity of the situation, I decided the team needed a good carrot-on-a-stick reward with a positive spin to it to get them excited about selling. I promised them, if they broke the previous year’s record, that I would shave my head and donate a portion of my salary to a local cancer charity that was working with the employee’s daughter. This didn’t just motivate the team, it completely re-energized them! Suddenly the entire group was working overtime and we expanded the challenge and turned it into a company-wide event. We not only broke the previous year’s record, but fifteen of the employees joined me in shaving their heads and we collected and donated over $5000 to the charity. We had so much fun that we turned it into an annual event that they are still participating in to this day.
How do you motivate an employee who is reluctant to take on an additional task?
- I take a look at their needs and perspectives to understand why they are reluctant. I would ensure that they have all the tools necessary to complete the task I would communicate the goal, gain commitment, and establish a reward or incentive that will motivate the employee.
When given a new team, how do you evaluate their current capabilities?
- Try to address not only how you’d adapt to a new team when hired, but also how you’d handle evaluating any new team members. Emphasize your ability to listen and learn about your team’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Before anything else I’d be sure to listen carefully in the workplace. My goal would be to understand each team member’s strengths and weaknesses. Next, if need be, I would talk privately to each team member about our projects and how they feel about their progress and the progress of their fellow team members.
What was the hardest decision you ever had to make as a leader?
- Interviewers want understand your decision-making process and how you handle difficult situations. Make sure that the example you use had a positive outcome, so you can show that you make good decisions under pressure.
- One time I was scheduled to have a vacation for two weeks, but a few days before I expected to leave there was an emergency at work. Being the team leader, it was my responsibility to manage the situation, no matter what. I made the decision to postpone my vacation, so that our project would be completed on time and to company standards, and I’m proud of myself for stepping up and being the leader my team needed at the time.
Name a leader who inspires you.
- Hiring managers want to understand your potential leadership style by taking a look at someone you look up to. You shouldn’t go grandiose with the question, rather, focus on the traits your person of choosing has that make them a good leader. Ideally, you should focus on past mentors, managers, or other people who had a direct influence on your life and your behavior.
- I always felt incredibly inspired by my college advisor, Prof. Andrew Ng. He always knew how to communicate with me in ways that guided me toward better decisions, and with his help my performance in college increased to the point that I made high honors. I will always appreciate him and his ability to lead me towards the goals he knew I could achieve.
Are you a risk taker?
- Hiring managers look out for candidates that take too many risks or can’t explain their decision-making process. This is a red flag for hiring managers, so explain that you aren’t a risky candidate.
- Not really. I rely on a structured decision-making process, as I believe that has a much more positive effect on my team.
What steps do you take to make sure that a project is completed timely, on budget, and to company standard?
- Employers want to get a general understanding of your managerial skills. Explain to them how and why you’re capable of managing a group of people in a way that will achieve the results they want.
- Communication is key! So first and foremost, I would be sure to communicate with my team about all the details of our project, as everyone needs to understand our timeline, budget and standards. Once everyone is on the same page, I would delegate certain team members to take on tasks they excel at (and are willing to pick up some new skills along the way — there’s a balance there), and carefully monitor everyone’s progress. I would also set intermediate deadlines in the form of checkpoints corresponding to the project’s milestones to make sure everyone stays on track.
When was the last time someone in your team approached you with a unique idea? What did you do?
- This question is asked to see if you’re open to creativity and new ideas, and more importantly, to understand if you’re willing to listen to others. Think of an example where you implemented an idea one of your team members had, and how that idea made some sort of improvement.
- When I was a manager at the gas station, one of my team members said that she noticed customers often buying mozzarella sticks and mac and cheese bites together, and recommended that we give a slight discount when they were purchased together. I obliged, and to my surprise our food sales increased by 15%. This is why I’m always willing to hear new ideas from my team.
Tell me about a time when you had to complete a task you’d never done before.
- Hiring managers want to assess your independent problem solving skills. As a leader, it’s important that you are able to solve problems and accomplish tasks yourself so you stand out as a good example for your team.
- While working at the gas station we had been given a new lottery game to add to our electronic system. The game relied on implementing a series of numbers at certain times of day, so it confused many people on my team. Fortunately, after reading the company instructions thoroughly, I spent some time practicing with the system and figured out the proper way to input information for the game. Afterward, I made sure to teach others on my team.
Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership on the job.
- Recruiters hope to learn about your experience as a leader. Ideally, you should use an example from the recent past, and be sure to focus on how your actions as a leader led to positive results.
- When I was working as a manager at my previous position there was a weekend where three different people on our team fell ill and weren’t able to come to work. Luckily contacted the regional manager and was able to pull a staff member from a different store to help. Of course, I also stepped up and took on any other shift responsibilities that weren’t met by my team that weekend.
What do you like about managing others?
- Interviewers want to understand why you want to lead and what your leadership style is. Remember to pull in some of those ideal traits mentioned previously. This question also gives you an ideal opportunity to show your passion for the position.
- As an empathetic person, I’ve always communicated well with others. As a result, being a manager has really allowed me to help the people on my team shine. Even though I am responsible and accountable for the team, I never worry because I know I can led us to our goals in a positive and productive way. This balance between supporting others and leading them is just something I’m passionate about getting right.
Which qualities are most important for a leader to have?
- This question is a test of your understanding of what makes a successful leader. Highlight the traits mentioned previously: positivity, prioritization, empathy, honesty, accountability, decisiveness, and flexibility. Out of these, I’d say prioritization, decisiveness and empathy are the pillars of being a good manager.
- I believe in any and all situations a successful leader will be able to prioritize and make decisive decisions that will positively benefit the team, or the project in question. They will do this by managing their empathy for the team with the company’s standards of performance. Even if a team member causes an issue, a good leader will take accountability for that issue and find a way to resolve it.
What do you believe creates a positive team culture?
- This question is useful for assessing if you’re a good choice for their company. Research the company ahead of time so that you can showcase yourself as someone who would fit seamlessly into their team culture.
- I think adaptability, respect, and communication create the best team cultures. As a manager I want to know that my team and I support each other in many ways. For example, if a team member is sick, I want to know that others will step up to take their shift, and if no one can, I will step up to create an example. Additionally, I want everyone on my team to feel comfortable coming to me with questions. In this way, I will make sure that everyone on my team takes care of each other.
Tell me about a time where you led by example.
- Interviewers need to test your ability to get your hands dirty and work as well as you expect your team too. Share an example of a time you helped a team member complete a task or stepped up to take on something for your team.
- When working at my previous position there was a time when our company implemented a new frozen coffee machine. I gave my team the instructional pamphlet on how to operate and clean the machine, however, they found the instructions very confusing. Therefore, I called a team meeting and used the instructions to show them myself how to work and clean the machine. Stepping up and showing them first hand helped immensely, and afterwards no one had an issue with the machine.
How would you describe your management/leadership style?
- Sometimes it seems that there are as many formulas and paradigms for describing leadership styles as there are people to lead. This article reveals eight different styles, but to make it simple, I’ll provide four that I like to reference:
- Direct: when leaders know what they want, outline their expectations, and are not afraid to speak up or confront others
- Relational: when managers lead by forming strong connections with others
- Visionary: when leaders have big ideas and easily find out-of-the-box solutions
- Operational: when managers are focused on the processes of how work gets done
- As a leader you might have two or even three blended styles, but for this question, you’ll want to talk about the style you use most and give examples of when and how it has worked to get people motivated and essentially do their work more efficiently.
- This question gives you the opportunity to describe your management approach and why you believe it to be successful. Remember to ground your answer with concrete examples of how your particular style has delivered results.
- Answer 1:
- While I frequently communicate with my team in order to gauge progress toward our goal and ensure we are meeting deadlines, I allow my team to define their daily schedules and complete their responsibilities without micromanaging. When I led my last team team of 15, I found that everyone performed their best when I made myself available to answer questions and provide support while letting them work independently. Also, I am a relationship builder. I get to know my employees and work on gaining their trust and confidence. At the same time, I am very direct and to the point in my communication style so there is no ambiguity in my messages.
- Answer 2:
- I trust my team. I start out every project by making sure that I give clear directions and outline our overall goals, but I make a real effort not to micromanage. I prefer to remain hands-off when it comes to individual tasks, but at the same time, I’m always available for help, guidance and assistance when needed. I like to know what’s going on with regular informal check-ins, but I try not to make people feel like I’m breathing down their necks or forcing everyone to sacrifice valuable work time in order to hold unnecessary team meetings. I was on a large software project a few years ago that had five people each working on a separate piece of code that would eventually get put together into one large program. Rather than have people start and stop work to participate in group sessions, I set up a communication board that allowed us to message instantly either as a group or individually. I also included a status update section where we could post what we were all working on and how it was going. It allowed me to stay up to date on every aspect of the project without being intrusive and gave us all a way to work together. It also made it possible for anyone to reach me at any time with issues and problems, allowing us to problem solve quickly. The entire program was finished on time and the board was such a successful idea that I now use it with every project I work on.
How do you define success?
- I find a lot of value in setting goals, outlining the steps required to achieve those goals, and then completing those steps. This not only allows me to break down the big picture into easily actionable parts, but also gives me a good overall idea of what needs to be accomplished. Each box I check off on my list of tasks is a small success on the way to the larger finished project. I was tasked with leading a team of seven employees last year. We had been assigned the massive task of reorganizing a technical manual library that hadn’t been updated in years. It was an overwhelming task overall, but by breaking it down aisle by aisle, and even shelf by shelf, we were able to take what felt like a monster project and turn it into easy to accomplish tasks. I also included rewards and incentives for completing sections to keep us going. Not only were we able to finish by the deadline, but by adding the fun and challenge elements to the project, we remained motivated and weren’t burned out at the end, in itself a major success.
How do you manage stress among your team members?
