Can You Answer These Product Manager Interview Questions?
If you're interviewing for Product Manager roles, you should be ready to answer some product-management-specific interview questions in addition to the more generic ones we've all come to know and love.
These more specific questions will give you an opportunity to highlight your experience with user testing, data-driven decision making, and stakeholder management, as well as any other skills that allow you to excel as a product manager.
To help you prepare, we asked Product Managers at 9 of our partner companies to share their must-ask product manager interview questions, and what they look for in candidates' answers. Here are their responses:
1) How would you describe a healthy relationship between a PM, an engineer, and a designer?
Respect is the primary ingredient that lays the foundation for a healthy PM/Engineer/Designer relationship. Each role brings a unique perspective and set of skills, so respect and trust in one another creates a constructive tension that builds better products. - Irena Lam, Product Manager at Karat
2) Tell me about a time when you had to educate yourself on a new type of user/customer. What did you learn and how did you learn it?
I'm looking for thoughtfulness, strategy, and rigor in the answer. I want to see that understanding users was valued and that the candidate took complete ownership of that challenge. And, that they are willing to walk through walls to understand those customers' goals and needs. A red flag answer would be something like: "We have user personas so I just used those" or "We have a research department and they talk to the users." - Jeffrey Domke, Head of Growth at Blockstack
3) What motivates you for work day to day? What motivates you when you think about the next 5 to 10 years?
This is an open-ended question that can provide many insights into a candidate. Do they have something driving them? Are they ambitious? Are they pragmatic? Are they thoughtful? How do they think about balancing the near vs. long term? Is their motivation in line with our motivation as a company? Do they structure their answer well? This isn't the type of question you can study to answer well (like how many golf balls can you fit in a 747?).I look for:
- Genuine answers
- Structured, non-rambling answers
- Examples of how their past experience influences them today
- Ambition balanced with pragmatism
- A sense of purpose
- A lifelong learner mentality
- A sense of ownership
- Alignment with the role
4) Walk me through a complicated new feature or product that they've recently worked on, taking me through the process from initial idea through launch.
The answer to this question can go in all sorts of interesting directions but I look for a number of different things in the candidate's response. First, can the candidate explain a complicated subject in a structured way that's easy to understand. Effective communication is a key skill for a product manager. What part of the process do they focus on – the business objectives, getting feedback from customers, working with engineering, the launch, etc.?
This often reveals not only their experience but which of the many different product management responsibilities they really enjoy doing. Last, I look for how they talk about their role and accomplishments within the context of the team. Did they have unique contributions but also give credit to their teammates. - Andrea Beckman, Director, Product Management at Relativity
5) What are two to three pain points of traditional linear TV?
We like to give candidates a new problem space and ask them to identify problems and build solutions.
We look for candidates to set a framework that helps them structure their thinking and response. A good candidate should explain how they would research and understand the problem. The candidate should should identify clear objectives and the main stakeholders. Finally, the candidate should speak to how they would balance tradeoffs and prioritize. - Joshua Lee, CTO and Head of Product at EDO
6) Tell me about a specific time you were working with a colleague or customer and they weren't communicating the reasoning behind their request, just the end feature. What tactics did you employ to dig deeper to uncover the real meaning of their request? What was the eventual outcome?
This is an important question because being problem-focused (vs. solution-focused) is really really important for a Product Manager. I also like the phrasing of this question because it allows people to highlight transferrable skills: this is an experience a lot of people can have, and how they respond to it can say a lot about how they think through problems.
What we look for in an answer: We like to see that candidates are communicating with the requestor to dig into the root of the challenge and how they came to make the request. It's also great to hear that candidates are actively collaborating to come to a compromise or solution rather than rejecting a challenging original request as-is. A good answer might sound like:
"I sat down with them and talked through what the challenge was they were facing and why they wanted that specific request. We went through it and it turned out that what they really wanted wasn't X, but to help them do Y. They didn't think Z was possible so they asked for X because they figured we would say yes to that. After talking through it through, we settled on how something we were already working on could address this same need."
7) Tell me about a time that you had to make a trade off or prioritization decisions. How did you decide on your course of action? Who was the most negatively impacted by your decision? What might have happened if you did the next thing on the list instead?
This question helps me understand how they make prioritization decisions which is one of the most important aspects of PM, but also the empathy they have for who and what those decisions impact. The last part digs into how well they understood the problem they were solving. Generally if they can't talk about the next option, it wasn't that hard of a prioritization decision. - Sergi Isasi, Product Manager at Cloudflare
8) Tell me about a hobby of yours. Give me a product idea that would fit in that area and explain how it could disrupt or assist the current products in the landscape.
