engineering program manager Interview Questions


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Engineering Program Manager was asked...May 21, 2010

You have a program with something or component that fails 1 week before launch. What do you do?

5 Answers

I believe the point here is not saying that you should/have a back-up plan for this (you can mention that at first, but then assume that something went terribly wrong)... So in my case I would go through the how crucial is this program/component for the launch? can be fixed with an update? how much time/resources are needed to meet the deadline? what would be the impact of delaying the launch until the problem is solved? is it feasible? after the brainstorming and impact analysis you could take the decision of delaying, solve the problem or ship everything as-is and fix the problem afterwards. Once the problem is solved you should go through the situation again and understand what went wrong and prevent it from happening again. Less

Alvaro is right. The question is about how pragmatic and adaptable you are.

You always have a have a back-up part ready, fully qualified and and waiting in the wings! There is no way to launch an iPhone 4 and sell millions of units on a tight schedule without a backup plan for every part. Less

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You have no extra time and no extra resources but is asked by the CEO to add 20 extra features, what do you do?

3 Answers

First, I will try to figure out how important these 20 extra features, whether some or all of them are 'must have', 'should have','could have' or 'nice to have'. I would totally rule out any 'could have' or 'nice to have'. A project/program manager must have courage and conviction to say 'no'. If some or all of those features are 'must have' or 'should have', then I will see what features in current project/program can be dropped in favor of the new features. use creative project/program planning or use overtime as much as possible without adding extra risk. If none of the above is true, then extra resources or time must be negotiated. Through analysis of the situation and clear communication is key to achieve this objective. Less

It's always about trade offs. Add the 20 requested features to the list - then sit with stakeholders (marketing, engineering, etc) and sort the list by priority and by ease of implementation. Customer must haves should come first and these hopefully were articulated when the core product was conceived and started. Include in the list the level of completion of the features. Completed ones are done, move them below the line. Review the remaining - which can be completed in remaining time with available resources and which have to be dropped. Be the strong project manager and present to management. If the company only wants yes persons with no critical thinking skills, you probably don't want the job anyway. Less

1) I would first evaluate the current demand and see what other non-critical items can be dropped to address this. 2) Drop everything and do what your CEO tells you Less


Describe three key things that you believe are essential to being a good program manager. Describe the process of deciding when to escalate an issue.

2 Answers

Good Communication skills Being a good leader Good negotiation and persuasion skills Good team building skills Good team motivational skills Good manager of time, cost and resources Escalate an issue when product scope/functinality changes or deviates from project charter Less

Communication, management of time and money, keep the end in mind. Escalation is needed when the project schedule or product functionality are at risk. Less


How do you handle difficult team members?

2 Answers

Good leadership. You may need to sit that person down and tell him or her how valued and appreciated they are but they are being held back by some issue. You've also got to find the right person for each role. Square pegs never fit in rounds holes, at least not without a lot of pain. Less



What is your project management style? How would you protect the engineering group? Why do you want to change / apply for this position? Describe how you would approach a project with just a high level, vague requirement.

2 Answers

1) My project management style is detailed and organized with a high level of communication with my team. I believe in investing heavily in the planning phase of a program, so the execution phase of a program can happen as smoothly as possible. 2) I protect my engineering team by trying to give them as much time as possible in the schedule to build their best design. On tight turnaround programs I communicate upcoming deadlines with them as early as possible so they can plan their own workload. During design and execution, I protect the engineering team from scope creep emphasizing solving the problem as posed. 4) When approaching a vague problem, I would first ask to clarify the end goal of the project. Hopefully that end goal can help me work with the sponsor to define project objectives. I will then ask for a project budget and deadline. I would bring a program proposal back to the sponsor and get their feedback to either go back and update, or move forward with the program. Less

I would protect my engineering group by making sure that engineers are not distracted and avoid context switching, as much as possible, once they have started working on the project. If the project has a very high level and vague requirements then I would start working with the product and engineering team to narrow down the requirements and create a proof-of-concept for the customer. Understand what are the customer requirements and work backwards to address the problem. Once the initial spike is done by the team and prototype has been demonstrated. This would be a good time to write the requirements with detailed use cases. Less


How many bits is the access flags of a file?

2 Answers

I'd say 9, since the three bits you have mentioned have to be multiplied by the three user groups (owner, group, others). rwxrwxrwx Less

Traditional Unix permissions are broken down into: so answer is 3 read (r) write (w) execute file/access directory (x) Each of those is stored as a bit, where 1 means permitted and 0 means not permitted. Less


What will you do if the client asked for more features and you are already behind schedule

1 Answers

If they ask for more features beyond what's in the agreed upon contract SOW and requirements, then you'll have to renegotiate the project cost and schedule. As for you being currently behind schedule, you always have to manage your customer/stakeholder expectations. They should know you are behind schedule, what your doing to get back on track, or why getting back on track is not possible. Less


How are microcode and firmware different? Where are they similar?

2 Answers

Sort of a "where does the code live" question. Not sure why they asked it, since it had nothing to do with the position being offered. Less

Firmware is software that handles internal functions of the system like sensor processing Microcode is firmware for the microprocessor Less


What are the program management steps.

2 Answers

initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and control and closing

elaborate more on the above processes with examples


If you had an assignment that required you to ride a unicycle while juggling, what would you do to acquire these skills?

2 Answers

YouTube, Duh!

1. Learn to ride unicycle 2. Learn to juggle 3. Learn to ride unicycle while juggling :-) Less

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