- While I find I do some of my best work under pressure, I know not everybody works that way which is why I like to keep a close eye on how everyone on my team is doing. If I start to notice stress or negativity within the team, I try to tackle it quickly and proactively. I’ll talk with the individuals and assess the situation and see exactly how I can help alleviate it. A few years ago, I was on a group project where we were tasked with finishing a large design for a client. Each of the team members were assigned a separate part of the project with the idea that we would come together at the end and present the final product. While the majority of the team worked well together, there was one individual who was consistently missing deadlines and slowing things down. This created friction and stress among the members of the group. Rather than let the issue fester and potentially jeopardize the project overall, I took the employee aside and we discussed what was going on. He confided that he was having some personal issues that were cutting into his work time. We went over some options and came up with a solution where he was able to switch his hours around and adjust his schedule to accommodate this issue. As a result, he was able to catch up with the group, we finished on time, and the client was ecstatic with the final results.
How do you handle conflict between team members?
- Some level of conflict in the workplace is inevitable. However, a strong manager knows how to address challenging moments like these in ways that unite the team and improve the workplace. This question gives you an opportunity to discuss a time you resolved tension among your team.
- Answer 1:
- I believe that communication is the key to solving disagreements on the team. While working at my previous position, there was a situation where two team members had a disagreement over their daily tasks. My first step was to approach them individually and get their perspectives, so I could understand the situation better. After understanding each side, I understood their viewpoints and worked on finding a mutual solution for the conflict. Next, I arranged a group discussion on how we could meet in the middle, proposed my solution and mediated a resolution. I used data-driven dialogues wherever possible to make a point. This discussion led to them taking on tasks they believed were more evenly distributed, and that solved the disagreement. We also setup a new task delegation process so the issue would not occur again in the future.
- Answer 2:
- When I led my last team, two employees had a miscommunication about which assignments they needed to complete, leaving a large part of our project unfinished by the deadline. This led to a disagreement between the employees, as each team member insisted they had done their part correctly. I reviewed the correspondence between the two coworkers and found that they had both misunderstood their roles in this project. I reassigned the remaining tasks to each employee based on their availability, and we finished the campaign for the client as quickly as possible. The three of us worked on a new task delegation process so the issue would not occur again in the future.
- Answer 2:
- There are always two sides to every story, which is why it’s so important to me to remain as neutral and open-minded as possible whenever I hear of conflict between teammates. I was in a situation a few years ago where two members of my team were clearly unhappy with each other. Rather than let it fester or ignoring it with the hope that they would be able to work it out themselves, I sat down with them individually and asked them to explain what was going on. We discussed reasonable and professional solutions that worked for both parties and the matter was resolved.
Tell me about a time two employees had conflicts and you were unable to successfully handle them.
- It’s great if you were able to resolve issues among your reports, but interviewers know this isn’t always possible. Don’t be nervous about talking about your failures. Instead, use these as an opportunity to showcase your ability to learn and change your management philosophy when something isn’t working.
- Last year, I had two of my reports who had contrasting viewpoints about how to tackle some of our tasks and I found them inadvertently stepping on each other’s toes.
- There was a lot of learn from this opportunity - I realized there’s a couple of things I could do differently. I could have gauged the situation sooner, and rather than letting the situation fester, I could have assigned them different tasks to avoid conflicts.
Tell me about a time you let an employee go.
- Nobody likes firing people, but there are times and situations when it just has to happen. One summer I was working as a supervisor for a local pool. We had a lifeguard who was consistently late to the job. As his supervisor, it fell to me to talk to him about this situation. I pulled him aside on three occasions and spoke with him about why he was late and how that was a violation of the company policy and how the fourth time would be grounds for his dismissal. I made sure to keep the HR team involved with every step and properly document each meeting. Unfortunately, he was tardy a fourth time and I had to let him know that he was being terminated. It wasn’t an easy task, but it had to be done.
Give an example of a tough decision you had to make.
- When making professional decisions, I like to keep in mind the good of the company before I consider personal feelings. A few years ago, I was in a situation where I was responsible for hiring a new team member for a large project we were working on. I had managed to narrow the selection down to two candidates; a new hire who was perfect for the job and another, established employee who was not quite the right fit for the position but whom I considered a personal friend. While I would have loved to hire my friend, it wouldn’t have been the right choice for the company, so I hired the new employee. When my friend asked me why I had made that decision, I explained it to him. We discussed other opportunities that he would be a better fit for. At the time it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right one and one I would make again.
How do you delegate tasks to your team?
- Managers have to be cognizant of how work is distributed throughout their team. They need to know the details of who does what and who has authority over final decisions in shared tasks—plus they must make sure that these things are clearly communicated. For example, who needs to see the contents of an email communication before it gets sent out? And does the email manager or communications director have final say if they disagree on something in the message? Hiring managers, in addition to seeing that you understand the importance of role clarity—that workers know what their job is—want to be sure that as manager you don’t attempt to take on the entire workload as a way of making sure it gets done, but rather that you’ll effectively distribute it to your reports.
- Your story for answering this question could include what you did at a time when the workload was very heavy and you helped the team distribute the work and collaborate, what you did when there was a gray area as to who did what and how you helped straighten it out, or what you did at a time when a deadline was approaching and the team needed additional resources. Companies also want to see that you work to understand the dynamics of your team—who excels at what tasks, who can handle more work, who needs more time off, and who needs tasks that will challenge them to grow, for example.
- Here are some things not to do when answering this question:
- Complain about a boss who couldn’t delegate
- Tell stories about how difficult distributing work can be without saying how you’ve solved this problem
- Fail to acknowledge the complexities that are sometimes involved in delegating
- When managing, the ability to identify the team member best suited to a task is essential. In your response, show the interviewer how you recognize your team’s talents and assign tasks accordingly. Companies want to see that you work to understand the dynamics of your team—who excels at what tasks, who can handle more work, who needs more time off, and who needs tasks that will challenge them to grow, for example. Emphasize that you would delegate your team to work certain tasks based on their skills — you’ll want to know who is proficient at what and give them positions to match their proficiencies.
- Answer 1:
- I aim to identify my team members’ personal strengths first. Once I understand the group as a network of individuals, I can then delegate the tasks in order to build an efficient team. In my last position, I met with each member of my department once a week to talk about their progress, issues they may have been experiencing and any opportunities they wanted to pursue. One employee felt that her strengths were not being fully utilized. I found some more challenging responsibilities for her, and our entire department’s productivity increased as a result.
- Answer 2:
- I prefer to delegate tasks based on the aptitude/proficiency/competency of each team member for the task at hand. Prior to delegation, I like to sit down with my team and discuss the project. We break it down and determine exactly what needs to get done and who is the best person for each task. I review each assignment personally and make sure that the individual it’s assigned to has the level of knowledge and skills to complete the task in the time required. A few years ago I was brought in to replace a project manager in a store that was, for lack of a better word, failing. The sales team was unmotivated, the customer complaints were a mile long, and the entire store was dirty and disorganized. We closed shop for 24-hours so I could sit down with the entire team and discuss what was going on. Within an hour of talking to the employees, I discovered that the previous manager had spent their time pitting team members against each other, scheduled work hours and tasks based on who they personally liked, not what the employees had actually been hired to do, and had made working there miserable for most of the employees. We completely restructured the entire team based on what each person’s strengths and skills were. We also spent the rest of the day cleaning and reorganizing the store. The next day we opened with everyone in their new roles and with new tasks assigned. Within a week we were doing better numbers than had been done the month prior, and within six months the store had become one of the top performing stores in the area. It made me feel so good knowing that I had helped turn the store around and all it had taken was actually listening to what the employees had to say and delegating them tasks and responsibilities based on their skills and strengths.
- Answer 3:
- I believe the best way to delegate team members is to balance congregating those who work well (tag team) together with assigning each person whatever task they’re most proficient at. To do this, I would first listen to my team and work to understand the natural role each team member excels at. Next, I would try to figure out which team members work well together, and hopefully find some overlap (and complements) in their skills. Another dimension to this is if the task involves a skill that someone on the team is interested in learning. If it is the latter, it is important to provide support and check in regularly to ensure that it’s completed correctly. Further, it is also critical to set up milestones for the employee to understand how they are progressing and if the task is on track for successful completion within the decided timeframe. Only after assembling this information would I begin to delegate tasks to my team members.
How do you reason about engineering excellence-type work with less-technical partners? / How do you work with less- or non-technical colleagues such as designers or project managers?
- In my current job at Apple, interacting with people from non-technical backgrounds such as marketing, product designers, finance etc. is something I deal with fairly regularly.
- With less-technical or not-technical people, it is important to not get caught up in the low-level implementation details but think in terms of the big picture. How will doing X impact the overall success of our product? How will it matter in the long run? How will it improve our metrics? and most importantly, will our customers love this change and welcome it with open arms?
- It’s important to think in terms of the big picture with less-technical partners because while they may might not be able to understand the specifics of how a particular change matters from an engineering standpoint, the bottom line is the big picture success of the product which every team working on a product cares about.
- Also, if you understand the metrics that matter to them, their jargon, you can translate the impact in engineering land to how their metrics would be impacted with a particular change.
What was the biggest challenges you faced during your current job and how did you handle it?
- Last year, we had this charter of introducing a 0->1 product which involved improving the performance metrics for the entire portfolio of Siri’s AI-powered features for the newest version of one of our most powerful products. Each device class has its own feature set offerings, thereby creating this matrix of features vs. device classes. As the team lead responsible for the success of Apple’s products from an AI performance perspective. one of the biggest challenges I came across was in getting which had an impact across the entire AI, SW stack and even the underlying HW.
- This involved working with 20 diverse teams across different parts of the company ranging from not just teams within the engineering orgs such as AI, SW, HW but also product management, marketing, finance etc.
- This was a highly visible and impactful charter but executing on it was a big challenge.
- At Apple, each team is basically a startup and teams work in their own silos. Getting all of these diverse teams on the same page, interfacing with them, understanding their metrics of success, convincing them on get on-board and under the same roof to engage together and deliver on this project was a herculean task.