I like this question because it helps me learn a lot about the person as well as how they think. One of the most important things I look for is a person's ability to empathize with their user. If the candidate can truly put themselves in the shoes of the person they are serving, and prioritize those needs, I'm pretty impressed.
Also, I always pay attention to how the candidate speaks about other people in general—whether stakeholders or teammates. This helps me assess leadership skills. Oftentimes, candidates can focus so much on the abstract problem (competition, design, etc), that they forget to factor in the most challenging part—getting the rest of the team bought in. - Fontaine Foxworth, Product Manager at Google
9) Imagine I'm calling an engineer who you worked closely with at your last job. What three words or phrases would they use to describe what you're like as a product manager?
The redirection to asking colleagues makes them think more objectively about their strengths/weaknesses.The candidate almost always provides 3 positive qualities, or strengths, such as "curious" or "dedicated to understanding customer needs."
I will then ask them to dive deeper into one of the 3 answers they've provided, usually focusing on the most vague response. Such as, "tell me a way in which you demonstrated dedication to understanding customer needs."
Then I say to them, "Let's pretend I'm calling that same colleague above. What is one area they'd say you could be better at or need improvement on." I then ask them to explain that one a bit more with a real example.
10) Explain a time that you met opposition in your approach or prioritization to a project. How did you navigate through it?
Here I'm looking for a couple things. 1) what tools/approaches do you leverage to help make your argument and 2) how do you handle confrontation.
Do you use data to drive alignment with stakeholders or are you a storyteller who is a customer centric decision maker? Do you adapt your argument based on the stakeholder you're engaging with, knowing what will help lead them to align with your prioritization? This is one of the most common challenges a product manager faces and each situation may be different, but I'm confident you have faced some version of this and can speak to it from your own experience.
Have a story that didn't turn out so hot in the end? Great! Use it. Tell us what didn't go well about it and what you'd change if you could go back! Being vulnerable and sharing examples of failures you've learned from is almost a sure fire way to get a hiring manager bought in on you. It tells us that you're mature, self-reflective and can take constructive feedback well. All key characteristics we look for in product leaders.The gem in this question is really how you approach confrontation. As product leaders, we are constantly challenged by engineers, stakeholders and other product managers, as such, we have to be comfortable dealing with confrontation.Crucial Conversations is my secret weapon and I highly encourage every single person to read it multiple times in their lives. I usually have a copy on my desk as a constant reminder. The ability to be comfortable navigating through an uncomfortable discussion not only builds relationships, helps to resolve issues quickly and promotes self-esteem and confidence, but it is a great reflection of one's maturity. When an applicant can tackle a difficult conversation with differing opinions successfully, it instills confidence that they can self manage. - Amory Borromeo, Senior Technical Product Manager at Carvana
11) How do you empathize with your stakeholders?
In addition to being incessantly curious and comfortable dealing with uncomfortable situations, I want to make sure that my product leaders know how to empathize. Can you get to the root of a problem and really help craft a solution that will delight the end user? A favorite quote of mine is Henry Ford's, "If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Product managers are often presented with solutions and we have to take the time to peel back the onion layers to truly understand the issue. I'll almost always ask this question in an interview, although I'll often word it differently with the hope of getting a story or two out of it:
This is a great opportunity to pull in some experience examples, where you were able to really understand the need your end user or stakeholder was asking for and craft a thoughtful solution that met their needs more than their ask for faster horses. A great product manager will be able to speak for the stakeholder and/or end users when working with their engineering teams because they are so fully aware of the issue, workflows, process, product, etc.
Take the time to shadow the end user, sit with the stakeholder and ask deeper investigating questions until you are so fully entrenched in the ask, that you could answer questions the same way a stakeholder would. You'll be surprised how often you find that the users have come up with workarounds or have completely overlooked alternative solutions because of their own biases based on their day to day interactions. This amount of empathy can also directly impact your ability to align with stakeholders because it builds a stronger relationship and proves your genuine interest in creating a better world for your end users. - Amory Borromeo, Senior Technical Product Manager at Carvana
12) Which two adjectives would you use to best describe your ideal work environment?
How you answer will help us understand what your values are. What matters most to you and what drives you? Do you need a collaborative environment? Do you like the autonomy to figure things out on your own? Does being surrounded by curious or ambitious people help push you to be a better version of yourself? So much can be pulled from these two simple words, but there is also something to be said about how you answer.
