You're perfectly qualified, you've arrived on time, and you're ready for your technical interview. What could possibly go wrong?
Technical interviews can be a mind wracking experience for job seekers. Everyone makes mistakes, but according to interviewers, candidates for tech positions are prone to a number of common interview blunders. To avoid them, it's helpful to know what they are.
Keep reading to see what our partner companies had to say about the most common mistakes interviewees make during tech interviews (and what to do instead).
Not asking clarifying questions - Facebook
"The mistake: Not asking clarifying questions.
What to do instead: Instead of jumping into coding immediately after being presented with a problem, ask clarifying questions to ensure you've understood the problem correctly before you begin building a solution. For example, you may want to understand input requirements or ask about edge cases. When you do begin to code, think out loud as you go—and keep asking questions. Hearing your thought process helps give your interviewer insight into your problem-solving skills and can provide opportunities for them to offer additional points of clarification or share hints, if needed."
Learn more about Facebook here.
Making assumptions without calling them out - Uber
"Making assumptions without calling them out and jumping into a solution without asking questions or calling out your approach. It's important to take things slow and help us really understand how you think through problems. So make sure that you really understand the question that's being asked by your interviewer. That you ask clarifying questions. And that call out your approach."
Learn more about Uber here.
Not explaining your thought process - Def Method
"For me, the most frustrating thing an interviewee can do is not explain their thought process to me. As an interviewer I want to see how someone approaches problems in general so I can decide how successful they will be at solving different problems. When I ask a question and get an answer without hearing how the interviewee arrived at it, I cannot extrapolate on their problem-solving abilities. An interviewee should show me their thought process—explain their thinking so I can decide how well they will be able to apply those skills as an employee."
Learn more about Def Method here.
Not saying "I don't know" - Clyde
"A common mistake that we see is candidates not knowing an answer to a question and making up fake technical answers, spitballing at length, or just remaining quiet. It's much better for you to say "I don't know" and talk through the process that you would use to figure out the answer. A part of the interview is understanding how someone works through a problem they haven't seen before, if you have a good process for figuring the answer out, that's often enough to pass. Even if you know the answer, talk us through your process!"
–Josh and Josh
Learn more about Clyde here.
Not explaining how you got to your answer - Automattic
"Being so focused on the answer that they don't explain how they got there. Explaining their thought process in detail helps us determine how they approach problems. As a result, it's important to "think out loud," and ask for more context if needed. The problems we solve at Automattic are so varied and unique that we care less about someone's answer to a specific question, and more about how they approach it. Knowing that lets us evaluate if their problem-solving process is robust enough for us to feel confident that they could solve anything that comes their way."
–Jerry Jones, Hiring Expert
Learn more about Automattic here.
Not asking clarifying questions from go - Kensho
"One of the simplest mistakes you can make during a technical interview is to not ask clarifying questions early or check in regularly. Remember that the interviewer wants you to succeed, but cannot read your mind. If you don't understand the question, become stuck, or feel like you may be veering off course, it's time to check in! Explaining your thought process opens a dialogue between yourself and the interviewer, and you may even discover the solution just by saying what you're thinking (see "rubber duck debugging")."
Learn more about Kensho here.
Not discussing your specific contributions - LogMeIn
"Developing software at scale requires a team effort. Throughout each step of the SDLC, each team member provides individual contributions of various scope and complexity. From Planning, Analysis and Design to Implementation, Testing/Integration and Maintenance, each individual contribution is important to overall outcomes. Too often, candidates answer interview questions in terms of the team's contributions, (e.g., "we did X"). Oftentimes, post-interview feedback cites a candidate's answers being too general or vague. This leads to skepticism. I advise candidates prepare to discuss their specific contributions within the context of overall outcomes, (Incl., SDLC steps, role within team, deliverables, impacts, lessons-learned, etc.)."
–Ryan Jane, Principal Talent Acquisition Partner
Learn more about LogMeIn here.
Not doing your homework on the company - Waters
"In our industry, we're used to seeing a multitude of acronyms and initialisms used in an interview. To demonstrate your knowledge and experience it's always best to talk through a brief summary – that can be very impactful.
Even though we are interviewing people for their technical capabilities, we still want to see that they are prepared and know about the company. As tempting as it may be to read the website whilst on a virtual interview, being prepared in advance and able to describe in your own words gives a much better impression of your research and interest."
Learn more about Waters here.
Miscommunication - Afterpay
"I think one of the most inhibiting mistakes interviewees make is miscommunication. Even though for the one hour we are sitting at different sides of the table, I see you as my potential future teammate. I'm not here to judge but to understand your thinking process and work out a solution together. Asking questions when you are in doubt and letting the interviewer know your thoughts and concerns is very important. Having different opinions with an open mind to suggestions is totally fine. "
–Greta Shi, Senior Software Engineer
Learn more about Afterpay here.
Not clearly stating which programming language you're comfortable with live coding in - Mural
"Not showing up to the interview is always #1
#2 is related to candidates not making clear which programming language they are comfortable with for live coding during the interview.
And finally, #3. Candidates not making sure they have a suitable environment (laptop with camera, text editor, tools, etc) for the interview.
So remember to show up on time, be honest with your interviewer and test your environment before joining!"
Learn more about Mural here.
Being unprepared to discuss examples of your technical expertise - Bristol Myers Squibb
"One of the most frustrating mistake that interviewee's make is that they do not come prepared to explain their technical experience/ projects with examples.
Interviewees must come prepared with the following:
- Thoroughly read the job description.
- Be prepared to explain your experience as it relates to the job.
- Always share examples.