- We worked hard on this for over eight months, with internal sync-ups twice a week and exec reviews every week. We eventually shipped this product that was loved by our customers, but we can proudly say this was one of the best products we ever shipped as a company.
- This product by the way, is the Mac Pro that Apple currently ships, the fastest Mac we’ve ever made.
Describe the current product you are working on and what is your role? Why was the project important to the company? What technology did you choose? Why?
- My team’s charter is to revamp the AI portfolio of Apple’s iPhone, Macs and iPads. We’re responsible for charting together a roadmap of AI features powered by new AI models and architectures, working hand-in-hand with product managers, and driving each feature to completion from a prototyping standpoint while ensuring that we’re hitting the constraints of each device class in terms of the functional and performance goals, say accuracy/PR for performance and latency/battery life for the performance metrics. We accomplish this by coming up with either on-device AI architectures (using techniques such as quantization, pruning, knowledge distillation etc.) — so porting models typically run on backend servers to device — or improve scalability of our models by downsizing them while making minimal accuracy tradeoffs.
- Every year, Apple announces a new set of devices — our work features in these on-stage launch events in terms of device features, some of them are the device’s unique selling points. This also means that if a certain feature we’ve promised has been derailed, or isn’t on-track, me and my team are responsible for figuring out plan-Bs.
- My role, as the TLM, is to brainstorm new AI architectures with my team which will support new features for upcoming devices, ensure projects are on track and most importantly, make sure my engineers have the tools they need, are happy with their work, the tasks assigned to them and are growing professionally.
Tell me about a time when you had to convince senior executives.
- In my last role at Apple, I was a team lead who was responsible for ensuring the success of several Mac products. During one of these projects (which was scheduled to launch in the next three weeks), we encountered a last-minute issue with the product where we observed that as we ran some of our computationally-intensive neural workloads, we weren’t seeing the level of performance we expected. This resulted in the project coming to a screeching halt which in turn, jeopardized our launch timeline for the product.
- My team was responsible for figuring out potential fixes to this issue. Being the team lead, I sprung into action right away, and got my team to huddle up in a meeting room. After spending a couple of hours brainstorming with the team, we figured out some solutions that could help us fix the issue and thus unblock the project.
- I created a slide deck that provided an overview of all the options, with the pros and cons of each, along with a recommendation of choice. Shortly after, I presented these options to our SVPs. During this presentation, our execs seemed to be hinging towards choosing one of the other options we’d explored rather than the one we proposed. The one they seemed to be interested in the first option that was cheaper but was more of a band-aid fix while what we were recommending would be more costly but would not have repercussions across other usage modes for this device. In other words, we had to choose between long-term value vs. short-term results. We took the calculated risk of delivering a fix that not only nipped the issue in the bud but also ensured this issue wouldn’t crop up in future generations of projects.
- After some discussion, we agreed on me running some preliminary experiments and presenting them with an analysis comparing both approaches. I presented several charts packed with data over the next day. Not only did I have to make them understand the repercussions of the cheaper fix, which basically involved the risk of creating other potential issues, but also made them understand how we could accomplish this within an acceptable timeline by presenting a plan, thereby not risking the launch of the product. The execs proposed a few small changes to the proposed approach and eventually went with the option we recommended. They even really appreciated my stand.
- This led to us eventually shipping the product with great success and no customer complaints of this issue.
Most decisions are made with analysis, but some are judgment calls not susceptible to analysis due to time or information constraints. Please write about a judgment call you’ve made recently that couldn’t be analyzed. It can be a big or small one, but should focus on a business issue. What was the situation, the alternatives you considered and evaluated, and your decision making process? Be sure to explain why you chose the alternative you did relative to others considered.
- One of the biggest judgment calls I’ve had to make in my career was for the launch of the most recent iPhone. As a team lead in my current role at Apple, I was responsible for the success of several products from a system performance standpoint. The iPhone, which was then scheduled to launch in three weeks, encountered a last-minute blocker because certain computationally intensive neural workloads weren’t delivering the level of performance we needed to launch the product. This failure mode arose due to a malfunctioning use-case with a new AI-based feature which, as one of the device’s unique selling points, was critical to the success of the product. This resulted in the project coming to a screeching halt, which in turn, jeopardized our launch timeline for the product.
- Given our looming launch deadline and the risk of derailing it, I immediately reported the issue to senior management. Since this project was due for launch with a public event and event invites were being readied to be sent over to the press, it was critical for us to weigh our options quickly and come up with a game plan to get the project back on track. Moving the launch date wasn’t an option given the company’s decade-long ritual to launch products during the holiday season. On the other hand, not handling the issue with meticulousness meant risking the relationship Apple had built with its customers over nearly half a century of tireless innovation.
- As the lead of a team that was centrally positioned in architecting the AI stack of this product, I stepped up to drive this issue to closure. To this end, I scheduled a round of daily reviews with our executives. My team ran experiments and gathered data, while I worked with cross-functional partners to review data internally and ensure big-picture alignment, before presenting the data to executives. As the root-cause of the issue became apparent after some experimentation, we started to analyze potential workarounds and fixes for the issue at hand. As the team lead, I huddled up my team and facilitated brainstorming sessions, which led us to have a good handle on a few paths ahead that could help de-risk the project. I created and presented a slide deck in our daily reviews to Senior VPs that provided an overview of all the options, with the pros and cons of each, along with a recommendation of choice. However, given that we had a short runway to launch, we had limited time to carry out extensive experimentation and had to base our decision off of preliminary experiments. My recommendation of the path ahead was more of a workaround (which would be easier to accommodate in the limited time we had available, thereby de-risking our launch) vs. the ideal option of redoing significant parts of the feature which was more involved and could push our timeline out (but ensure the feature behaves per expectations across the various usage modes for the device). Given the fact that the launch of a project that was central to our roadmap was at stake, we took the calculated risk of implementing the workaround while ensuring that we had a rigorous pipeline in place that looked for customer failures related to the issue to ensure that we were offering the level of experience our customers expected with their newest Apple device.
- Eventually, this led to us signing off on the launch per the intended timeline. We unveiled the product to the public with much fanfare, it was well-received by our customers and was in fact one of the projects that we’re most proud of as a team. While this last-minute diving catch was Indeed critical to the success of this project, but what was more important at this stage was that we handle issues of this kind in a systematic way to avoid risking customer experience in the future. After the launch, as we reflected on the issue as a team, we came up with a testing pipeline composed of extensive functional, performance, and stress tests that ensured we do not let such failure scenarios crop up in future generations of the product, thereby nipping the issue in the bud.
Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with one of your XF partners and had to meet in the middle?
- In my last role at Apple, I was a team lead who was responsible for ensuring the success of several Mac products. During one of these projects, we encountered an issue where we found a nasty bug with the project which resulted in it hitting a roadblock/coming to a screeching halt. (Or I was presenting slides to senior leadership reporting on the status of the newest set of AI-powered features we were looking to introduce with the launch of the latest iPhone).
- My team was responsible for figuring out potential fixes to this issue. After some brainstorming sessions, we figured out some solutions that could help us fix the issue and thus unblock the project.
- I created a slide deck that provided an overview of all the options, with the pros and cons of each, along with a recommendation of choice. I ran these slides by our XF partners to make sure they were in agreement before we further presented these slides to our SVPs. However, one of XF partners in HW engineering were against our recommendation and seemed to be hinging towards choosing one of the other options rather than the one we proposed (The XF partner did not agree with our methodology. In particular, they seemed to not agree with our success metrics). I offered to understand why this was the case, what was leading to this choice and why our proposal wasn’t something we could all agree on.
- It turned out that the option we were suggesting did not work favorably well for the success metrics they were monitoring (we were monitoring latency vs. they were interested in memory footprint/battery life), and our numbers weren’t in an acceptable range based on those metrics. We worked together hand-in-hand over the next couple of days and tailored our proposal a bit, met in the middle and mended our proposal with something that would be acceptable for both parties. We presented this to senior management, and because our XF partners had already bought into our proposal, the meeting went smoothly and we proceeded with the implementation of our final proposal.
- This led to us eventually shipping the product with great success and no customer complaints of this issue.
- Reflecting on this episode, to ensure we prevent such conflicts from happening again, I instated a series of biweekly sync ups to make sure we review data from each other’s teams, make sure our projects are hitting our respective success metrics and built a lasting relationship along the way.
Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with one of your XF partners and had to compromise?
- In my last role at Apple, I was a team lead who was responsible for ensuring the success of several Mac products. As part of my role, I’d report on the current status of our programs biweekly to execs to give them an idea of how we’re doing with the development of our projects.
- During one of these presentations, while I presented on customer-perceived metrics such as latency, power, memory footprint etc. for a ton of our workloads, a cross functional partner, who was also in the room let us know that they did not agree with the metrics we had reported our data on. They mentioned that the issue was that the metrics were reported in an offline setting, in a unit-level environment rather than in an online environment just like with the OS running as in an end-user scenario. Turns out, they were working on a different set of features which exercised the same tech stack and could thus seek the same hardware resources (for e.g., by having our hey siri keyword spotter run alongside our text dictation feature).
- Running related features side-by-side which were exercising similar stacks within the operating system could lead to the system having to juggle different tasks with the same underlying resources, thereby creating bottlenecks.
- To fix this gap in our testing, I got the software engineers on my team to help us create a new framework that could run tests from different sources in parallel to emulate how an end-user would use the device in mission-mode. We worked on this for the next 2 months and as a stop-gap, got our QA teams to run hand-run tests and reported data from these experiments in the meanwhile. We also began reporting results incrementally as different aspects of our framework came up, in order to flush out any issues with our pipeline. Once we had the entire framework up and running, we were able to report on metrics that were customer-centric, metrics that resembled the experience of an end-user using our features.