Do you simply say the two words and leave it at that, or do you elaborate to explain? Do you ask if we'd like you to explain your reasoning and create an opportunity to have further discussion? One of my favorite responses was when someone said the two words. Paused to say she could explain more if I'd like, but would be curious what my answers would be. This indicated that she could follow direction, was comfortable with a bit of ambiguity, knew how to navigate through the awkwardness I had laid out for her and cared about connecting and building relationships! - Amory Borromeo, Senior Technical Product Manager at Carvana
Now get practicing and get ready to nail your next interview!
According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.
That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.
As we reflect on recent events and how they fit into a much larger history of discrimination, we're also taking time to celebrate and acknowledge the many achievements of the AAPI community.
We asked several of our partner companies what they're doing to honor AAPI Heritage Month at work, and we were inspired by the range of responses, covering everything from campaigns to #StopAsianHate to educational events on AAPI history.
Here's what they're doing, in their own words:
Empowering authenticity - LogMeIn
"Our theme this year is AIM to Be Real. We are embracing our new company values and celebrating those who bring their authentic selves to work, who help create space to celebrate diversity of thought, and who give back to the API community. Our Asian ERG, Asians in Motion (AIM), is hosting several events: a discussion about bringing your authentic self to work with Jerry Won (Dear Asian Americans podcast); a refugee-led virtual cooking class; ERG Movie Club discussions featuring Bollywood films, and a virtual volunteer event where we will offer career development mentoring for young women across Asia."
Learn more about LogMeIn here.
Educating on current events — Raytheon Technologies
"Raytheon Technologies is honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with an enterprise-wide global town hall event – Real Talk: Building CommUNITY Together. Organized by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) employee resource groups across the company, employees will share their personal experiences and discuss ways to support Asian American Pacific Islander communities. The event will also feature prominent leading advocates from renowned civil rights organizations to provide insight into the national context surrounding recent events. We will also feature AAPI employees internally and on our social media channels."
Learn more about Raytheon Technologies here.
Encouraging awareness, growth, and learning — Moody's
"Moody's is encouraging awareness, growth, and learning during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the following activities, led by our Multicultural Business Resource Group and DE&I team:
- Weekly newsletters featuring AAPI employee profiles and cultural resources
- Video screening and small-group discussions supporting #StopAsianHate
- Cultural panel discussion featuring employee stories
- Professional development activities
- External speakers speaking about Asian leadership"
Supporting professional development — Freddie Mac
"Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Freddie Mac – Together, We Are Stronger
Freddie Mac supports the professional development of Asian and Pacific Islander employees while promoting an increased awareness of the value they bring to the organization and our local communities. Our InspirASIAN Business Resource Group is hosting various activities throughout the month such as:
- Personal development session on empowerment led by a coach from our Employee Assistance Program.
- "Stop Asian Hate" lunch and learn geared toward discussing the hurdles facing the AAPI community.
- Fireside chat about racial injustice with leaders from our InspirASIAN and ARISE (employees of the African diaspora) BRGs."
Fostering inclusion, learning, and belonging – Nestlé USA
"At Nestlé USA, the Pan Asian Network (PAN), one of our many employee resource groups that support our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion initiatives, will host a variety of events to honor and acknowledge Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. These activities will foster greater inclusion, enhanced learning, and belonging for the AAPI community. PAN will highlight women's development in Asian cultures, Asian leadership and what their culture means to them, culinary innovation of Asian cuisine, intersectionality of LGBTQ+ and Pan Asian community, as well as an enhanced learning watch party of the PBS movie 'Asian American.'"
Learn more about Nestlé USA here.
Promoting cultural literacy – Relativity
The Community Resource Group at Relativity
"For Relativity, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportune time to not only celebrate the rich AAPI cultures represented within our company, but to also foster awareness and allyship amidst the current rise of AAPI hate. RelAsians, our internal community resource group, has organized a few activities for May: a book club focused on AAPI heritage—because we feel it's never too early to gain cultural literacy, a weekly spotlight on AAPI Relativians, and a virtual event that takes attendees on a tour through an Asian grocery store, introducing native vegetables and staple ingredients for traditional home-cooked Asian recipes."
- Contribution from Neha Pant, Sr. Performance Engineer & Angie Ocasek, Sr. Specialist, Partner Enablement – Co-Chairs of the RelAsians Community Resource Group at Relativity
Learn more about Relativity here.