- Explain and share details of your experience on an application.
- Communicate effectively, be explicit and to the point (articulate).
- Do not be afraid or shy away from accepting, if you do not know the answer. (no one knows it all)
- Read about the company to understand cultural fit, display skills including how you do Time Management, Organizational skills, Trouble-shooting approach, and Interpersonal skills.
- Come prepared to ask questions."
Learn more about Bristol Myers Squibb here.
Not tailoring your experience to the role you're applying to - Clarus Commerce
"The biggest mistake all interviewees make is not tailoring their experiences to the job they're applying to. My advice for your interview prep is to rely on the job description. Go line by line and jot down the experiences you have that align with what the job description is asking for. Make it obvious for the interviewer why you'd be best for the position. Be sure to share your experience using the Company's tech stack with examples as the 'proof behind your responses'. Be prepared, be excited, and ask questions!"
Learn more about Clarus Commerce here.
Answering a question you don't fully understand - Collins Aerospace
"One of the biggest opportunities for mistakes comes from trying to answer a question you don't fully understand. Don't assume– ask clarifying questions so you know what's expected. Also, be concise so there will be time for follow-up questions and conversation."
Learn more about Collins Aerospacehere.
Not taking a collaborative approach - Netskope
"Certain technical interviews are structured to intentionally be open-ended to invite questions and a deeper discussion between interviewer and candidate. Although candidates have the right background, some may not be used to collaborating in solution design and explaining their thought processes, thus leading to a roadblock. Without the explanation of a thought process, it's difficult for the interviewer to guide the candidate and evaluate their analytical skills and strengths.
Instead, candidates should take a collaborative approach and seek feedback as they work toward a solution. Selecting a challenging problem and solving it with a friend by thinking aloud and collaborating could be useful practice in preparation for the interview"
–Mohan Doraiswamy, Sr. Manager, Engineering
Learn more about Netskope here.
Rushing into problem-solving mode - SeatGeek
"One of the frustrating mistakes I see candidates make during technical interviews is when they dive into solving the prompt without taking some time to size up and digest the question. Oftentimes, a candidate's first instinct is not the most optimal, which poses more of a challenge when they must backtrack, and ask retrospective questions to change their solution.
My best advice here is to first pause, review your resources, and ask clarifying questions before you start writing code. The way you think through a problem and work towards a solution can be just as important as the solution itself!"
–Josh Mordkoff, Senior Technical Recruiter
Learn more about SeatGeek here.
Not articulating your thought process - MongoDB
"During a technical interview, focus on verbally communicating your thought process. This could show that you approach a problem in a new and unique way. At MongoDB, we highly value diversity of thought, different backgrounds and sets of experiences, as well as different perspectives on how to approach solving problems. Adding another perspective to solving the questions we face will only help us build better products for our customers."
–Jason Gorsky, Manager, Technical Recruiting
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Not testing out equipment ahead of time - GameChanger
"One of the more frustrating mistakes interviewees make during technical interviews is not testing out equipment ahead of time. As more companies move to remote work, most, if not all, interviews are taking place over tools like Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams. Making sure ahead of time that your computer is able to run these applications without technical issues goes a long way in showing us that you're prepared. The last thing an interviewer wants is to spend the first 15 minutes dealing with technical difficulties because now it delays getting to know you more."
Learn more about GameChanger here.
Not providing applicable examples - CAPCO
"Tips to Bring into an Interview:
Carly Finnegan, Technical Recruiters says:
- Do research on the company where you're interviewing and come prepared with at least 2 questions
- Be able to explain, or give an example of, a project that you were on, the importance of the project and how you worked with other members of your team (i.e. developers, QA, Scrum Masters, Tech BA's, etc.)
Craig Jackson, Tech Recruiter says:
- Be able to articulate technical experience and provide an applicable example of when and how tech was used
- Be able to articulate what your individual contribution has been (not TEAM's contributions)
Matt Markham, Partner in the Technology Domain
- Demonstrate awareness of HOW things are meant to work instead of merely providing the code / answer
- Show problem solving ability
Ken Pritchard, Principal Consultant, Technology
- A big mistake many technical interviewees make is trying to dive right into a solution when given a technical problem to solve. Taking the time to ask some clarifying questions not only leads to a better solution, but also more clearly demonstrates higher level thinking."
Learn more about CAPCO here.
Overexplaining responses - Autodesk
"Avoid overexplaining your responses. Keeping your answers clear and concise will show that you have a strong understanding of what you're describing. Try to remember that if your recruiter wants more detail, they will ask for it. Next, avoid exaggerating your skillset. Recruiters would much rather take a chance on a candidate who is willing to learn than one who can't demonstrate a skill they claimed to have. Finally, be able to explain your thought process behind any decisions you have had to make. Doing this, even in failure, can show how you learn and adapt."
Learn more about Autodesk here.
Developing a solution without communicating your thought process - Guru
"In technical pair programming interviews, the biggest frustration I have is candidates developing their solution without communicating their thought process. Regardless of whether the code works or not, this makes it more challenging to gauge the candidate's technical aptitude, problem-solving skills, and reception to feedback. Instead, I suggest interviewees think out loud as much as possible. Consider rereading the problem statement and validating the requirements, asking clarifying questions, vocalizing potential approaches, explaining tradeoffs while coding, and sharing ideas on optimization. This may not come naturally at first, but practice makes perfect!"
–Maggie Lin, Back End Software Engineer
Learn more about Guru here.
Giving answers that are too short - PagerDuty
"Sometimes candidates make the mistake of giving one or two word answers to questions in the recruiter screen. That makes it tough to make a case to the hiring manager about why they would want to hire you.