- To make sure both of our teams were in sync, I setup weekly syncs with our cross functional partner to run our data by them and ensure we were running the right test cases and emulating the right customer scenarios.
- We continue to use this framework to this day, and report results over an ever increasing set of tests to get our execs an idea of how our in-development projects are doing from a standpoint of customer success.
What is the most inventive or innovative thing you’ve done? It doesn’t have to be something that’s patented. It could be a process change, product idea, a new metric or customer facing interface – something that was your idea. It cannot be anything your current or previous employer would deem confidential information. Please provide us with context to understand the invention/innovation. What problem were you seeking to solve? Why was it important? What was the result? Why or how did it make a difference and change things?
- To battle issues we were seeing in the field (and thus improve our most critical metric, which was customer experience), we curated a bunch of functional, performance and stress tests and developed an automated pipeline that could run our tests on a wide range of platforms and report back results overnight. This way, not only were we covering a matrix of customer use-cases via our tests but also devices.
What would you view as your personal strengths?
- My personal strengths are a blend of (i) clear communication and goal-setting, (ii) leading by empathy, (iii) partnering up with my reports to help write their success story, and (iv) active listening. I think these three areas are the pillars of an effective manager.
- Here’s why — clear and crisp communication is essential for my team to know what the focus points are for the team in terms of projects and deliverables.
- Leading by empathy is critical for an employee to know that we are team-mates first, and manager-empoyee second. It goes a long way in building loyal reports.
- Partering up with reports in carving their career path is another area which is essential to build a solid professional realtionship. The employee needs to know that I’m working with them at every step of the way to steer their career in the direction they like, by coming up with ideas and projects they can explore to hone their desired skills and thereby ensure their success.
- Lastly, active listening is probably the most underrated trait when it comes to being an effective manager — pay attention to feedback from both directions — your employees and senior management. This helps in staying on top of management’s focus areas, issues and conflicts in the workplace and the employees’ happiness levels.
Lessons learned as a manager?
- The success of your employees is the bottomline (i.e, the ultimate success metric) — a happy employee is someone is not someone who is just satisfied with their job, but more importantly, delivering to their full potential, uplifting their fellow workers and peers and helps in creating a positive work environment that everyone appreciates.
What do you look for when you hire an engineer?
- I have scaled my team from 2 candidates to 7 in the AI research org at Apple. Hiring people especially in research requires the right blend/mix of aptitude, curiosity, passion and soft skills.
- People should not just have the right technical chops, but also the right energy levels to be curious and passionate.
- Lastly, communication is probably the most underrated trait when it comes to hiring, but clear and crisp communication is critical for the success of an employee.
What’s your ideal team?
- An ideal team would be the right blend/mix of subject matter experts such as ML research scientists who set the overall big-picture vision for our projects (who can be consulted by junior engineers in case they need guidance/direction), SW engineers who own the development of frameworks, QA engineers who help write test cases and integrity checks to test our features using the frameworks. Lastly, we also have program managers that help us run our sprint planning meetings and ensure tasks stay on track.
How do you support Senior Engineers? Low Performers?
- There is no one-size-fits-all apporach to keeping employees happy. Engage with them at an individual level, say in your 1:1s and figure out what makes this particular report tick. But there are some strategies I follow to support my engineers. A two-pronged approach to keep employees motivated by offering them their motivation of choice.
- Having a direct conversation with your engineers on their goals and expectations out of their careers usually offers you a good signal as to what you should focus on. Some employees care about honing the right skillset, some like crticial feedback to help them improve, some like relationship building in terms of say cross-funcitonal exposure, some are looking to grow their managerial skills — I keep an eye out for these signals by listening actively.
- To tackle low performers, I follow a similar strategy — I have a conversation with them in a 1:1 setting and try to understand the source of their performance bottlenecks and hinderances. I lead with empathy and offer help if the employee has had a personal situation.
- It is important to also celebrate the wins, the positive impact and results we’ve had so far in the team.
How would you turn around a troubled project?
- The first step is to understand the timelines for the project (to get a sense of urgency). Let’s assume the project has an impending deadline. Rather than having a knee-jerk reaction, I’d resort to communicate/engage with people in the team — not just the senior engineers or leads on the team managing the tasks — but also the junior engineers working on getting the tasks done. Program managers, QA teams and product managers as well. This would give me an idea of what’s been holding people back and the issues the project is grappling with. Is it the leads who aren’t setting the right priorities? Or are they, but the priorities don’t align with the goals of our business unit? Is it the junior engineers who do not have the right resources, in terms of say SMEs to clarify their doubts, as they go about implementing features of a product in code? Are there team conflicts? Is it the program managers who are causing feature creep, which means adding a new set of features every now and then, and not freezing the problem statement we’re working on? Is it the program managers now carrying out sprint planning meetings? Are the QA teams not doing exhaustive testing to make sure not just common cases but also corner cases are hit? It could also be a combination of factors at play.
- Once the root-cause is figured out, the battle is half won. The next step is to de-risk the project by coming up a plan to fix these plauging issues. We engage with the right partners and make them understand the urgency here and why we need to do things differently here for our project to succeed. No pointing fingers — keeping it professional — but getting people to understand why they need to course-correct is key here. Partner up with the relevant folks to review their current plan and suggest modifications to it — hopefully meet in the middle — and the next thing you know, things are back on track.
How did you set technical direction?
- At the beginning of the quarter, we come up with a range of OKRs and KPIs that guide the north-star for the project. While coming up with the overall big-picture vision for the project, I make sure to consult my team leads, subject matter experts in my team and our XFN to ensure we focus on the right
- Next, I involve my engineers and let them choose the tasks they’d like to take on to ensure we’re not just getting work done but also supporting our employees and building great manager-employee relationships in return.
How do you define the product strategy? Questions around project execution.
- When we conceive an idea, I work with product managers to chalk out the AI features we’ll be working on for this product. I make sure to loop in subject matter experts from my teams and XF partners to get their buy-in. I also run the features we’ve concevied by my engineers and make sure I have their buy-in into our plans.
How do you evaluate a good team?
- There are various success metrics such as our whether our deliverables are on track, are we influencing the big-picture, innovating in our specialization areas, etc. However, I’d say the ultimate success metric is employee happiness and satisfcation.
- To know how good a team is doing, ask your employees :)
How do you course-correct a team that’s become unhealthy?
- I’d first speak to the team’s reports 1:1 and understand their concerns. Is it conflicts with peers/XFN, is it people stepping on toes, is
- In one particular instance, in my team, analyze the team’s fa
How do you help develop people in your team?
- Ensuring my employee’s success at work begins right when I hire them.
- I have crafted training programs for my team that I use to onboard them. These program contain all the resources needed for them to learn the ropes and succeed in their day-to-day responsibilities. Links to the team’s confluence pages, papers to read, — so they don’t feel lost in their new home :)
- Next, in my 1:1s, I make sure to check in with them in terms of the skills they’re looking to develop, projects they are interested in doing to ensure we’re not just getting work done but also supporting our employees and building great manager-employee relationships in return. I ask them what they want to do and tie it in with my vision.
- Lastly, I hold dedicated career conversations with each employee every month to make sure we’re they are happy in the job and chalk out a grow path for their career.
- At Facebook, the great managers are supporting, they’re taking care of people, they’re reinforcing people’s strengths, they’re trying to make sure they get the opportunities to learn and grow in their jobs.
Tell me about a time when you had to say no to a report
- Every quarter, I huddle up my team to do roadmap planning using OKRs and KPIs.
- We decide on the focus-areas for the year’s projects and our game plan for each — the kind of features we’ll be working on, the depth of every feature, the kind of performance and capacity constraints we’ll be dealing with (in terms of latency, memory and battery life/power).
- During one such session, one of my reports was interested in pursuing a particular feature in depth, given the feature fell in the realm of the skills they wanted to hone.
- Unfortunately, we did not have the resources within the team to get them to work on this feature, since we had to commit to work on project that were relatively more crticial to the company’s roadmap.
- This meant I had to say no to my report to delve deeper on this project which obviously left them disappointed. The silver lining is that, I did some homework at my end, and identified one of our sister teams focusing on this project in depth. I got my report to co-ordinate with this team and helped setup a charter to have my report work with them and help them out a bit. In this process, the report picked up the skills they desired and were really grateful to me for it.
- So this basically turned out to be a win-win situation.
Tell me about a time when you didn’t have enough data to make the right decision. What did you do? What path did you take? Did the decision turn out to be the correct one?
- In my current role at Amazon, I’ve setup a process that we follow to launch new models for the services we own for Alexa. This process basically involves online A/B testing after obtaining evaluation metrics by undergoing offline testing. A couple of months ago, we received a ticket from our VP related to an issue he had with an Alexa device which was recognizing him as his son and offering him recommendations personalized to his son. Considering this came from an internal escalation as well as a bunch of customers, this was a high-priority case for us.
- Given the urgency here, I stepped up immediately and huddled up the team kicking off a brainstorming session. I set up daily syncs to drive this issue to closure. After mining through relevant utterances from our database, we narrowed down the issue to the model not having seen utterances with the kitchen range turned on along with road noise. Working with our Alexa recording studio, we were able to obtain a couple of hundred utterances and have them annotated with annotation teams. However, the challenge here was to launch a new model that fixed this scenario but that went through our validation pipeline (which involved 2 months of online testing after offline testing to gather results) to ensure it didn’t introduce other performance regressions.
- We couldn’t offer sub-standard performance for several months to our VP. We thus relied on our best judgement and intuition and came up with a streamlined evaluation procedure by setting up a limited, ad-hoc yet representative dataset to obtain proxy metrics while ensuring we do not introduce additional regressions. This band-aid “fix” had a wider error bars in terms of confidence interval for our metrics, which we estimated and accommodated. We thus used a combination of techniques and intuition to make a judgement call here.
- We cautiously rolled out the new model to a a small proportion of our customers and implemented rigorous real-time monitoring to ensure there were no major issues in the field. The end result is that we were able to fix the issue and over time, do a worldwide roll out.