Creating transformative experiences – Facebook
"At Facebook, our APIs employee resource group's mission is to create transformative experiences for all APIs at Facebook, Inc through key cultural awareness and engagement highlighting the API community. To kick off APIHM, we will host a series of events and conversations for the community and its allies designed to support the API community around the theme, The SUM of Us, including:
- Letting Others In: a mindful discussion series that privileges intersectional voices, storytelling, feedback, and vulnerability as tools for building empathy and inclusion amongst organizations.
- Racial Healing Learning Session: specific to the API Experience focused on naming of experiences and emotional responses, understanding the body's responses to racial trauma, what the audience can do in the moment for self-care, and long-term strategies to overcome the effect of the traumatic experience.
- Bystander Training/self Defense Workshop"
Learn more about Facebook here.
Extensive and exciting programming — 2U
"At 2U, Inc. we'll be honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with extensive and exciting programming coordinated by our employee-led Asian Pacific Islander Network (APIN). In a year marred by exceptional challenges APIN has centered activities around the ameliorating themes of joy, culture and wellness. Be it delighting in a ukulele mini concert, reading an interview highlighting an API coworker, winding down after too much screen time with a somatic healing session or engaging in a panel discussion with API tattoo artists, we have a packed month ahead with opportunities to support oneself and the API culture! Follow along @Lifeat2U on Instagram for more!"
Learn more about 2U here.
Amplifying voices and educating others – Smartsheet
"During APAHM, the API at Smartsheet community will be hosting several events and activities to educate others, amplify AAPI voices, and celebrate the AAPI community! We plan to kick off the month with a documentary viewing and discussion to learn about AAPI history, and hope to share personal stories from our AAPI employees throughout the month. We'll end with an opportunity for the community to celebrate itself by gathering together for fun and games, while eating food from local Asian-owned restaurants."
Learn more about Smartsheet here.
Rising together in sports and culture – NBA
"For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, APEX is proud to present a multitude of celebratory activities, headlined by an NBA Family Virtual Town Hall and, with the NFL and MLB, an Asians in Sports & Culture Symposium themed "Together We Rise" featuring prominent Asian personalities from the sports world. We are also launching a PSA with an NBA star, honoring Eid-al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan, offering a bystander intervention training led by AAJC, and – because the celebration wouldn't be complete without food – hosting a sushi making class for our members."
Learn more about the NBA here.
Creating courageous conversations – Commvault
"This May, we are celebrating all our Asian/Pacific Islander employees, not just Asian Americans. We will spend the month learning about and celebrating the diverse cultures of Asia through weekly events and activities led by our Multi-Culture ERG. Vaulters and external guests will teach us the history of practices such as yoga, origami, and Asian cuisines. We will also discuss topics like the rise of hate crimes against Asian people and the recent spike in COVID-19 in India. These activities and courageous conversations will engage our workforce and create support for our Asian and Pacific Islander communities around the world."
Learn more about Commvault here.
Honoring history through virtual events – Collins Aerospace
"Collins Aerospace supports our AAPI colleagues not only in May, but all year. Our parent company Raytheon Technologies hosted a virtual Town Hall last month to provide a safe space for open dialogue about recent events targeting Asian Americans in the U.S. In addition to this entity-wide event, our Asia Pacific ERG at Collins is hosting events that educate and honor the importance of Asian Pacific American history such as virtual Lunch & Tours spotlighting South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and India; and Thoughts & Support sessions. Site-specific events include virtual cooking class, and viewing PBS docuseries Asian Americans."
Learn more about Collins Aerospace here.
Highlighting new perspectives – MongoDB
"MongoDB will share daily historical facts, highlights of Asian American pioneers, and perspectives from our AAPI employees in a dedicated Slack channel. We will also be providing access to an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month webinar, organizing a trivia night, and holding Processing Together sessions for our internal AAPI community due to recent hate crimes happening across the globe. These sessions are a safe space for employees to share their stories and sentiments of what it is like as an Asian American in America today. (Read MongoDB employee Monica Lu's story about being an Asian American woman in tech here.)"
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Spotlighting diverse communities – Bumble
"At Bumble, moments like heritage month celebrations are often our anchor to ensure we are spotlighting diverse communities. In alignment with AAPI Heritage Month in May, Bumble is rolling out a series of thoughtful programming to encourage internal education and around how to support the Stop Asian Hate movement and better serve the Asian community globally. The lineup of initiatives include:
- BuzzWord DEI Discussion Series with featured guest speakers: This conversation will focus on the Asian community within the context of larger cultural issues such as dating app experiences, fetishization, masculinity, and representation.