Successful candidates prepare. Learn about the company and the role. Ask about the interview process and what you should expect. Communicate why you would want to work here.
Remember, an interview is a conversation! As a recruiter, I love when candidates display enthusiasm about PagerDuty and have researched it."
–Dick Hartshorne, Lead Recruiting Business Partner
Learn more about PagerDuty here.
Responding without thinking - Healthfirst
"One of the biggest mistakes interviewees make is not answering the question. They try to respond immediately without taking the time to tell their story in a succinct way. This can lead to a few things: a rambling, long-winded answer; a confused recruiter; and/ or an unanswered question.
Instead, take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, and answer using the STAR (Situation – Task – Action – Result) method. Describe the situation, explain the task you had to complete, describe the action(s) you took to complete the task, and describe the results of your efforts."
Learn more about Healthfirst here.
Not voicing your thought process - BlackRock
"No one knows everything, so you don't have to act like it. Interviewees should be genuine and honest. That means voicing your thought process, even if you're still coming up with a better solution.
As a technologist at BlackRock, the challenges you'll tackle will be complex and the impact you'll have will be vast – you'll help move markets, build economies and support the retirement of millions of people around the globe. To best serve our clients, we need people with diverse perspectives, talents and ways of thinking.
That's why demonstrating what you know and how you think is way more important than the "right" answer."
Learn more about BlackRock here.
Trying to bluff your way through the interview - Elastic
"The psychology around not saying "I don't know" is that we as humans don't like to say that about anything, ever. It shows weakness. But it can take strength to demonstrate weakness, and such an admission is often viewed in a positive light. I don't think most candidates realize this though, and try to bluff their way through instead. This typically leads to long-winded answers that go nowhere. On those occasions when candidates ask for advice, I try to coach them to not be afraid to own up to when they don't know something."
–Tucker Wolfe, Recruiter
Learn more about Elastic here.
Not asking for pre-interview guidance - Procore
"There are three frequent mistakes that many candidates make during their technical coding interviews.
First, candidates generally jump straight into coding before understanding the problem holistically. Similar to how we build products at Procore, coding challenges are designed to build from one section to the next, so it's important to understand the entire problem as presented, not just the first section. We see candidates lose valuable time as they progress through a challenge if they have to continually go back and rewrite code to make future sections work.
Secondly, candidates tend to be more 'heads down' while coding. Communication is key during a coding challenge—this will allow an interviewer to understand a candidate's thought process to help steer them in the right direction if needed. Procore is a highly collaborative environment where teams across the company work together to design and develop best-in-class software solutions successfully. Open lines of communication are both appreciated and required for success within our Product & Technology organization.
Lastly, and the most important—ask your recruiter for pre-interview guidance to help prepare for the interview! We are your biggest ally internally and want to ensure you're prepped with resources, tips, and insights that empower you to have a confident and successful interview."
–Garrett Wilson, Staff Technical Recruiter
Learn more about Procore here.
Not clarifying your thoughts before analyzing your code - VTS
"At VTS, we focus on pair programming for technical challenges and the number one mistake we see is candidates not sharing their thought process. Not only do we want to see how interviewees collaborate with members of our team, but it makes it difficult for the interviewers to help remove blockers or make suggestions when they don't know where or why you are getting stuck. Also, ask questions! The earlier you clarify your thoughts, the easier it is to plan and analyze your code."
Learn more about VTS here.
Not preparing for behavioral interview questions - Unstoppable Domains
"One frustrating mistake that many interviewees make is not preparing for behavioral interview questions and not clearly or concisely communicating the depth of their technical experience. Almost all companies ask behavioral questions, but many candidates feel blindsided by these. Before the interview, we recommend reflecting on your biggest achievements and areas of opportunity over the last 5 years, then rehearsing answers in the STAR format - Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Be specific. Why were those achievements important? What was the measurable impact? What did you learn as a result? It's not just about knowing the programming language, it's about being able to discuss real-life situations and how you were able to problem solve, collaborate, and add value. Bonus points if you research the company mission, values and tech stack beforehand so that you can tailor your response to each company."
Learn more about Unstoppable Domains here.
Not familiarizing yourself with the product - Smartsheet
"Many interviewees don't take the time to familiarize themselves with the Smartsheet product before their interview. Aside from reflecting poorly on their interest in our company, it makes it harder for them to understand where technical questions are coming from and then answer appropriately. Establishing even a basic understanding of our product gives candidates valuable context when thinking through responses to our questions (and asking meaningful questions of their own!). Our website is a great first stop, or candidates can even sign up for a free trial account to try out the product for themselves."
Learn more about Smartsheet here.
Weak communication - Veracode
"One of the most common mistakes interviewees make during a technical interview is having long-winded answers which can take time away from additional questions the interviewer may have. If you recognize this in yourself, practice breathing between sentences, or jot down some key points you want to share to reference during the interview. Strong communication begins with being an active listener then giving an answer that is clearly articulated, confident, and shows empathy. If you worry about being not detailed enough, remember the interview can always ask you to elaborate further. Demonstrating these communication skills during an interview will put your candidacy on the top of the list, as technical hiring managers are always seeking strong communicators on their teams."
Learn more about Veracode here.
How SeatGeek’s Director of Engineering Michelle Alexander Hires Senior ICs (And How She Helps Them Grow)
Michelle Alexander didn't know if she'd like managing an intern.
This was years ago. She was working as an iOS engineer and was given the opportunity to work with her company's summer interns. She felt like her learning had slowed, and she figured that even if she didn't like the experience, she'd learn something through the process.