- Looking back, to ensure we do not fall into the same pitfalls again with this issue, we setup a dedicated project to analyze and rev-visit our evaluation data distribution to understand the kind of cases we cover and apply augmentation techniques to improve coverage.
Tell me about a time when you strongly disagreed with your manager or peer on something you considered very important to the business. What was it and how did you handle it? Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently?
Describe a time when you took an unpopular stance in a meeting with peers and your leader. What was it? Why did you feel strongly about it? What did you do? What was the outcome?
- In this particular instance which occurred in my current role at Amazon, senior leadership wanted us to undertake a project beyond our current charter. We had already finalized OP1/OP2 planning, so we had decided all the projects we were planning to deliver on and headcount allocation was also done as part of the process.
- I started off trying to understand the motivation behind pursuing this area, given that we’d already finalized our set of projects. (Every single person on the team had been mapped to a project area, in most cases multiple project areas, and were already stretched thin.) I was told that this project had been explored by parallel teams within our broader org in multiple different contexts (speech recognition, wakeword detection) which had piqued leadership’s curiosity in the context of our use-case, thereby suggesting us to experiment with it.
- Had there been a clear RoI here, this was a no-brainer to re-evaluate our plans with agility. However, discussing with SMEs, we found that the gains observed with our models might be limited given our use-cases had several fundamental differences (lexical emphasis for ASR models vs. phonetic emphasis with our models).
- (Carrying out a preliminary experiment to judge the RoI of this area was not possible given the fact that the distribution of locales that could be impacted were to be empirically figured out based on a dedicated representative evaluation dataset per locale.)
- While I disagreed with pursuing this idea based on the limited RoI associated with this project and especially given that the team and I had done our due diligence in identifying exploration areas with better RoI, my role was to rally the team behind this decision without compromising morale. Setting aside our personal preferences, we committed to wholeheartedly exploring this project showing agility. I huddled up the team and articulated leadership’s vision while addressing the team’s concerns.
- This ensured that the team got to work on this project feeling valued, included, and heard throughout the process.
- Ultimately, after the project ended, we found that we achieved a better metrics lift than what we initially expected, and it had the by-product of streamlining our model development pipeline with the broader org.
Tell me about a time when you had to be very strategic in order to meet all of your top priorities
- In my previous sales role, I was put in charge of the transfer to an entirely new customer relationship management (CRM) system—on top of handling my daily sales calls and responsibilities.
- The goal was to have the migration to the new CRM database completed by Q3, without letting any of my own sales numbers slip below my targets.
- In order to do that, I had to be very careful about how I managed all of my time. So, I blocked off an hour each day on my calendar to dedicate solely to the CRM migration. During that time, I worked on transferring the data, as well as cleaning out old contacts and updating outdated information. Doing this gave me enough time to chip away at that project, while still handling my normal tasks.
- As a result, the transfer was completed two weeks ahead of deadline and I finished the quarter 10% ahead of my sales goal.
What Is Your Leadership Approach to Managing Diverse Teams and Being Sensitive to and Inclusive of All Your Staff?
- Don’t answer this question by simply spouting off the talking points from your last diversity training. You need to show your interviewers how your values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice play out in the workplace, says Tameka Nikki Andrews, who has managed teams in nonprofits, tech, finance, and advertising; has extensive experience with DEI work; and is now the founder of the creative consulting agency Flannel and Blade. As a manager, you might supervise employees across spectrums of gender, race, sexuality, age, class, and more, Andrews says. So she says companies want to know: “How are you going to make sure that your own biases and narratives don’t negatively impact the way you manage people?” and “How do you effectively create a healthy and productive…team, when everyone is so different from one another?”
- As a manager, it is your responsibility to be self-aware and educated on DEI best practices in hiring, performance reviews, and conflict management. Leaders with unexamined unconscious biases perpetuate the passing over and/or silencing of people of color, the stealing of ideas (usually by men from women), and the proliferation of micro-aggressions ranging from sexually inappropriate to racially insensitive comments, to name a few.
- Tell a story about how you helped people work across differences by building bridges to different perspectives and communication styles, or tell a story about how you learned about differences through making a mistake.
- Do not explain that you don’t pay much attention to these issues because you are “colorblind,” are more focused on hitting goals, or were taught to tolerate other people’s opinions—even if those opinions are harmful to others.
How Do You Give Feedback and Hold People Accountable?
- In addition to making sure that your team gets their work done and that it’s high quality, managing means that you will continually be learning new ways to help people be better at their jobs. As a manager, you’ll be leading performance reviews and challenging employees to grow. So for this question, think back: When it comes to giving feedback, what have you done that works? How did someone take feedback that you gave and make an improvement in their performance, and how did that improvement impact the team or initiative at large? Particularly if you haven’t managed anyone before, you can use an example from times you’ve given feedback to a coworker or even a superior.
- You can describe how you were able to keep a team on task and how you’ve held people accountable for their deliverables. What tricks have you learned to help people work smarter and what system(s) have you used to track improvement or lack thereof? If holding others accountable has been difficult, as it was for one seasoned leader I worked with whose employees had different ideas about the flexibility of deadlines, what resources have you relied on to help you solve the problem, such as consulting with mentors or coaches or reading up on the latest trends in employee management, as this leader did?
- This is also a time in the interview when you can share your overall leadership philosophy—about what you believe makes people tick, what constitutes effective communication, and how to get the best out of the people you manage.
Describe a Time You Managed an Employee Who Was Struggling or Causing Strife.
- When asking this question, your interviewer wants to know if you can handle a sensitive situation and how you’ll go about it. The story about the chronically late employee who came on time once he took on a new responsibility (shared at the beginning of this article), is a great example of how to answer this question, as it showcases the manager’s innovation in people management.
- In your preparation for the interview, think of at least two people you’ve worked with who struggled or disrupted a team’s work in some way and how you dealt with the difficulties—then choose which situation better exemplifies your management skills and style and makes sense in the context of your conversation. For example, I know a leader who might have talked about the time they inherited a team on which two employees’ division on a hot-button issue created an unmistakable feeling of tension at every meeting, and the leader had to quickly figure out how to repair the rift before it derailed the team’s work.
- Ask yourself: Were the issues about skills gaps, personality differences, attitude problems, work ethic, inappropriate behavior, or other types of noncompliance? When you share your story, make sure to describe the employee’s struggles or behavior and the impact it was having in the workplace, followed by how you reflected on and dealt with the issue, including what the final outcome of your intervention was. You can name a difficult behavior, but don’t disparage the worker, by saying, “They were a real pain in the neck,” or anything else about them as a person.
- Your example also doesn’t have to result in a fairytale ending where everything works out perfectly. Some employees’ performance or behavior will improve only marginally. And if an employee continued to have or cause problems in the workplace, termination could be a perfectly fine end to the story as long as you thoroughly explain why and what steps you took. A story ending with an employee being let go can show your ability to assess the right staff and/or follow through on ethical standards on behalf of the company.
What Is Your Ideal Vision for Company Culture and How Have You Upheld Company Values in Prior Roles?
- “Culture” can be like “leadership”—everyone seems to have their own, slightly original definition. I generally refer to culture as an ideal way that a group agrees to act in accordance with shared values. For example, the company Bridgewater Associates is known for its culture of “radical transparency,” which means that giving feedback to anyone at any time is not only acceptable but expected, regardless of role or seniority.
- Companies want to know your view on organizational culture to ensure you’re a strong match for the direction they’re heading. In other words, a company will compare your personal vision of an ideal culture with the culture they want to uphold or create to assess if you’re a match.
- So to answer this question, reflect on the behaviors, environments, and values that you believe help groups work best: Is there scheduled company time for socializing because you believe it helps build teamwork? How should people approach difficult conversations? Does everyone need to be involved in every decision? Have you ever participated in establishing a company-wide values, ethics, or culture statement?
- Depending on the exact question you were asked, you might go on to discuss how you’ve upheld company culture and values. How have you ensured that company values are upheld in interactions—for example, have you spoken up when something didn’t seem right? How did you foster company values in your direct reports or your colleagues? The ability to translate values into action requires loyalty, awareness, and commitment—traits that are invaluable to a company.
What Are Your Plans for Your Team’s Professional Development?
- The best managers are not just invested in their teams’ present, but in their future as well, and interviewers want to see that you’ve thought about how your employees can continue to learn and grow.
- Being able to truly support individual employees in their professional growth means you have to get to know them. The only way to learn of your staff’s potential is to be an observant leader, looking out for their strengths and opportunities for improvement. This takes time. You can make it clear that in order to answer this question fully, you’ll want to be able to see your staff in action for at least six months before you can determine what training would benefit them most.
- Then you can give some examples of what professional development you might suggest. To answer this question you should be familiar with the relevant industry conferences, certifications, and trainings and what they offer. Take the time to learn which ones are best suited to the organization and position you’re interviewing for and why. Get specific about what you’d want each role on your team to get from the possible development opportunities you suggest: What do you want your customer service employees to learn about conflict resolution and why? Do you want your team to be proficient at public speaking and to what end?
- You can also share any past experiences of supporting employees taking on a training or advanced education and how it impacted them, the team, and the company. What were the benefits? Were there any pitfalls to watch out for, such as it impacting their ability to handle their workload in a timely manner because they missed meetings to attend classes? Did they develop a new skill, such as video editing, and then leave the company to do more of it elsewhere? If you’re not an experienced manager, you can share what professional development training you’ve benefited from in order to vouch for why you think it’s useful for staff.
- After you’ve taken the time to reflect on how you’ve embodied all the aspects of being a manager—leading, delegating, prioritizing, holding people accountable, helping others learn and grow, and more—whether or not you’ve actually been one, there’s one more thing to do: relax. So many situations in your life, at work and otherwise, have prepared you to be in charge. If you’ve taken the time to look back on many of the moments that got you to this one, you’re on your way to acing your next interview for a management position.