- Bumble will be inviting employees to join a virtual Vietnamese coffee-making class. Created in partnership with Phin Bar, an urban brew-bar that offers Vietnamese-style steeped coffee combined with house-made ingredients, Bumble hopes to facilitate a deeper cultural learning and community bonding experience for the team.
- Bumble will also be activating channels across social media and our product to educate our community about bystander intervention and raise awareness around the importance of supporting the Stop Asian Hate movement."
Engaging in daring conversations – Procore
"In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, Procore recently organized an internal event to recognize and support the AAPI community. The event was hosted as part of our ongoing internal speaker series, 'Daring Conversations & Allyship,' to create space for an open dialogue around diversity, inclusion, and belonging. All employees were invited to tune in as employees from our AAPI communities shared their unique experiences, addressed anti-Asian hate, and discussed actionable ways to support our AAPI community."
Learn more about Procore here.
Taking action to foster change – SeatGeek
"This month the POC ERG will be meeting and hosting different activities to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This includes creating a safe space to discuss current events, and what actions our communities can take to foster change, sending out a newsletter which will highlight the Asian community in every aspect, and lastly, we will be hosting a guest speaker.
We hope with these planned activities and meetings, we can highlight, and uplift the Asian/Pacific American community, as well as bring awareness to the horrible ongoing attacks they are facing."
Learn more about SeatGeek here.
Uplifting and inspiring the community – Okta
"Okta's People of Color (POC@Okta) ERG is planning to commemorate AAPI Month with a series of fireside chats and iconographical facts posted internally in the #poc and #all diversity Slack channels! These chats will feature Dion Lim of ABC7 News and Comedian/Actor, Ronny Chieng. We will conclude the series with a partnership with Pride@Okta featuring supermodel, TED speaker, and transgender advocate Geena Rocero. The goal of this series is to educate, uplift, support, and inspire! The Okta leadership supports its AAPI employees, customers, and community."
Learn more about Okta here.
Empowering cultural diversity and leadership – Quip
"Salesforce will be celebrating through multiple virtual events, such as a leadership panel on the power of cultural diversity, a tea tasting, a tai chi class, a haka workshop, and more! Members of the Quip team have also compiled an extensive list of resources to support AAPI communities, including ways to donate, take action, and learn more."
Learn more about Quip here.
Focusing on lived experiences – Mindbody
"The Mindbody United ERG focuses on a different heritage or history each month, with May devoted to Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This ERG seeks to provide a platform to both celebrate and learn together. This will manifest in two ways: As a newsletter and a Zoom meeting. The newsletter will feature contributions directly from team members, while the meeting will feature Assembly member Evan Low as our speaker. It is our goal to focus on the lived experiences of the AAPI community, address discrimination, and how to chase after the part of the world we can make better."
Learn more about Mindbody here.
Promoting harmony and unity – T. Rowe Price
"T. Rowe Price is aware and appalled at the recent spike in hate crimes against the Asian community. In response, the firm will center Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month efforts around harmony and unity, in alignment with the Hawaiian value, Lōkahi – Forward as One. To share best practices, successes and areas of opportunities, T. Rowe Price will co-host a Leadership Panel on Asian Leadership Challenges with Baltimore Asian Connect, a consortium of Asian business resource group leaders at local corporations. The firm will also host a book club and restorative listening circles for Asian American associates and their allies."
Learn more about T. Rowe Price here.
Celebrating Asians globally
"May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. Although traditionally a US celebration, at Autodesk we are celebrating Asians globally. The Autodesk Asian Network is hosting Innovative Leaders, including Lori Mukoyama and Jonathan Zee. Lori Mukoyama is redefining experience-driven design globally at Gensler. Jonathan Zee has an extensive portfolio of buildings that are helping to shape cities around the world at Goettsch Partners. Lori and her husband Jonathan combine design, architecture and engineering in their work while simultaneously manage a family together during this pandemic. This event is hosted by AAN, as part of a monthlong series of APA Heritage Month events."
Learn more about AutoDesk here.
3 Pieces of Advice from Working Moms at Pluralsight
Being fully committed to work and family is a challenge that many working parents have to take on. It can be exhausting and thankless pursuing a fulfilling full-time career, while taking an active role as a parent. Achieving a healthy balance can help keep you motivated and productive at work, while allowing you to be fully present when you're home.