"I assumed, 'I like building products, I'm not going to be great at mentoring someone else, it's not my thing, I'm not going to find it enjoyable,'" reflects Michelle, who is now the Director of Engineering at live event ticketing platform SeatGeek (where she manages a whole lot of people beyond just interns—but more on that in a second).
She was wrong, though. Michelle quickly saw that managing interns wasn't like sitting in class frustrated with the peer who wasn't paying attention; it was a chance to create through others.
"It was really awesome, seeing things click for them. I got as much satisfaction from seeing her build out a feature and launch it and test it as if I was doing that myself," says Michelle.
That was the moment that Michelle decided to move from her role as an IC to become an engineering manager. A few years, company changes, and promotions down the line, she's firmly on the management side of things—but one of her favorite things to do is to work closely with senior engineering talent who don't want to make that switch.
We sat down to hear more about how she's approached her own growth path and how she helps senior ICs find fulfilling paths of their own. (She's also hiring a bunch of those, so read on for her interview tips, too!)
Making tangible impact, sometimes through others
Michelle's journey into engineering started on a not-uncommon path (for millennials, anyway): she moved from Neopets to Xanga to Myspace to a computer science minor in undergrad to a master's degree focused on computer vision.
She thought she wanted to do a PhD, but an advisor helped Michelle realize that she preferred building stuff to writing papers about it, so after she finished up her master's, she went into industry.
"Creative problem solving and learning have always been big drivers for me," says Michelle, who enjoyed her first few years in CS roles but soon found herself frustrated by feeling her learning slow down. That's when she took on the intern, mentioned above, and got involved with her company's Girls Who Code partnership.
"I learned that I really enjoy teaching people and helping people early on in their career," she says.
It was hard, at first, for Michelle to walk away from coding every day and the tangible accomplishments of building things, but she took on her first management role for full-time employees and quickly grew her team from three to 12 direct reports. As her scope expanded, and she got to start working on bigger projects to improve the system her team operated in and determine their future strategy, Michelle realized she'd found the right sweet spot for her preferred mix of hands-on problem solving and growth.
"Engineering management and people leadership is still solving problems, it's just more of an art than a science. But I'm finding that I get the same fulfillment through setting up people and making them effective, through thinking about what's the most important thing to work on, so I'm still motivated to continue and figure out and learn more," she says.
5 ways for ICs to keep learning and growing
Michelle also recognizes that not everyone enjoys management. Her biggest piece of advice for someone considering (or being asked to perform) a management role that doesn't excite them? "Don't do it!"
"Growing into people management is a career change, it's a different path," she says. "If you don't have an interest in management, there's no reason you should move into it—there are so many ways you can grow as an IC and have a lot of impact and influence."
Here's how Michelle coaches the senior ICs she works with on how to grow in ways that are right for them:
- Keep an eye on how much of your work challenges you. "If you can do your job with your eyes closed, that should be a red flag to switch it up," says Michelle. "Don't get stuck in that."
- Figure out what you want for your next adventure. Is it to learn how to work with others better? To shore up technical knowledge? To work on cross-functional projects? Identify what you're interested in—and then tell your manager! "The more information I have about how you want to be growing, the more I can use that as I play Tetris to align your goals with what we need to turn out for the company or the team," says Michelle.
- Explore new areas. If you're interested in mentorship, getting interns is a great place to start. And as Michelle found the first time she was on the other side of the table during a one-on-one, leading others through their goals and problems can make you better at talking to your manager about yours. "It was this moment of, 'Oh, this is what I was doing to my manager!'" says Michelle of the karmic twist she experienced sitting across from a too-quiet mentee for the first time. If it's not mentorship that interests you, sign up to be the tech lead on a new project, or to switch domains (like going from an iOS project to a backend one) for a little while.
- Determine what matters most to you. If you're considering a longer-term end state, what do you care about most? Is it a certain title? Salary? Or is it more about access? "Do you expect to get to make decisions you're not making today? Is there some forum you'd like to be in? What does that next hop mean?" asks Michelle. "You don't need to be a director to influence strategy." She suggests considering a whole range of non-management roles and progression paths: becoming a staff engineer or senior engineer, working across the company on strategic initiatives, or becoming a principal or an architect.
- Ask questions! Whatever role you're in, whatever your seniority, you and others around you will be served if you're asking good questions, says Michelle. "I have this one engineer who is just brilliant at this—he doesn't come off looking like he doesn't understand, he comes off as moving the conversation forward, creating space for other people, and getting answers. It improves the understanding for your whole team," she explains.
3 things SeatGeek is looking for in engineering ICs
As the entertainment ticketing platform continues to grow, one of Michelle's major responsibilities as Director of Engineering is making sure that the company has the talent needed to push forward its strategic vision. Here's what she's looking for:
- A depth of hard skills. This doesn't mean you need to know any certain language or platform, just that you know how to go deep. "It's more of, 'Do you have the engineering skillset?' You can learn the language here," says Michelle.
- Experience thinking in bigger-picture ways. "Where I start seeing senior ICs differentiate themselves is by talking a lot more about system design as well as architecture," she says.
- An interest in helping other people. This doesn't have to be in management roles—Michelle is looking for people who give back to their teams in general. "Maybe you're a mentor, someone who really enjoys helping others grow. Maybe you have a passion for how teams can operate most optimally, and you're going to want to help out with team rituals. Maybe you've built systems that scale and can collaborate with others around you to bring the next level of traffic to the site," she says.
Tips from SeatGeek's Anuja Chavan
When Anuja Chavan turns on a fan in her house in Jersey City, she can't help but think about how every piece of it works.