- And don’t forget, while a company is interviewing you, you are also assessing if they are a good match and if this is where you want to spend the next phase of your career.
How Good Managers Think & Act by Shreyas Doshi
- Good managers are skilled at asking questions that give their team members a new perspective on the problem and reach the right solution on their own.
- Good managers listen, then listen some more, and then some more.
- Good managers address context first, then content. They don’t just stick a new process as a band-aid over deep culture wounds and hope that the pain goes away. They know that most problems are interpersonal problems at their core. They have a knack for identifying the root cause.
- Good managers use their eloquence, charisma, and writing skills as tools, never as weapons.
- Good managers know that, above all else, they are agents of their company. Their default operating mode is to facilitate & make company-optimal choices.
- Good managers know that fixing broader company culture is an important part of their role as a designated leader within the company.
- Good managers put their team members above their own self-interest when the two are in conflict.
- Good managers understand that the long game is all about people. They put an individual’s mental & physical well-being above short term OKRs & results. They pay keen attention to a team member’s feelings in addition to their spoken words and can detect dissonance between the two.
- Good managers consistently get results through their team. They have high standards for inputs, outputs, and outcomes. They aren’t satisfied with just meeting the minimum permissible bar for metrics, product quality, customer satisfaction, team collaboration, and so on.
- Good managers are proactive about their team members’ career growth. They don’t dread career conversations with team members, they actively invite such conversations.
- Good managers don’t have just one go-to management style nor do they have a notion of “THE ideal employee”. Good managers aim to create an inclusive & optimal environment for each individual, based on their specific strengths, weaknesses, preferred style of learning & working.
- Good managers can discern good intent from bad. They have zero tolerance for self-serving behavior that sabotages the team or the company, even if it’s coming from an otherwise highly competent team member.
- Good managers build productive relationships with their peers and senior company leadership because they know that’s essential in helping their team members achieve their goals.
- Good managers are confident & secure in their role. They model High Agency. They have a mature attitude and avoid pettiness. They know it’s fine to express vulnerability. They say “I don’t know” when that’s true. They love learning. They exude presence.
- Last but not least: Good managers value clear thinking, sound judgment, and wisdom. They try their best, but also realize they (and others) are fallible, and anyone can have a bad day. They know that their own growth as a manager isn’t a binary value, it’s a continuous process. I’ve personally gone from being a terrible manager 13 yrs ago to being “just okay” today. For many years in between, I actively avoided managing people because I knew I wasn’t good at it and didn’t enjoy it. That changed for me as I learned and discovered some of what you have just read. That’s all for this article. If you’re a manager or want to be one, I wish you all the best in your journey. And if you’re an individual contributor, I hope this context can be useful for you when you’re choosing your next role and manager.
Many of the most common interview questions you can expect when you’re vying for a managerial position are behavioral interview questions. These questions are designed to predict your future behavior based on your past experience.
- Behavioral interview questions often start with phrases like “tell me about a time” or “give me an example of a time.” To best answer behavioral interview questions, use the STAR method which allows you to support your answers with personal experiences that prove your managerial skills:
- Situation. Begin your story by setting up the situation — tell the hiring manager what was going on, who the key players were, and set the scene.
- Task. Next, discuss your role in the story. This can either be a task you were assigned or some initiative you took on your own. You can often merge the “situation” and “task” into one sentence.
- Action. This is the real meat of your answer. Talk about what specific steps you took in the given situation. You can also discuss your thought process and explain why you approached the issue this way.
- Result. Wrap up your story neatly with a (positive) result. Even if the question is about a negative situation, like conflict or mistakes, finish on a note of what you learned and what improvements you’ve made since then.
- Using the STAR method ensures a short, coherent narrative. This same strategy can be used for situational interview questions, another common type of question you’ll hear when interviewing for a manager job. The only difference is that situational questions are hypothetical, and ask how you might perform in a given situation.
- OKRs stand for “Objectives and Key Results.” It is a collaborative goal-setting methodology used by teams and individuals to set challenging, ambitious goals.
- To get to a point, all the intermediate steps need to be listed as well, i.e., the mini goals.
- Important to get the OKRs reviewed by senior management.
- Personal OKRs: they can also work for personal goals and can even be used by individuals to get things done at places where senior leadership doesn’t use them.
- Components of an OKR:
- OKRs are typically written with an Objective at the top and 3 to 5 supporting Key Results below it. They can also be written as a statement:
- I will (Objective) as measured by (Key Results).
- For example, “I will fix the website for the vast majority of people as measured by 7 out of 10 people being able to get through, a 1 second response time, and a 1% error rate.”
- An Objective is simply what is to be achieved, no more and no less. By definition, Objectives are significant, concrete, action-oriented, and (ideally) inspirational. When properly designed and deployed, they’re a vaccine against fuzzy thinking and ineffective execution.
- Key Results
- Key results benchmark and monitor how we get to the Objective. Effective KRs are specific and time-bound and aggressive yet realistic. Most of all, they are measurable and verifiable. You either meet a key result’s requirements or you don’t; there is no gray area, no room for doubt. At the end of the designated period, typically a quarter, we do a regular check and grade the key results as fulfilled or not. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are metrics that help establish KRs.
- Where an objective can be long-lived, rolled over for a year or longer, Key Results evolve as the work progresses. Once they are all completed, the Objective is achieved.
- OKRs are typically written with an Objective at the top and 3 to 5 supporting Key Results below it. They can also be written as a statement:
- SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat) analysis is a strategic planning and strategic management technique used to help a person or organization identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to business competition or project planning. It is sometimes called situational assessment or situational analysis.
How do you use leverage agile frameworks for your role
NuAIg background a bit more
- Helped set up the central team
TLM vs Manager vs Product Manager in roadmapping
When it comes to roadmapping in a music AI team, the collaboration and coordination between the Tech Lead Manager (TLM), Senior Manager, and Product Manager are crucial. Here’s how they can work together in the roadmapping process:
Tech Lead Manager (TLM): The TLM is responsible for overseeing the technical aspects of the music AI project. They bring their technical expertise and leadership to guide the development team. In the roadmapping process, the TLM’s role includes:
- Providing technical insights: The TLM contributes technical knowledge and expertise to inform the feasibility and complexity of proposed features or initiatives.
- Estimating effort and timelines: With their technical understanding, the TLM can provide input on the effort required to implement certain features or initiatives, helping the team set realistic timelines and prioritize tasks.
- Identifying technical dependencies: The TLM identifies any technical dependencies or constraints that need to be considered when planning the roadmap.
- Collaborating with the Senior Manager and Product Manager: The TLM works closely with the Senior Manager and Product Manager to align technical considerations with business objectives and user needs.
Senior Manager: The Senior Manager provides strategic direction and oversees the overall success of the music AI project. Their role in roadmapping includes:
- Defining high-level goals: The Senior Manager collaborates with the Product Manager and other stakeholders to establish the overarching goals and objectives for the product.
- Aligning with business strategy: They ensure that the roadmap aligns with the organization’s broader business strategy, taking into account market trends, competitive analysis, and customer demands.
- Resource allocation: The Senior Manager helps allocate resources, including budget, personnel, and infrastructure, to support the roadmap and ensure its successful execution.
- Stakeholder management: They communicate the roadmap to stakeholders, including executives, investors, and other teams within the organization, to ensure alignment and gain support for the planned initiatives.
Product Manager: The Product Manager takes a user-centric approach to define and prioritize features based on user needs, market analysis, and business goals. Their role in roadmapping includes:
- Gathering user feedback: The Product Manager conducts user research, collects feedback, and analyzes market trends to understand user needs and preferences.
- Defining the product vision: They collaborate with the Senior Manager, TLM, and other stakeholders to define a clear product vision and strategy that guides the roadmap.
- Prioritizing features: Based on user feedback and business objectives, the Product Manager prioritizes features and initiatives, considering factors such as impact, feasibility, and user value.
- Roadmap communication: The Product Manager communicates the roadmap to the development team, stakeholders, and other departments, ensuring shared understanding and buy-in.
Overall, the roadmapping process involves close collaboration and alignment between the TLM, Senior Manager, and Product Manager. It combines technical considerations, strategic direction, and user-centric decision-making to create a roadmap that drives the successful development and deployment of music AI solutions.
How do you set expectations
- SWOT analysis is a strategic planning and strategic management technique used to help a person or organization identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to business competition or project planning.
- It is sometimes called situational assessment or situational analysis.
- This framework helps managers assess an organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats to develop strategies for growth and improvement.
- Strengths: Strong brand reputation, skilled workforce, efficient supply chain.
- Weaknesses: Outdated technology, high employee turnover, limited product diversity.
- Opportunities: Emerging market trends, strategic partnerships, expanding customer base.
- Threats: Intense competition, economic downturn, changing regulatory environment.
- SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This framework helps managers set clear and well-defined goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes.
- Specific: Increase sales by 10% in the next quarter.
- Measurable: Achieve a customer satisfaction rating of 4.5 out of 5.
- Achievable: Reduce production costs by 15% through process optimization.
- Relevant: Launch a new product line to meet customer demands.
- Time-bound: Complete the website redesign project within three months.
- PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check, and Act. This iterative framework is used for continuous improvement and problem-solving. It involves planning a change, implementing it, checking the results, and acting on lessons learned to refine the process further.
- Plan: Identify the problem, set improvement goals, and develop an action plan.
- Do: Implement the plan on a small scale or pilot project.
- Check: Measure and analyze the results to assess the effectiveness of the changes.
- Act: Adjust the plan based on the lessons learned and scale up the improvements.
- Management Agile is an iterative and flexible approach to project management. It emphasizes collaboration, adaptive planning, and continuous improvement. Agile frameworks like Scrum and Kanban enable teams to respond to change quickly and deliver value incrementally.
- Scrum: Organize work into short iterations called sprints, with frequent feedback and adaptability.