We recently chatted with working moms at technology skills platform, Pluralsight, about their best advice for striking that elusive work-life balance. Here were their key points:
Stop trying to be a supermom
You are a wonder woman. You do so much! Even with the most supportive spouse, there are so many things to remember, so many tasks to do, appointments, events, plans, work projects, meetings, etc. that burnout is looming at every turn. Have grace for yourself. It usually takes someone else to point that out when we've hit our limit, so we must do our best to prevent that and remind ourselves regularly that we are only human and can only juggle so many things at a time. Plan and set realistic expectations for yourself. Planning conservatively will help get prioritized things done on time. It will help you be more efficient so you can perform at work while being present at home too.
Integrations Engineer, San Diego, CA
Set realistic expectations and embrace change
Just like in any relationship, you must understand how valuable you are in order to maintain a fair agreement between you and your employer. Understanding how valuable you are will help you gain the confidence required to speak up and ask for what will make you a happy and productive employee. You don't ask, you don't get. Some employers already understand the importance of a work/life balance for their staff, but if not, you may need to set firm expectations and boundaries (i.e. long hours, weekend work, workload, etc). When you make it clear what you are willing to do and where your limits are, expectations can ensure employers plan accordingly and you get the time you need for family.
Integrations Engineer, San Diego, CA
At 12 weeks pregnant, I had already read half a dozen books and countless articles on pregnancy and childbirth. My bag was packed with a cute after-hospital outfit, the birth plan was written, and I was prepared.
When my twin girls arrived a month early, the birth plan was the first thing to fly out the window. The books hadn't prepared me for the messiness of childbirth. The cute outfit stayed in my bag. But none of that mattered– I was now responsible for these tiny beautiful human beings who had become my whole world. I was part of something bigger.
This first lesson of motherhood– to embrace change and never lose sight of what's really important– has become invaluable in all aspects of my personal and professional life. In my two-decade career as a software engineer and leader, I constantly find myself throwing plans out the window and adapting to new situations. Being a working mother of five has taught me to use those messy moments as learning opportunities. A greater sense of purpose keeps me grounded and grateful through all the change. At home, it is my family. At work, it comes from being a member of an amazing team and building products that make a difference.
Sr. Director of Software Development, Flow Visualization, Durango, CO
Drop the guilt and give yourself grace
I honestly never envisioned myself being a working mom. It wasn't until I landed in a career that I truly loved, that I thought about how I could pursue both dreams of being a mother and continuing to progress career-wise.
When I first returned to work, it was really challenging. I felt pulled in so many different directions for how I showed up for both family and work. I found myself stretched thin and worn out. Ultimately I didn't feel like I was performing well in any area of my life.
It wasn't until I learned how to prioritize my time, and honestly, say no when others asked for things I couldn't commit to without over-extending myself, that I felt like I really succeeded.
I received some great advice from a mentor about the importance of setting realistic expectations of how much time I can give. At the beginning of my journey of working motherhood, I always felt like I was missing out on work stuff when I had to drop off/pick up my son from daycare. When I was put on meetings that went outside of regular working hours, I felt this pressure to listen in to every word. It made things stressful for both me and my son.
When I finally decided that I was going to spend that commuting time interacting with my son instead of trying to find ways to keep him quiet so I could listen to meetings, things changed for me.
I ask team members to take notes they can share with me following the meeting. Or in cases where there are more details I know I need, I ask for recordings of the meetings. And you know what? I usually find that I'm not missing too much. The business carries on. I'm able to perform my job function well. And I don't feel like my team sees me as less committed for prioritizing my family.
Demand Program Manager, Utah
Only you know what is best for you and your family. Will you be a better mom and wife if you provide financially? Would you make more of a difference if you were a stay-at-home-mom? I tried to be a stay-at-home-mom after being a working mom, and let's just say my impatient personality didn't make for such a positive experience. Also, missing my kids while at work helps me look forward to seeing them and gives me the reset I need sometimes. Each choice has its challenges, and even if you do not have the luxury to choose, just know that whichever way you go YOU ARE DOING THE BEST YOU CAN and that is all you can do. You can feel guilty either way, so choose to do your best and drop the guilt.
Integrations Engineer, San Diego, CA
Learn more about Pluralsight's open roles here.
When the startup Adriana Bosinceanu was working for got acquired, things changed fast.
She went from being one of eight engineers on a small team building a streaming service to joining a company that was five times larger and had a much bigger scope.
That company was Plex, where Adriana has been working remotely as a software engineer for the last four and a half years.
As her team grew from two people to ten, Adriana decided to lean into the opportunity to grow; along the way, she found herself deepening her technical skills, her self-confidence, and her relationships. We sat down with Adriana to learn exactly how she did that, and to hear the tips she has for other engineers experiencing growth opportunities on their team.
