Guidewire Interview Experience

As an introduction, I have a Masters in Computer Applications with 18 years of Information Technology Experience. For more than 10 years now, I am working as a Technical Project Manager on contract with a big 4 firm. I have worked for Fortune 50 companies in USA providing consulting services in the last 13 years. I am PMP certified.  On Projects I manage, I am also a Technical Lead - Very Hands On with Databases, Web Workflow (Lotus Notes/ Domino) and developed/manage a web sphere based application that uses Java and xml very much on the front end. The HR Manager from Guidewire contacted me about Senior Technical Manager position. He was very nice and explained me the selection process. 1. 1 Hour Interview (50% Technical, 50%  Functional), 2. Answer 6 Technical Questions through email or online exam (2 on xml, 2 on databases and 2 on pseudo code) and 3. Three hours in person interview. After me filling up the questionnaire from HR, my first Interview was arranged.

 The HR Manager said, the position was Senior Technical Manager. But the HR Person who arranged the interview sent in emails as Policy Center Consultant/Project Manager. When I pointed out the difference, HR Manager was kind enough to intervene and clarify that its for Senior Project Manager and said, email communications are generic titles. This is somewhat confusing. Guidewire should make sure, even email communications are specific to the title being interviewed. The person who interviewed me over phone for an hour is a Project Manager in Guidewire. So, I am not sure if its Guidewire’s policy to interview for a Senior Project Manager position (I was told it’s a level above project manager) using a project manager. Something is not clearly defined here. An area for HR to improve upon.

 The interviewer started very nice and said, I have an impressive resume. Most of the indications during the interview from the interviewer is very positive.  The interviewer said, “Very Good” so many times (At least 80% of the times minimum for my answers in a rough estimate). However,  the next business day, I received an e-mail from Guidewire stating they are not proceeding further with my application. Though little surprised, I was not worried much about this decision. I am in a current job and is seriously looking for a better opportunity. So, this decision did not affect me. However, I sent a detailed email to the HR Manager thanking Guidewire and everyone involved in my application for their time and provided a feedback too. I mentioned, “ Please take this e-mail  only as a constructive feedback and I will be very happy if this e-mail helps Guidewire anyway to make the interviewing process better.”

 I am relying on my memory to rephrase the questions asked. They may not be exact verbatim, but the meaning of the question are the same as I explained below.

 The first question the interviewer asked me is to tell him if there is anything that I did not say in my Resume since Resume can be sometimes size limited. I explained to him my current role, qualifications and how I read the details of job requirements from Guidewire site and  their products and how can I immediately bring value to the position. For example, I told him that Guidewire products/insurance industry require workflow automation and I have nearly 15 years of experience in Workflow automation using Lotus Notes/Domino. The interviewer  seemed to be pleased with this answer.

 The next question asked was, “If you have a team member who does not know xml, how will you explain to him what xml is in easy to understand way.” For this, I started from what is html and the limitations of html, need of scripting language like javascript, but what both htlm and javascript could not do, so the need for xml, what xml stands for, the advantages of it including advantage of using user defined tags in xml, the components of xml namely xml Schema, XSLT, xml Name space etc. and then how they can be effectively used in Web Services. In overall I explained the platform independent, interoperability and firewall pass through capabilities of xml. The interviewer said “Very good” for this.

 Then I was asked what are the looping structures available in Java Script. I told, For Loop, While Loop and then I told that I also think there is a do… while or do … until loop. The interviewer said Very good.

 The next question was “There is an array of numbers in javascript. How will you sort them? Can you please give the pseudo code.”

 I explained the logic of sorting array logic, and then told there are other algorithms like bubble sort etc for sorting too. The interviewer said very good.

 

The interviewer then asked me to tell what is Many to Many relationship in database. I told him, with an example even covering one to many relationship, entity diagramming, normalization etc. In the end, I asked him if I answered his question as he expected. The interviewer said, “Yes, with the explanations and examples you gave, you did.”

 

Then the interviewer asked me about my experience with Java. I told him that in my resume I have mentioned I have exposure to Java since I  manage application development teams that use Java as a development language, but with my Project Manager roles/responsibilities, my programming time in Java is very less.  And added that, I have a very good understanding of object Oriented Programming principles.

 

The interviewer then asked me to explain what is an object in object Oriented Programming context. I explained, what is an object, what is property of object, what are methods of object, with real life example of car being an object and  its features being its properties and drive is a method. I also explained the advantages of object oriented approach that include inheritance, how easy it will be to add object classes (here I quoted another similar example of unix platform where people can write commands for unix similarly and add to the library), and how obsolete objects can be easily discarded et all. The interviewer seemed to be pleased with the answer.

 

These are the technical questions as for as I could remember. And I can confidently say, that I answered all the technical questions correctly, even if I could not recollect one or two of them here. Though I initially thought about the correctness of asking programming syntax oriented questions like looping structure to a Senior Project Manager candidate, it was not a problem for me to answer them. Also, I just told myself this is a company where even the CTO does programming and so there is nothing wrong in asking such questions.