"There are an extensive amount of things that have to go perfectly at the same time," says the former engineer (and current product manager at live event ticketing platform SeatGeek).
It was that interest in understanding how things actually worked that drove Anuja to study engineering—first electrical, during her undergrad in India, and then computer science, during her master's program in the U.S.
"I was always intrigued by the fact that with [software], you don't have to have a hundred people, or invest in a bunch of hardware that is costly, [but] you can still get things done and create things," she says.
We sat down with Anuja to hear more about her career, from her start as an engineer working in the banking sector to her current role as a PM at a fast-growing startup. She unpacked what it's been like to jump from the super-analytical side of things to the product management side—and gave us her best tips for PMs looking to connect with their teams (and vice versa!). Read on for her hard-earned wisdom.
From engineer to product management: the best of both worlds
Anuja's first job in tech was as a software engineer at a big bank, where she worked on solving technical problems and dealing with all of the bureaucratic red tape that came along with creating high risk tools while working in the securities lending department.
Four years and a couple of promotions in, she realized that her favorite part of any given project was the beginning, when she was scoping requirements. "I liked working to understand the business needs much more than I actually enjoyed developing technical solutions," she says.
When Anuja shared that realization with her friends in tech, they helped her see that product management might be the perfect fit for her, with its mix of analytical thinking and user focus. She took a ten-week PM course, but then faced the age-old chicken-and-egg problem when it comes to switching jobs or industries: how to get the experience needed for the jobs she wanted when all of the jobs she was seeing required that she already had experience?
A friend of Anuja's invited her to a SeatGeek event PowerToFly was hosting in New York City. Anuja went, loved the panel presentation (where SeatGeek engineers showed what they were really working on—a far cry from the closed-door siloed projects Anuja had come across in banking!), and hit it off with the recruiter. She applied for a PM role, was interviewed by a slate of people she was impressed by (including SeatGeek's CEO and CTO!), and accepted the offer when it came.
"The people I met were very, very smart, and it was such an inviting experience," she says. Now, after such a trying year, Anuja has become even more impressed by SeatGeek's culture: "They're so open about global awareness, about how you should treat employees, how employees should treat each other. They're walking the talk. It's not something that's put out and forgotten about; they're constantly working to empower and uplift those who identify with underrepresented groups." (You can learn more about this work here.)
Now, a few years into being a full-fledged product manager, Anuja is grateful for having started her career in engineering.
"Coming from that background fosters that mutual understanding of how things work. You speak the engineers' language," explains Anuja.
And that's just the beginning of the synergies.
5 things PMs should do when working with engineers
When Anuja asks her engineering team to add a new feature to a product, she knows that she's actually asking them to do a specific amount of technical work, which comes with tradeoffs and costs.
Her goal, then, is to help them understand why that work is important and let them know that she recognizes the effort required to do it well. And she does all of that in the 2-3 hours per day that she spends with her team in real-time, since most of SeatGeek's enterprise engineers (SeatGeek's business is broken down into two major units: their secondary marketplace and their enterprise business, where Anuja works, in which they build and sell a box office solution directly to clients like sports teams, venues, and theaters) are based in Israel and only overlap briefly with New York working hours.
Here are some other things Anuja does to create trust and respect between her and her team:
1. Keep engineers shielded from noise, not strategy.
Anuja spends a lot of time—up to 50-60% of her workweek, she says—in meetings. That's okay: it's her job to interface with the finance, marketing, and client experience teams that her engineering team's work serves, and meetings are part of that. Her team, however, doesn't need to have their days eaten up by endless syncs.
But that doesn't mean that Anuja keeps them firewalled away from the rest of the business. Just the reverse, in fact—she makes sure to plan several touchpoints where her engineers can get a good sense of the business strategy behind their workstreams. "You're not discussing just features, you're discussing why that feature," explains Anuja of the holistic meetings between various project stakeholders and engineers.
She also does regular stepbacks on the business's larger 3-, 6-, 9-, and 12-month roadmaps so that engineers' voices can be heard in the business planning process. "There are things that product may not be best positioned to foresee that engineering brings up, like scalability and system stability limitations," she says of their value-add. "Getting engineers involved early in the game doesn't hamper your progress but rather aids with them being in your story with you."
2. Use technical understanding to predict problems.
"There's this weird theory— a joke, really—of PMs being the dumbest person in a room full of experts, but I don't see that as being true, since you've got to ask the right questions at the right time to drive conversations between those experts," says Anuja. Not all PMs will have been former engineers, she recognizes, but a few technical skills go a long way. "Knowing the impact one team can cause on the other comes from engineer thinking abilities about problem solving, understanding issues before they actually become issues," she says. "Having that grasp on fundamentals lets you see prioritization problems quickly."
And beyond that, Anuja has had success leaning on her engineering background to build a relationship with her engineers of mutual affinity. "Having technical understanding in your back pocket creates overall trust from the engineer's perspective that you'll do what's right when push comes to shove," she says:
3. Unstick problems with other PMs before they impact engineers.
With 450 employees spread across consumer and enterprise teams, there are plenty of other PMs for Anuja to stay in touch with, and she prioritizes doing so a couple of times a week to discuss problems, talk blue-sky new ideas, and help coordinate workstreams before issues arise. "We have to be up to speed with what's going on in their world," explains Anuja. "If there's a need for something on a different team, it's helpful to be aware of it, whether you aid, assist with resolving blockers, or just stay informed."
4. Communicate visually.
"As a PM, communication is one of the best tools at your disposal," explains Anuja. "What most people may not realize is that visual communication has a much more profound impact on how strongly you can communicate to a broad, skill-set varied group of stakeholders, especially as a Product Manager."
