As I mentioned in my last essay, I took my first PM interview on the spot.
On the day of my first on-campus interview, I woke up at 10 AM, spent the next two hours finishing up a coding project, and got exhausted. Subconsciously, I had been resisting to prepare for the 1:30 PM interview until 12:30 PM.
Seeing that I won’t have time to learn a new algorithm, I began to search for Microsoft in my Evernote. I found some statistics on Skype and some random formulas and metrics. I tried to memorize them, but they were not helpful at all. I didn’t like the stress of last-minute prep, so I decided to set aside all the notes and calm myself with breathing exercises.
The interview began on time. I introduced myself to the interviewer. He asked me about my graduation date. He seemed a bit confused when I said “May 2020.” Anyhow, he decided to give me a try. He then asked about the role I wanted to interview for, and I intuitively replied PM. That reply was a game-changer.
My interviewer asked me to solve a system design problem from the PM viewpoint. He shared a high-level legacy system and asked me how I would go about automating it. What would you do next?
Instead of jumping to brainstorm or answer the question, I framed the question in my own words to confirm that we are on the same page. I began to ask him questions and take notes on the whiteboard:
- What is the problem?
- What are the assumptions?
- What does success look like?
- Who are the key users and what are their pain points?
- How much (engineering / design) resources do we have?
- When do we need this project by?
While the interviewer may not answer all the questions, you can often get a lot of hints on the direction they have in mind.
These questions also turned my anxiety into curiosity and gave me time to think. With all this information, I was able to collaborate with the interviewer and solve the question together. That was fun!
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