Seeing the good
When faced with the complete disruption of the way your team works, you might feel overwhelmed, pessimistic, or even scared.
While it took about a month to get used to working on a new, bigger team and supporting a growing product, Adriana quickly saw all of the positives of her new position—including and especially all the learning it set her up to do.
"I started working with two new colleagues, and they were both such good engineers," says Adriana. "I went from an environment where I was the most senior person, and didn't really have anyone to share things with, to this place where I was suddenly surrounded by senior engineers who were very good at what they were doing."
Again, that might sound like an environment ripe for causing feelings of inadequacy. But Adriana saw it as an opportunity to learn from the best people in her field. And she knows she's not alone in having that experience at Plex.
Since the media streaming company has always been all-remote, explains Adriana, who works from a small city in Romania, that means they can pull the best-quality talent. "Whenever they hire someone, they don't have to pick the best person in the city—it's always the best person out of a much bigger pool of candidates. That means that in general, the people at Plex are pretty great, and very culturally different, and it's just a nice atmosphere," she says.
She attributes a lot of that to Plex's culture. "Every company has their values, and some are more genuine than others," she says. "In our case, one of our values is to be kind and nice to each other, which sounds very simple. But here, everyone is actually trying to be kind and helpful. [And] when you start working with people who don't act in any way like they're superior or know more or have more experience, then you don't really feel overwhelmed."
Leaning into technical challenges
Soon after Plex acquired Adriana's former employer, her team was faced with a new project: to build out the content streaming side of Plex's personal media product.
Instead of a user just being able to access their personal home videos or pictures from all their devices, this new project would introduce streaming options, from podcasts to TIDAL to live TV.
"I've been in a lot of companies where people are scared by a big change or a big feature. They try to just do the smaller version instead. And our mindset has always been to not be scared of doing the scary, big feature," says Adriana.
Her team jumped all the way in, and it paid off. "It was super fun because I was there from the start," says Adriana. "From the first line of code committed to now, years later. It really helped my confidence to be able to make decisions, to see everything grow, and to figure out that it's okay to make mistakes and to rewrite, to adapt, and to be constantly evolving."
"My technical skills have definitely grown because before I had never worked on a product that had such a scale. I never worked somewhere where we had to deal with hundreds of millions of requests a day or with huge databases," explains Adriana.
Now, being in charge of vital parts of this huge project, Adriana can look back and recognize the impact that taking on a big technical challenge with a growing team had on her self-confidence.
"I feel that now I could do anything," she says. "I could be part of any tech project, where before, I didn't have the confidence to think about myself that way. [That comes from] seeing how I could start a big, ambitious project and actually code it from beginning to end."
3 tips for making the most out of growth opportunities
If you find yourself in a situation similar to Adriana's, whether that's experiencing growth on your team, joining a new company, or facing a new, challenging project, here's what she recommends you do:
- Get to know your team and understand its dynamics. "Whenever someone joins the team, the team dynamic changes," she says. "Sometimes it's very easy, sometimes you need to adapt." Pre-pandemic, she and her Plex colleagues kept up with that dynamic by meeting up for in-person off-sites at least twice a year. "When you get together with your small team in a foreign city for a week, you have time to talk about everything and to bond, and those have really helped us a lot," she says. They took those meetups online this last year, and while some of the magic is definitely missing, says Adriana, "a week of not coding and hanging out and talking still helps."
- Be patient with yourself if you feel overwhelmed. "A lot of people feel like they're not good enough or don't have enough experience and that's just not true. That's how everyone feels," says Adriana. That's especially true if you're trying on different technical skill sets to find the ones you like best, she adds. "Personally, I switched languages a bunch of times until I finally figured out what I like. I think it's hard to figure out without trying," she says.
- If you're not getting the opportunities you want in your current situation, seek them out. "If you're unhappy, you know, [gather] some courage and apply for whatever your dream job is," says Adriana. "If you're hardworking and you like it and you're into coding, I'm sure it's going to work out."
Your guide to preparing for virtual career fairs and making a great impression with recruiters
According to a LinkedIn survey, up to 85% of jobs are filled via networking. For job seekers, virtual job fairs make networking with recruiters more convenient. You can interact with potential employers from all over the world, ask them questions, and apply for jobs. Every event is different, but they most often include video conferencing features, chat rooms, and Q&A sessions.