Anuja uses systems diagrams, object diagrams, and component diagrams, among other forms of visual communication, to help get her team in sync. "Having some sort of pictorial representation of what's being discussed helps people make sure they're talking about the same thing, looking at the same vision," she says.
5. Ask engineers what their preferred choice of interruption is.
There are always going to be different types of engineers. Some may not appreciate interruptions with constant pings and Slack chats, while others might prefer real-time updates instead of having to wait for a scheduled call. "What I've been doing with my teams is just being open to asking them, 'What [interruptions] are you comfortable with? What are times that you're comfortable with?'" she says.
2 ways for engineers to collaborate better with their PMs
If the above section didn't apply because you're on the engineering side of the equation, don't worry—Anuja has advice for you, too!
1. Think of the big picture, and communicate that you understand it.
"It gives a product manager a lot of confidence if an engineer can think holistically," says Anuja. "When given a problem, try to ask about the edge case scenarios, the exceptions—that will get you into deeper discussions about how those things work."
Another great way to show that you're following is to repeat the requirement and confirm your understanding in engineering terms. "There are some tactical things you can do to improve your communication, and that's one of them," says Anuja.
2. Be open to explaining engineering concepts to your PMs.
"Don't assume your PM will never be interested in deeper details," explains Anuja, who suggests unpacking problems slowly so that both parties can be better informed the next time an issue crops up.
When it works, it really works
A few months ago, Anuja was working on one of SeatGeek's biggest projects to date: supporting the launch of schedule releases for several high-performing NFL teams. The project required that people across the entire global organization worked together to make the experience absolutely seamless so that fans could buy tickets, and so that our clients could achieve their desired revenue and fan experience goals.
"It was completely flawless—groundbreaking!" says Anuja. "Being able to see so many different streams work together and function properly was really fulfilling."
*Updated on June 17th, 2021 to reflect Juneteenth officially being named a Federal Holiday in the U.S.*
Juneteenth has been celebrated by African-Americans since the late 1800s, but in recent years (particularly in response to global protests over police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans), there has been a surge in interest in the day that celebrates freedom.
Before it became an official federal holiday, many businesses shifted toward marking June 19th as an annual company holiday, creating different initiatives around the holiday and offering employees opportunities to learn, reflect, and take action toward racial equality.
In honor of Juneteenth, we reached out to our partner companies to see how they're honoring Freedom Day. Here's what they said:
Committing to Ongoing Learning– Chainalysis
"Chainalysis has chosen to provide a day off on Friday, June 18 for its employees to free themselves of work activities in order to prioritize reflecting in any way, shape or form they choose to. By providing a company-wide day off, Chainalysis is ensuring that its employees have the bandwidth to commit to ongoing learning and expanding upon the company's DEI initiatives, as that contributes to -a better workplace, and society, for all."
They've also planned the following initiatives for their employees:
- "Hosting a panel discussion, with internal and external guests, around the importance of diversity, Juneteenth and what we can do to help tackle structural inequality, particularly in the fintech/ blockchain/ cryptocurrency space.
- Curating and creating an educational video and newsletter around the significance of Juneteenth.
- Promoting give-back resources and opportunities to Black-owned or focused organizations and foundations that tackle social justice issues.
- Competition to commemorate Juneteenth - whether dish or design - with winners to choose an organization of choice for Chainalysis to contribute to."
A Virtual Artistic Experience and More– LogMeIn
"This year, LogMeIn's Black ERG (BE@LogMeIn) is offering several opportunities to celebrate Juneteenth. First we will come together to view a virtual artistic experience in which three LGBTQIA+ artists of color will share original poems, monologues, and stories. Then we will host a "Storytime" in partnership with our Families ERG for an interactive reading of Juneteenth for Mazie, a captivating story about the history of slavery and why we celebrate Juneteenth as told from parent to child. Finally, we will host an engaging tour of the Black Heritage Trail, a 1.6 mile walk in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood."
Learn more about LogMeIn here.
Supporting Black Businesses– Ciena
"At Ciena our Black & African Heritage (B&AH) ERG is encouraging employees to participate in a day of service on Friday 18th using their Volunteering Time Off to engage in their respective cities to serve Black and African heritage communities. B&AH has also created a page on Go/Ciena, Ciena's intranet, to share curated content to commemorate the day either by supporting Black businesses, attending virtual Juneteenth events, and educating themselves and others."
Learn more about Ciena here.
Focusing on Reflection– Vouch
"Vouch celebrates Juneteenth by closing for observation on June 18. We encourage our employees to take the day to focus on reflection."
Learn more about Vouch here.
Elevating Black Voices– Collins Aerospace
"In a first-of-its-kind industry collaboration event at the ERG level, the Collins Aerospace African American Enterprise Board (AAEB) and the Boeing Black Employee Association (BBEA) will join forces in an event dedicated to elevating Black voices across our companies. We hope this will be the first of many such industry-wide conversations between our ERGs as we strive for aerospace to be the most inclusive space. In addition, several site-specific events will commemorate and honor the history of Juneteenth and why it is critical for all to remember the day."
Learn more about Collins Aerospace here.
Dream In Color Film Review– NBA
"Dream In Color will host a panel discussion with the forces behind "A Most Beautiful Thing," a documentary film chronicling the history of the first U.S. African American public high school rowing team. As the NBA office is closed in celebration on the holiday on Friday, on June 18th executive producer and NBA legend Grant Hill, director Mary Mazzio and Arshay Cooper, a rower and protagonist of the film, will discuss Arshay's story. This discussion will moderated by NBA TV host, Stephanie Ready."