- Kanban: Visualize and manage workflow using a board, limit work in progress, and promote continuous delivery.
- Six Sigma is a data-driven approach to process improvement that aims to minimize defects and variability in processes. It uses statistical analysis and DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology to identify and eliminate errors, reduce waste, and improve efficiency.
- Define: Clearly define the problem, project goals, and customer requirements.
- Measure: Gather data and measure the process performance.
- Analyze: Analyze the data to identify the root causes of defects or inefficiencies.
- Improve: Implement process improvements and verify their effectiveness.
- Control: Establish control measures to sustain the improvements and monitor ongoing performance.
- The Balanced Scorecard is a strategic management framework that measures organizational performance across multiple perspectives, including financial, customer, internal processes, and learning and growth. It provides a holistic view of the organization’s progress towards its strategic objectives.
- Financial perspective: Increase profitability by reducing costs and increasing revenue.
- Customer perspective: Improve customer satisfaction through exceptional service and product quality.
- Internal process perspective: Streamline production processes to increase efficiency and reduce waste.
- Learning and growth perspective: Enhance employee skills and knowledge through training and development.
- Lean management focuses on eliminating waste and maximizing value for customers. It originated in manufacturing but has been applied to various industries. Lean principles aim to streamline processes, improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance customer satisfaction.
- Identify and eliminate non-value-added activities or waste (e.g., overproduction, inventory, defects) to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
OKR (Objectives and Key Results)
- OKR is a goal-setting framework widely used in the tech industry. It involves setting ambitious objectives and measurable key results to track progress. OKRs encourage transparency, alignment, and focus on outcomes rather than outputs.
- Objective: Increase market share by 10%.
- Key Result: Launch three new products within the next six months.
- RICE is a management framework commonly used for prioritizing projects or initiatives. It helps decision-makers evaluate and rank ideas based on their potential impact, reach, confidence, and effort required. RICE stands for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort. Here’s how each component is defined:
- Reach: Reach measures the number of people or users who will be affected by the project or initiative. It helps assess the scale or magnitude of the impact. Reach can be quantified by estimating the total number of affected users, customers, or stakeholders.
- Impact: Impact refers to the degree of benefit or value that the project or initiative is expected to deliver. It evaluates the potential positive outcomes and effects, such as revenue growth, cost savings, customer satisfaction improvement, or strategic alignment. Impact can be qualitative or quantitative, depending on the specific goals and metrics.
- Confidence: Confidence represents the level of certainty or confidence that the project or initiative will achieve its intended impact. It takes into account factors like available data, market research, expert opinions, or historical performance. Confidence can be assessed on a scale (e.g., low, medium, high) or as a percentage.
- Effort: Effort estimates the amount of time, resources, and effort required to implement the project or initiative. It considers factors like the complexity of the task, the number of people involved, and the availability of necessary resources. Effort is usually measured in terms of person-hours or person-days required.
- To calculate the RICE score, each component (Reach, Impact, Confidence, Effort) is assigned a numerical value, typically on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. Then, the RICE score is calculated using the formula: RICE = (Reach × Impact × Confidence) / Effort.
- The higher the RICE score, the higher the priority of the project or initiative. By using the RICE framework, organizations can prioritize their efforts and allocate resources effectively to projects with the greatest potential impact and value.
Change Management Models
- Various change management models, such as Kotter’s 8-Step Process and ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement), provide a structured approach to managing organizational change. They help leaders navigate transitions, overcome resistance, and ensure successful implementation.
- Kotter’s 8-Step Process: Create a sense of urgency, form a powerful coalition, communicate the vision, empower action, generate short-term wins, consolidate gains, anchor changes in the culture.
- ADKAR: Create awareness of the need for change, build desire to support the change, provide knowledge and skills, enable employees to apply new skills, reinforce the change to make it stick.
- Explainability of Solution and ROI:
- When implementing a solution or making a decision, it’s important for managers to ensure that the rationale and expected Return on Investment (ROI) are clearly communicated. Explainability refers to the ability to articulate why a particular solution or course of action was chosen and how it aligns with organizational goals. By providing a transparent and well-defined explanation of the solution and its expected ROI, managers can gain buy-in from stakeholders, foster understanding, and build confidence in the decision-making process.
- Prioritization is the process of determining the order in which tasks, projects, or initiatives should be addressed based on their importance and urgency. Effective prioritization involves evaluating the relative value, impact, and alignment with strategic goals. Managers need to consider factors such as deadlines, resource availability, dependencies, and potential risks when setting priorities. Clear prioritization helps ensure that the most critical and high-value work is addressed first, optimizing productivity and outcomes.
- Absorb Leadership Requests:
- As a manager, it is important to be able to absorb and handle requests from leadership effectively. This involves actively listening, understanding the requirements, and considering the impact on existing priorities and resources. By effectively absorbing leadership requests, managers can demonstrate their ability to balance and align these requests with the broader goals and objectives of the team or organization. It also helps in managing expectations and effectively communicating any constraints or trade-offs that may arise.
- Coaching Metrics:
- Coaching metrics involve tracking and evaluating the progress and development of individuals or teams. These metrics provide quantitative or qualitative insights into the effectiveness of coaching efforts. Examples of coaching metrics include employee engagement scores, performance improvement indicators, skill development assessments, or feedback from peers and stakeholders. By monitoring coaching metrics, managers can identify areas for improvement, measure the impact of coaching interventions, and tailor their coaching approaches to support employee growth and performance.
- High/Low Performers:
- Managing high and low performers is an important aspect of effective management. High performers are individuals who consistently exceed expectations, demonstrate exceptional skills, and contribute significantly to the team’s success. Managers should recognize and reward high performers, provide opportunities for growth and advancement, and leverage their expertise to drive team performance. On the other hand, low performers may require additional support, coaching, or performance improvement plans. Managers need to address performance issues promptly, provide constructive feedback, and offer development opportunities to help low performers improve or make necessary changes to the team composition.
- Escalations: Ensuring Awareness and Alignment:
- Escalations occur when a situation or issue requires immediate attention from higher levels of management or stakeholders. Effective management of escalations involves ensuring that both parties are aware and aligned regarding the situation, its urgency, and the desired outcome. Managers should establish clear escalation channels and protocols, communicate the escalation process to the team, and ensure that relevant stakeholders are kept informed. By managing escalations effectively, managers can address critical issues promptly, maintain transparency, and facilitate timely decision-making.
- Joint Incentives:
- Joint incentives refer to aligning incentives and rewards across teams or departments to encourage collaboration and shared goals. By creating joint incentives, managers foster a sense of collective ownership and encourage cross-functional collaboration. This approach promotes a collaborative culture, breaks down silos, and motivates teams to work together towards common objectives. Joint incentives can include shared targets, recognition programs, or performance bonuses tied to overall organizational success.
- Trust and Company Goals:
- Trust is a vital element in effective management. Managers need to build trust among their team members and stakeholders by fostering open communication, demonstrating integrity, and delivering on commitments. Trust enables collaboration, empowers employees
1) Amplification - There is only so much you can achieve as an individual contributor, and if you want to do truly big things then you need a team or a whole organization to make it happen. As a manager you can amplify your abilities by defining a compelling vision, then leading your team(s) to deliver this vision.
2) Skillset - Management requires learning and applying very different skills to the ones you use as an individual contributor, such as decision making, goal setting, strategic planning, reviewing, mitigating risks, influencing, status reporting, coaching, hiring, and org building. As a manager your role is to lead through others, which means letting go of the work that you did previously (i.e. delegation), so that you can fully focus on these activities.
3) Tough Conversations - Career development can be very rewarding, as you apply your own experiences to grow and develop members of your team(s). However, as a manager you will often need to have tough conversations, such as performance discussions, HR issues, customer escalations, workplace conflicts, salary reviews, stakeholder reviews, and operational challenges. Before becoming a manager, you should consider how you will handle these discussions.
4) Outcomes - As a manager, you are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of your team(s) and projects. You will need to hire carefully so that you have the right people, as your success will depend on their success. Not all projects will be successful even if you do everything right, and it will be your decision whether to continue or pivot to a different approach. However, successfully leading your team(s) to achieve a complex challenge will give you an enormous feeling of accomplishment!
- My manager owns context, I own the recommendation
- Can You Be a Great Leader Without Technical Expertise?
- How to Handle Difficult Conversations at Work
- Getting to Yes Across Cultures - HBR Video
- Calming Your Brain During Conflict
- Data prep: SageMaker has an inbuilt Jupyter notebook with accessibility to numpy and pandas
- EC2 p3 or p4, hopper 100
- remove outlier, duplicates, split test and train data, normalize
- sklearn.model_selection for train_test split
- create a panda dataframe
- Feature engineering: changing labels etc, SageMaker Autopilot: It can automatically perform feature engineering tasks, such as data cleaning, handling missing values, feature encoding, and feature selection. You can leverage Autopilot to automate the feature engineering process and let the tool generate optimized features for your models.
- Autopilot automatically explores the data and generates a set of feature transformations, including creating new features, selecting relevant features, and applying appropriate feature encoding techniques.
- During the feature engineering phase, Autopilot employs statistical analysis, data exploration, and model performance evaluation to determine the effectiveness of the generated features. It selects the most informative features that contribute to improved model performance.
- EC2 p3 or p4, hopper 100
- Model training:
- SageMaker built in classification, regression, clustering algorithms via importing image_uris
- Hyperparameter optimization- Sagemaker uses Bayesian optimizations or random search
- Creates endpoints for you
- Offline: Batch transform: apply machine learning model on a number or records at the same time and during training you’ll have both feature and target values but at serve you’ll only have feature.
- To test, you can create a new dataframe and drop the class column
- evaluation metrics comparing models output with ground truth
- Online: A/B testing where you can specify the routing rules
- Offline: Batch transform: apply machine learning model on a number or records at the same time and during training you’ll have both feature and target values but at serve you’ll only have feature.