Dilyara Timerbulatova, Virtual Job Fair Coordinator at PowerToFly explains that, "virtual job fairs have many benefits, namely connecting top talent and recruiters that would otherwise never cross paths. These events are a tool to help companies build well-rounded, diverse teams that align with the company culture and business vision."
10 steps to standing out at a job fair.
Virtual job fairs are different from the in-person experience that we're used to, so it's important to adapt and prepare for this new setting. Here are some key ways to put your best foot forward and make a lasting impression with a recruiter.
- Update your LinkedIn profile and resume. Start by making sure that your work history is up to date. Make sure to include any experience relevant to jobs you are applying for.
- Do your homework. Find out which companies will be attending the fair and learn more about what the company does, their mission and values, company culture, and skills they're looking for. At this stage, you can begin preparing questions for the recruiter(s).
- Practice your pitch. During the virtual job fair, you may have to introduce yourself to recruiters. Prepare a short pitch talking about who you are, your skills, and relevant experience. (Not every virtual job fair will provide an opportunity for this, but better safe than sorry. If you do get a bit of time to introduce yourself, you want to make it count.)
- Look the part. YES, you still have to dress professionally, even though this is all happening online. Plus, studies show that dressing up can increase confidence, which might be the boost that you need to score the job.
- Prepare your space. Find a quiet area with a strong wi-fi connection and do your best to make sure your background is clean and distraction-free. We recommend sitting against a neutral wall, preferably near a power outlet, just in case your computer battery runs low. Don't forget to turn your phone and computer on 'do-not-disturb' mode.
- Be on time. As they say, five minutes early is on time, and on time is late. Showing up early demonstrates that you are dependable and consistent. Remember to leave some extra time for potential technical difficulties or connection issues, and log into the fair a few minutes early. Who knows, you might get the chance to snag a few extra minutes with recruiters while you wait for the rest of the fairgoers to arrive.
- Use strong body language. Since the interactions between recruiters and talent are virtual, the ability to read a person's body language is limited. Introduce yourself with a smile, maintain focused eye contact, and nod your head in agreement (even when your microphone is muted). Using strong body language will help you demonstrate interest and confidence.
- Communicate professionally. One of the best ways for a candidate to stand out is through good communication and grammar skills. During a virtual job fair, a lot of communication will be done through written interactions, whether in the chat function or follow-up messages/emails. To make a great first impression, you'll want to demonstrate strong written communication and avoid using slang or excessive abbreviations.
- Ask the right questions. Come up with questions that can't be found on the company website. Think of questions that would allow you to get deeper knowledge about the organization's culture, learn about ways to move up in that organization, or discover what you might be able to contribute to the company.
- Follow up. Once the fair is over, connect with recruiters on LinkedIn and include a personalized message thanking them for their time and further expressing your interest in working at their company. Keep in mind that recruiters come in contact with many candidates, so you can use this opportunity to refresh their memory and remind them about why you're a promising candidate, or to properly introduce yourself if you didn't get a chance to do so at the fair. Try and offer a specific example of information they shared that you found valuable to jog their memory and make your thank you feel extra sincere! Don't forget #8 on this list! Always proofread your message before you hit send.
Ready to give it a go? Sign up for PowerToFly's upcoming Virtual Career Fair here.
Learn more about our amazing speakers and sponsors at our June 2021 virtual summit Diversity Reboot: Pride At Work, three days of conversations and panels plus an interactive virtual career fair.
Our Pride At Work summit certainly made us proud! PowerToFly was thrilled to present talks by members of the LGBTQIA+ community alongside some amazing allies. Our conversations ranged from leaders at the highest levels of government positions to visionaries in the worlds of business & tech to artists from the music and entertainment industry. If you tuned in, and celebrated our speakers, thank you! And if you missed the summit or would like to re-watch any of the talks, those conversations will all be available to watch for free on PowerToFly.
If you can, please consider donating to some of the amazing organizations we highlighted at the summit including GLITS, fighting for the health and rights of transgender sex workers; Garden State Equality, the largest LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization in New Jersey, with over 150,000 members; National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, including people living with HIV/AIDS; and NYC Anti-Violence Project, empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education, and supports survivors through counseling and advocacy.
Plus, don't forget to visit our Merch Store and grab yourself some PowerToFly apparel. 100% of the proceeds from our sales will be going to TransTech Social, supporting transgender and non-binary people in tech.Finally, registration for our July 12th - 15th virtual summit Diversity Reboot: Tech For Social Impact is now open! Join us to learn about founders from mission-driven organizations and their social impact. Register for free here
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