Learn more about the NBA here.
Reflecting on Our Past, Creating Change for Our Future– Freddie Mac
"At Freddie Mac, we're building on our continued commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by recognizing Juneteenth as an official company holiday and day of service. The significance of the day will be commemorated with a series of learnings and opportunities throughout the month to engage inclusively while giving back to our local communities, including:
"Day of Understanding" keynote address featuring a professor of African American Studies.
"Building Community within Our Communities" series of virtual community outreach initiatives supporting select non-profits across the U.S"
Learn more about Freddie Mac here.
Speaking to Equality– Netskope
"Netskope observes Juneteenth as an official company holiday in the United States. We have expanded our events that celebrate and observe dates and moments that speak to equality and against racism - Juneteenth being one of many."
Learn more about Netskope here.
Spreading Awareness Across the Nation– Uber
"The United States and Canada will continue to observe Juneteenth and Black at Uber is releasing company-wide communications surrounding the day, its meaning, and celebratory events and activities going on in cities across the United States and Canada that people can support and attend."
Learn more about Uber here.
Lunch and Learn Celebration– AAA
"AAA EXCEL Business Resource Group (BRG): EXCEL will be hosting a "Lunch & Learn" Event to celebrate and discuss Juneteenth. This Freedom Day Event will feature a Meet-and-Greet with the EXCEL Leadership Team, a panel discussion with Executive Leaders, and a fun ending filled with prizes."
Learn more about AAA here.
Virtual Fashion Show– Audible
"Audible's Impact Groups encourage an environment where you can be you. This Juneteenth Audible's Black Employee Network will be celebrating The Style of Freedom and The Freedom of Style! Audible Employees will share pictures in a virtual fashion show inspired by this prompt:
Imagine this: it's Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. A huge celebration is kicking off. And we're there. What would you wear? It could be historical, cultural, or contemporary."
Learn more about Audible here.
Deepening Awareness and Making Positive Change– S&P Global
"At S&P Global, we commemorate Juneteenth while recognizing that we still have a long way to go to create an equitable society. This year we marked Juneteenth with a formal U.S. company holiday, and provided our people with resources to deepen their awareness of what this day stands for while continuing to make positive change. We will engage our people through educational event programming, brave spaces for open conversations, and our community partnerships. Some planned events include "Making Freedom Pay: What we can learn from the U.S. Reconstruction Era" and "Beyond ESG: Economic Impact of Inequality on Black Women."
Learn more about S&P Global here.
Conversations About Black Investing– Moody’s
"In honor of Juneteenth, we will host several conversations that focus on the Black community and financial services. Our CEO, Rob Fauber and Michael T. Pugh, CEO of Carver Federal Savings Bank, will come together for a live conversation on the state of Black owned banks, "Banking Black," and much more. In addition, DK Bartley, Moody's Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion officer, and Mellody Hobson, President and co-CEO of Ariel Investments and the chairwoman of Starbucks Corporation, will host a session on the importance of Black investing. We will also issue a newsletter that commemorates and educates employees about the significance of Juneteenth."
Learn more about Moody's here.
Driving Equity and Inclusion– Nestlé USA
"We announced last year that Juneteenth, sometimes called Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, would be added as a corporate holiday in the US. Cultural conversations about equality and racial equity brought into focus the importance of this day and we believed it was important to commemorate it as a company. So, our corporate offices will be closed on Friday, June 18th, to allow employees time to reflect on the history of Juneteenth, the meaning of the day and consider their role in driving equity and inclusion at Nestlé and in our communities."
Learn more about Nestlé USA here.
Appreciate the Difference and Be Curious– VTS
"VTS offices will be closed for observance for Juneteenth. We encourage all employees to take the time to live our values of Appreciating the Difference and Be Curious and actively engage in the holiday. While we may have the day off, it is actually a "day on" as the holiday is a crucial day for allyship. We will be sharing some resources to all employees to learn more on how to celebrate and take action."
Learn more about VTS here.
Brave Space Sessions– Okta
Okta is Celebrating Juneteenth through the following initiatives:
- "Celebrating Juneteenth" presentation at company all-hands: The presentation featured historical context on the holiday as well as suggestions for employees to get involved."
- "DIB Lunch and Learn: Fireside Chat with Jodi-Ann Burey: Jodi-Ann will discuss heritage months, how companies can better support employees from marginalized communities, allyship, and intersectionality."
- "Brave Space Session: We will create space for authentic conversations about violence in POC communities and how to channel this energy into something that can build a stronger community within our organization."
- "Ailey Film Screening: For two days at the end of the month we will have the new Ailey film available for viewing."
- "Juneteenth video featuring Black employees from Okta."
- "Newsletter that highlights a few Black employees at Okta and their experiences with Juneteenth during childhood."
Storytelling, Reflection, Empathy, and Action– Seatgeek
"This Juneteenth, we are focusing our programming on four elements - storytelling, reflection, empathy, and action - expanding last year's Day of Service to several days of impactful virtual events.
SeatGeek has also committed to donating $10,000 on behalf of our employees, giving individuals an opportunity to contribute to the fund as well."
Learn more about SeatGeek here.
Celebrating the Legacy of Juneteenth– VideoAmp
"Saturday, June 19 is the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day. Out of respect for and to honor this important day for all African Americans across the country, VideoAmp will observe Friday, June 18 as a company holiday. All offices will be closed, and we encourage Vampers to participate in cultural activities or give-back events to show allyship and support for Black citizens in the communities where we live and work."