 

Next, The interviewer came to ask question on project management. He asked me to take sometime to think of how my worst day in work would look like. I told him to give me 30 seconds to think of any worthwhile situations to answer such question. The interviewer told me to take as much time as possible. I probably took 30 seconds to 45 seconds to think through.  As we use off-shore resources for development, the man power turnover is an issue there. Even if we have backup plans, sometimes our off-shore resources leave in between a project which threaten our delivery date.

 

So I answered, it may not be the worst day, but very challenging day at work would be days/situations when I encounter that the project delivery date looks like slipping. The interviewer asked is that worst day and why? I explained to him that most of the projects we work are fixed cost projects (If you know contract types, you would know, fixed cost projects are done only when scope can be so well defined.) with our off shore vendor. As in any fixed cost project,  the scope has to be defined very well  else the vendor would charge for every scope change. So, when I encounter situations like delivery date being threatened, I would look into various solutions for it with my team leads, including Crashing (Not possible in our environment), Resource Leveling (our projects are already resource leveled) and then starting some tasks parallel which is what we do often. Once we finalize our approach and solution, I have a meeting with all stakeholders and explain to them the situation to get buy in.

 

The interviewer asked how we handle changes. I told, we have a workflow based change management system in Lotus Notes and any change has to be approved by this process. I told him, we do impact analysis for every change before approving it and there is approval  levels with in the change authorization process. The interviewer asked me how many times we get changes from customers. Again I explained here that our projects are mostly fixed cost off-shore resources and so we always finalize the scope before starting work and in our business firm, the customers are trained by management  not to add so changes once scope is approved . We prioritize any further requirement and go with change management process or keep it as a task for next phase of development.  This is the business model for the firm I work on.  Any new changes will be additions to scope that have to go through Change Management Process. The interviewer asked if there are many changes how do you approach them. I explained, we discuss with stakeholders and prioritize the changes as per the needs of stakeholders. The interviewer asked me how many times did we go through major scope changes. I told that in my experience, I could remember 2 times for sure, but I am going to add 1 to it and say 3. I also explained to the interviewer, how we handled a major scope change like this with our Global Team Support Application. I explained that few weeks before our deployment, due to organizational change,  one department was divided into two and this affected the application very much. We went to the sponsor and asked them what they want to do, the sponsor said, the new organizational Structure transition would take 3 months and decided to go with planned deployment. Then we went with the new changes as next phase. While answering all these, I also explained, our change management system, its authorization levels, how I always try to allow cosmetic changes and how we do impact analysis of functionality changes and then  if they get approved, try to prioritize them with sponsor/stakeholder needs.

 

At this point, the interview was pretty much over. I understand with Agile methodology used by Guidewire, changes are welcome to the project even at the last minute. However, at  the firm I work currently, we use a combination of Waterfall and Rup approach and go through defined Change Management process as per the mandate of the management. We have a big off-shore team and so, to manage costs effectively, we work on very defined and disciplined approach regarding changes. Our project management methodology is still based on aligning business needs with IT needs and we take decisions based on it. I told The interviewer that we always try to align business needs with IT rather than doing IT needs for business. At this point, The interviewer said, ok. And he asked if I have any questions for him.

 

I asked The interviewer two questions.

 

  1. What is his experience with Guidewire and the kind of work he does there since I am also applying for the same position and his experience/skills (The interviewer told about him in the beginning) are similar to mine.
  2. I asked The interviewer while using Agile Technology, if they are having Sprint meetings, burn down, burn up charts etc.

 

The interviewer was very kind to answer these two questions in detail.

 

In Summary,

 

I have answered all technical questions correctly. Regarding project management, I explained in detail how we do change management and what would be a challenging day look like at work for me. Again, as you know project management methodology and implementations vary from firm to firm and though I am aware of Agile Methodology which welcome changes at anytime, I explained what we do at our work now and how we want to go through defined and controlled change management as our contracts with off shore vendors are mostly  fixed price and it does not allow too many changes.

 

What I would suggest to Guidewire interviewing process in future is,

 

  1. The interview can be recorded and HR can listen to it before taking decisions. Other consultingcompanies record interviews.
  2. Ask the candidate to provide a feedback about interview process and validate it against the recording.
  3. If you like to interview a person technically, please prepare an online exam or use an online exam service that has multiple choices or descriptive answers feature. This way, you could quickly and efficiently evaluate the candidate.
  4. For project management also, please realize that every firm use a model that fits their business needs. Here also, you could have something like an online exam (like PMP) for candidates. If you want the candidate to know Agile technology (I knew about it), ask questions like how agile would be different from what candidate is doing now, rather than expecting candidates to say the answers you want to hear. Candidates can only explain the Project Management model that their firm follows. FYI, my firm follows a project management model derived from PMP. And in other interviews I attended so far, none really had any issues with it. They asked what we do for certain step and I explained what we do.
  5. Once candidates pass both technical and project management exams with the minimum marks required, please call them for the in-person interview.  In the in-person interview, a panel can grill the person to see if he/she could really do the job.

 

I thank Guidewire very much for the time invested in me. I am not going to get into a debate about if its fair to ask looping syntax, sorting algorithm questions to a Senior Project Manager candidate. With my background in development (I started as programmer and grew and still do programming when time permits)  and Masters in Computer Applications, I did not find such questions tough either. So I answered them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

peeks2010 peeks2010
36-40, M
Feb 8, 2010