- Demo: StreamLit and HuggingFace has gradio
- Libraries used:GNNs -> DGL, PyTorch Geometric
- Data drift
- Feedback Loop and User Signals: User feedback and signals, such as explicit ratings, likes/dislikes, or user interactions, play a crucial role in addressing data drift. Incorporating user feedback into the recommendation system allows for personalized adjustments and helps capture changes in user preferences over time. User feedback can be used to retrain the model, update recommendations, and fine-tune the system based on the most recent user interactions.
- To avoid model drift, regularly monitor and evaluate the performance of machine learning models, establish a data quality assurance process, retrain the model on updated data, implement feedback loops and user testing, and continuously evaluate the model’s performance against business metrics using monitoring tools.
- Online Learning: Online learning is a technique where the model is continuously updated with new data as it becomes available. Instead of training the model from scratch, online learning algorithms update the existing model’s weights incrementally using new data points. This allows the model to adapt to changing patterns and handle data drift in real-time. Transfer Learning: Transfer learning involves leveraging knowledge from a pre-trained model and fine-tuning it using new data. The pre-trained model, trained on a large dataset, captures general patterns and features. By initializing the model with these pre-trained weights and fine-tuning it using the new data, the model can quickly adapt to the changing data distribution and mitigate the impact of data drift.
- Model Quantization: Model quantization is a technique that reduces the precision of the model’s weights and activations. By representing the model with lower bit precision (e.g., from 32-bit floating-point to 8-bit integers), the memory footprint and computational requirements of the model are reduced. This can lead to faster inference and lower latency.
- Data drift
- Model Pruning: Model pruning involves removing unnecessary or redundant parameters from the model. By pruning unimportant connections or reducing the size of the model, the number of computations required during inference is reduced, resulting in faster inference times. Pruned models can be retrained or fine-tuned to regain performance while maintaining lower latency.
- Model Parallelism: Model parallelism involves splitting the model across multiple devices or processing units to perform parallel computations. This technique is particularly useful when the model has a large number of parameters or complex architectures. By dividing the model’s computations across multiple resources, the inference time can be significantly reduced, leading to lower latency.
- Model Distillation: Model distillation is a process where a large, complex model (teacher model) is used to train a smaller, more efficient model (student model). The student model is trained to mimic the behavior and predictions of the teacher model. The distilled model is typically smaller and faster to compute, resulting in lower latency during inference.
- Early Exit Strategies: Early exit strategies involve adding decision points within the model to make predictions before the entire model has completed its computations. For example, in a deep neural network, intermediate layers can be designed to provide predictions based on partial input information. This allows for faster responses, especially when certain predictions can be made with high confidence early in the inference process.
- Model Caching: Model caching involves storing precomputed results or intermediate representations for commonly encountered inputs. When a similar input is encountered again, the cached results can be retrieved instead of performing the entire model computation. This can greatly reduce the inference time and improve overall latency for frequently accessed or recurring queries.
Productionize/ Serve: need to serialize the data
- Personalization and User History: Storing recommendation data in a database allows the system to maintain a history of user preferences and interactions. This historical data can be used to further personalize recommendations, analyze user behavior, and provide insights for improving the recommendation algorithms.
- Data Analysis and Reporting: The stored recommendation data can be used for post-processing, data analysis, and generating reports. By analyzing the stored recommendations, the system can gain insights into user preferences, item popularity, recommendation effectiveness, and other relevant metrics.
- A/B Testing and Experimentation: Storing the inference output allows for easy integration with A/B testing frameworks. Different recommendation algorithms or variants can be compared by storing their outputs in the database and analyzing user interactions and feedback. This data can help measure the impact and effectiveness of different algorithms or features.
Data Integration: Amazon Music can integrate data from multiple sources, including user interactions and behavior on Amazon.com, such as product views, purchases, and user preferences, as well as user engagement and preferences from Prime Videos. This data can provide valuable insights into user preferences, interests, and browsing behavior. Data Preprocessing: The collected data is preprocessed and prepared for training and inference. This involves cleaning the data, handling missing values, transforming and encoding features, and merging relevant information from different sources. Data preprocessing ensures the data is in a suitable format for training the recommendation model. Training Phase: During the training phase, the combined dataset is used to train a music recommendation model. Various machine learning algorithms, such as collaborative filtering, content-based filtering, or hybrid approaches, can be applied to learn patterns and relationships from the training data. The model learns to understand user preferences and generate recommendations based on historical interactions and behavior. Inference Phase: In the inference phase, when a user interacts with Amazon Music, the recommendation system takes into account the user’s historical data, preferences, and contextual information. This can include their browsing history, previous music interactions, purchase history, and potentially their viewing habits from Prime Videos. The system processes this information and applies the trained recommendation model to generate personalized music recommendations in real-time. Post-Processing and Presentation: The generated recommendations may undergo post-processing steps to enhance their quality and relevance. Techniques such as filtering, ranking, and diversification can be applied to refine the recommendations and ensure they align with the user’s preferences and current context. The final set of recommendations is then presented to the user through the Amazon Music app or website, where users can explore, listen to, and interact with the recommended music. Continuous Learning and Improvement: The recommendation system in Amazon Music is designed to continuously learn and improve over time. User feedback, explicit ratings, and implicit feedback (such as skip rates or time spent listening) can be collected to gather information on the user’s satisfaction with the recommendations. This feedback is used to refine the models, update the recommendations, and adapt to changing user preferences and trends.
- Revert to the global model which is usually the popular recommendation
- Next Best Action: Amazon Music can use machine learning techniques to predict and suggest the next best action for users. This could include recommending songs or playlists based on the user’s listening history, preferences, and contextual information. The platform can leverage user behavior data, such as play history, skip rates, and liked/disliked songs, along with other factors like time of day, user location, or device context, to generate personalized recommendations that align with the user’s current interests.
- Cold Start: Cold start refers to the challenge of providing recommendations to new users or items with limited historical data. To address this, Amazon Music can employ various strategies. For new users, the platform can start with popular or trending songs and gradually gather user feedback to personalize recommendations. For new items, the system can use content-based recommendations, analyzing attributes like genre, artist, or album information to suggest similar items to users. Collaborative filtering techniques, which leverage similarities between users or items, can also be employed to make relevant recommendations despite limited data.
- Warm Start: Warm start refers to the situation where some user or item data is available, but it may not be sufficient for accurate recommendations. In this case, Amazon Music can utilize hybrid approaches that combine collaborative filtering, content-based filtering, and personalized ranking algorithms. By blending different recommendation techniques, the system can leverage the available data to provide more accurate and diverse recommendations to users.
- Item-to-Item Recommendations: Item-to-item recommendations involve suggesting similar or related items to users based on their current selection. Amazon Music can utilize item-to-item collaborative filtering to recommend songs or artists that are similar to the ones the user is currently enjoying. By leveraging historical user-item interaction data, the system can identify patterns and associations between items, allowing it to suggest relevant and complementary music choices.
Data Integration: The first step would be to integrate the data from Amazon Music and Amazon retail. This involves merging the relevant information, such as item metadata, user preferences, purchase history, and browsing behavior, to create a unified dataset. Preprocessing and Feature Extraction: The integrated dataset would then undergo preprocessing and feature extraction to extract meaningful features from the combined data. This can involve techniques like natural language processing (NLP) to analyze item descriptions or text mining to identify relevant keywords or attributes. Similarity Calculation: Once the features are extracted, similarity measures are calculated to determine the similarity between items. Various techniques can be employed, such as cosine similarity, Euclidean distance, or Jaccard similarity, depending on the nature of the data and the desired recommendation granularity. Recommendation Generation: Based on the calculated item similarities, the system can generate item-to-item recommendations. For a given item that a user is currently interacting with, the system would identify similar items from the combined dataset using the precomputed similarities. The most similar items would then be recommended to the user. Ranking and Personalization: To further enhance the recommendations, the system can consider additional factors like user preferences, historical interactions, and contextual information. Personalization techniques, such as collaborative filtering, can be employed to tailor the recommendations based on the individual user’s behavior and preferences. Evaluation and Iteration: The recommendation system’s performance would be evaluated using relevant metrics, such as precision, recall, or mean average precision, by comparing the recommended items to the actual user interactions and feedback. The system would then undergo iterations and refinements based on the evaluation results to continuously improve the quality and relevance of the recommendations.
Engineering push notifications
- Data prep: H20.ai, Apache Spark
- Model trianing:
- Libraries used
- Data drift
- Data prep:
- Model trianing:
- Libraries used
- Data drift
iReason- Multimodal Commonsense Reasoning using Videos and Natural Language with Interpretability:
- Causality is common sense knowledge known to humans but not available in input of the model
- Word embeddings, its easy to have textual context not so easy to have image context
- The idea behind this project was to create a framework that will generate common sense knowledge by using videos and text modalities.
- Early fusion at the feature level so there are more correlation between the video and text
- Video input -> detects frame in order -> detects objects (girl,dog) -> encodes to discern events (text) -> spits out a causality
- Classification model so we used cross entropy loss
- Since each event in I1 can cause multiple events in I2, we evaluate different causality extraction models with ranking based evaluation metrics
- Used a pretrained activity model
- Task is to input the model with videos and images and identify if there is a causal relationship
- Classification model, used cross entropy loss
- Used BERT to encode textual representation of events
- Created a multimodal framework that utilized the video and text modality to generate commonsense knowledge using BERT and GPT-2 architectures with better recall than prior state of the art. This led to a publication.
Few-shot Multimodal Multitask Multilingual Learning
Counter Turing Test
- Perplexity, watermarking
Hallucination detection and mitigation for LLMs
- intrinsic, extrinsic hallucination, positive, negative hallucination
Conflator: Codemixing language modeling
- Relative positional encoding for language mixing where we experiment with different encoding mechanisms such as sinusoidal, relative and rotary
- We run sentiment analysis and machine translation as our two tasks