Learn more about VideoAmp here.
Honor, Recognize, and Reflect– MongoDB
"MongoDB recognizes Juneteenth as a paid day off for U.S. employees. This year, MongoDB employees located in the U.S. will take the day off on Friday, June 18th to honor, recognize, and reflect on Juneteenth."
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Sharing Thoughts, Experiences, and Resources– BlackRock
"We have several opportunities for employees to reflect on the ongoing struggle for racial equity and observe Juneteenth. For instance, our Black Professionals Network (BPN) in our Delaware Office is partnering with the Global Head of Talent Acquisition, leaders & managers of the Delaware campus to share their thoughts, experiences, and provide resources for hiring diverse talent in honor of Juneteenth. This panel will discuss obstacles regarding the hiring of diverse talent, will touch upon the firm's commitment and current progress, and will also explore how our Black Professionals Network can support with such hires."
Learn more about BlackRock here.
Social Justice Day– Healthfirst
"On June 17, Healthfirst's weekly employee Race & Justice Forum becomes a celebration of Juneteenth, featuring a special presentation of employees from around the company sharing what Juneteenth means to them—it's history, traditions, and future. Members of the Black History Month committee will meet with Healthfirst summer interns for a small group discussion about Juneteenth as well. That Friday the company's intranet page will feature a tribute to Juneteenth, with a primer on its history and information about the company's Social Justice Day, a paid day off to engage in activities or service that positively impacts the community."
Learn more about Healthfirst here.
Showcasing Black Excellence– Relativity
Black Excellence Showcase posters
"Relativity's community resource group, BRel (Black at Relativity) is virtually highlighting black owned businesses via black excellence showcases throughout the week. Our showcases celebrate Black Excellence while educating our Relativity community with bios, fun facts, videos, articles, and custom art celebrating the amazing work of black individuals. Additionally, we'll be encouraging our Relativians to support black businesses via a list of recommendations.
Relativity is also partnering with the Innov-8 leadership team on June 17 to host a webinar highlighting challenges black employees face and how individuals and organizations can work to negate these challenges."
Lamar Jordan – Infrastructure Engineer II & Co-Chair of BRel (Black at Relativity)
Learn more about Relativity here.
Education, Advocacy, Demonstration, and Donation– PagerDuty
"One year ago we introduced our Day for Change initiative on Juneteenth. We recognize Juneteenth as a global holiday and encourage employees to use the time to advocate for equity and critical reform for the Black community. Furthermore, we have grown this annual initiative into a comprehensive quarterly offering. Days for Change involves a strategic delivery of programming, content, philanthropic efforts, and a menu of action items, enabling company-wide activation with four key pillars to create change; Education, Advocacy, Demonstration, and Donation."
Learn more about PagerDuty here.
Inform, Encourage, Reflect, and Engage– ServiceNow
"ServiceNow celebrates Juneteenth this year with a series of employee experiences designed to increase awareness, inform, encourage reflection, and engage.
- A video featuring Black employees sharing what Juneteenth means to them and their Juneteenth family traditions
- Employees globally sharing the music, literature, figure or moment that influenced their understanding of the Black experience
- Dialogue on ServiceNow's $100M investment in Racial Equity fund
- Launch of Black at Now Belonging Group newsletter
- Intersectional opportunity to celebrate LGBTQIA+ artists of color"
Rest and Reflect– GameChanger
"GameChanger observes Juneteenth and honors its historical importance by offering all teammates a paid company holiday. We also are providing teammates with resources to enable them to take the time off to rest and reflect, learn, and/or advocate. Finally, we're hosting a teammate dialogue circle the day before the holiday to provide teammates the chance to learn and discuss why the day is not just an important day in Black History but for American History."
Learn more about GameChanger here.
Sparking Empathy and Acceptance– Elastic
"In order to commemorate Juneteenth, Elastic will be observing this event as a holiday on Friday, June 18th."
"If you're looking for a documentary, start with 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay. It can be challenging to spend a lot of time on the subject of racism — it's very heavy. Ava knows how to get to the core of the metamorphosis of racism. This documentary highlights how slavery evolved from convict leasing to disproportionate mass incarceration and other factors like keeping people locked into the system with GPS monitoring, house arrest, etc. This documentary demonstrates what modern slavery looks like. 13th helps spark empathy and acceptance of black peoples' stories instead of nullifying them."
Destiny H, Prin Web Producer
Learn more about Elastic here.
Amplifying Employee's Voices– Procore
"Procore is observing Juneteenth (or Freedom Day) on Friday, June 18 as a global holiday for all employees. Through Modern Health, our mental wellness program, employees also have the opportunity to attend a webinar to reflect on what Juneteenth is and what it means in corporate America. We are also celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Daring Conversations and Allyship speaker series, which focuses on listening, learning, and amplifying our employee's voices. You can learn more about our ongoing efforts to build a more diverse and inclusive future here."
Learn more about Procore here.
Juneteenth Day of Learning– Facebook
"On Friday, June 18, Facebook is excited to host our company-wide Juneteenth day of learning in recognition of the legacy, excellence, and resilience that drives the immense contributions of the Black community to the world.
Employees can participate in a full day's slate of insightful discussions with notable activists and public figures, including Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Tina Knowles-Lawson, June's Diary and more, who will share perspectives on the history and significance of Juneteenth.
Or employees can take the day off to celebrate in ways that are meaningful to them with a personal Facebook Choice Day.
Externally, our family of apps will tell the story of how Black people use our platforms every day to reimagine freedom through community, personal expression, love, joy, celebration and action."
Learn more about Facebook here.