Listen to this article:
1 – What are the good qualities of a program manager?
- Ability to prioritize
- Working with cross-functional stakeholders
- Influencing without authority
- Data-driven approach
- The clarity to make your point heard
- Qualitative and quantitative analysis
- Ensure your product/program is profitable
2 – What’s the most innovative new idea that you have implemented?
As part of Neuf Consulting, I came up with a product vision to create a workflow management system, which would help small to midsize businesses to manage their tasks in one place. The goal of the product was to sell each module separately so if a client has a certain system, API can integrate with that and they do not have to invest from scratch to our system.
I had two paying clients when the MVP pilot was being built and my idea was to have a SaaS-based system accessible via desktop and mobile app.
Because of this idea, the company was selected as Northern Virginia’s top 3 innovative ideas and I gave a pitch in front of 200-300 people for the potential investor.
3 – What’s your greatest strength?
I would say, I have the courage to do the right things. I always think of the benefit of the company and its customers. If it is asking for help or resources, or making tough decisions to resolve conflict, or speaking up when I disagree with something. Or having a trust to believe in my idea to innovate or execute something.
4 – We all deal with difficult customers from time to time. Tell me about a challenging client-facing situation and how you handled it.
When I worked at ABC, I joined to help to save the program which lost business due to some executive decisions made in the recent past and the client was very furious and susceptible to company actions.
I knew we were on strict watch and even a small mistake will lead to a bigger loss. We as a team had to focus on winning the client’s trust back.
We implemented agile methodology, strictly high standards of our deliverables for timely and quality delivery. We focused on beating SLAs goals. As a result, we started winning work back and the program is still table with ABC.
5 – How do you show customer obsession?
Customer obsession comes from thinking long-term for the benefit of customers and making sure that customers are happy and feel WOW. Understand their needs and wants and think about how you can innovate for them. Also, assess and remove any impediments not helping you to serve them best.
When I worked at XYZ, the relationship with my main client was already good, as I took over that account, I opened doors for our company to start helping our clients with very early stages of technical, data-driven, complex projects. That helped us to win large and complex data-driven projects. I also helped to implement the right technology and applications for our client to be more efficient and that helped us in return to get any amount of work they cannot handle in-house.
I helped them with their workflow management system enhancements, the meeting structure to be more efficient and result-driven, and helped to set up new programs to help them with their operations.
As a result, I could increase our revenue by 15%, for a $20M program.
6 – Tell me about a time you recovered from a difficult situation?
When I joined ABC, I managed 35+ personnel among various teams. One particular team which focused on data processing was particularly very difficult to manage. I noticed a lack of morale and groupism very evident in that team.
I helped the team to value each other by assigning cross groups tasks, changed seating arrangements so they could spend time with each other and get to know each other outside the group. I also enforced one language English, during work hours. I started holding potluck activities, talking to each member one-on-one, or joining them after work for happy hours.
All my efforts worked out and the team became more efficient, started respecting each other’s values, and became motivated to focus on one goal: to make customers happy by meeting or exceeding our SLAs with high quality.
7 – Describe a situation in which you found a creative way to overcome an obstacle.
When I was a senior consultant at DEF, we worked on a web-based document management and review system for lawyers. The backend was SQL based. Often we had to export documents to deliver to the DOJ, SEC, opposite counsel, and the front end had limitations so we had to break down the productions into smaller chunks.
I proposed to write a small application in .NET and SQL to export documents automatically. My manager liked the idea and after my application was done within a couple of months, our speed and efficiency increased drastically. Not only that, our error messages were more meaningful now to troubleshoot issues like server stopped responding and which document failed to copy.
On average, the application helped us to save 70% of manual efforts.
8 – What did you do when you needed to motivate a group of individuals?
When I joined the ABC as a project manager, I managed 35 personnel with data loading, media tracking, production, and litigation specialists. The team already went through many changes like layoff, reorganization, and change management, as some part of the business was lost. I was hired to help with that difficult situation.
The team was in fear of possibly losing the job, and they lived in fear. Even the group clicks were evident in that team. People also hold their knowledge to protect their position. I joined and united them, being a leader who could help them with their knowledge base and motivate them to share their knowledge with others. Showed them the value of sharing and being transparent, and being a performing team to win the client’s business back.
I had one on one interactions, quick weekly meetings with the team. Even I would stay on the floor with the team all day, available to them if they had any technical problems or any issues with other team members. I even created a box where they can put their questions anonymously.
Arranged team activities permitted in the short breaks by the contract like a potluck or going to happy hours at the end of the day with the team.
Initially, the team was skeptical of a new project manager, as the one who had that position before I only made the issues worse.
After a few months of my consistent efforts, they understood the team’s value and how I was helping them. They cooperated and agreed to work with me as part of a team. We could win some part of the business back from the client and made the contract steady.
9 – A time when you faced a problem that had multiple possible solutions
When I worked at XYZ as a program manager, I noticed our data loading process would cause bottlenecks when it is working with data in the size of a few hundred gigs.
When I researched the issue. We used a single threading approach to load documents, which means only one document at a time was copied while adding information in the SQL backend.
There were multiple solutions to fix this bottleneck.
- More extensive and long term but requiring more efforts upfront – Design a custom solution/script to copy, handle multiple documents, and write to SQL.
- That could be implemented immediately with some planning and protocol design – Add a step to copy documents using Robocopy and when loading documents to the database, it will add one entry at a time but since documents are already copied, the process takes much less time now.
- Buy third party API to load documents faster, which would require approval from IT security.
Immediately, I went ahead with the second option as that was most feasible in the work environment with a long term goal was to go with solution number 1.
After having that solution in effect, we could see data loading time reduced by ⅓, and data wranglers could focus on handling multiple tasks without worrying about checking the process.
An alternate approach, which was long term was solution number 2, which we started planning with developers.
10 – Tell me about a time you stepped up into a leadership role
When I worked at OPQ, as an analyst, it was the early phase of the company and that is why the strategy was to hire based on attitude and not actual industry-standard skills.
After I worked for the company for a year and a half and learned applications used and was confident with the industry knowledge, I started training new engineers with system, processes, and domain, as well as supervised the team.
Five of those eight engineers I mentored, ended up working with the company for more than 10 years.