Apple Retail SW Engineering Program Manager
Stanford University Advanced Program Management
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How did you get to where you are today? What is your story? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Sat Nov 07 2020
sure. So trying Thio to graduation started off doing a few internships. So one of the ones I did was in software engineering, Did a software quality assurance engineer as well. Um, to be honest, you know, neither of them were really anything I saw myself doing forever. But, you know, is a really good way for me to start looking into, like what I do. Like and what I don't like. The eventually ended up going into the Q A field worked in healthcare, worked in investment banking on, But I just come back from Southern California and started looking at jobs in L. A. Because I wanted toe, you know, see if I could move over there and this job was up. Beats by Dre. All my experience was in Web apps and mobile lapse, and they were looking for someone in the embedded field. So you figured, Why don't I apply and just see what happens? Um, turns out gotta call call back on Monday. But the recruiter went really well on then the following week. And, you know, I was on a plane over there interviewing in person. Um, fast forward to now. You know, beats by Dre was acquired by Apple on Ben, the head of program management. It actually approached me at one point and said, You know, why don't you join our team? You know, you're very good at building relationships. Very well spoken. Um, you know, at first I was reluctant, but ended up joining that team. And, you know, I never looked back. And here I am, and it was the best decision I ever made. So it's kind of how I got Thio got to this role.

What responsibilities and decisions does one handle in a job like yours? What are the top three priorities? What are weekly work hours like?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Sat Nov 07 2020
So in a program. Managers, you know, top thing is managing a program schedule. So that's probably the most important thing. And being able to define milestones on key deliverables along the way to make sure projects on track. Also being able to identify risk, you know, or potential for risk before it happens. You know, start seeing that something's not going according to plan and going off the rails and being able to kind of get it back on track. Um, also being able to know the state of the program and being able to communicate that up Thio executive management as well. Um, I think the other big thing is, you know, understanding dependencies and the domino effect that they have. They aren't delivered on time. Um, top three priorities. Thinking this role is, you know, one of them, like set of communicating the important knowledge up to the key stakeholders. Eso that could be up or down. You know, it can also be getting status from management or from different parts of the team. And bringing that back to the software team on the other thing is, you know, advocating for continuous improvement. You know, we're always kind of learning and adapting as we go. So things that we struggled on on one program, we should definitely not struggle on on the next. So, um, that's definitely through the top priorities and then work hours. Um, you know, it really depends where we're at in the project. So, you know, we work with a lot of remote teams on cross functional teams across the globe. So there's times where we're starting our days, you know, eight or nine in the morning, mainly to get the handoff from, you know, in region Group. And then, you know, we'll meet back with them. It are eight or nine PM our time toe, hand, back off. So, you know, I think very, very well from 50 60 hours per week, easily and then, you know, things were really crazy. We also get on weekends, too.

What are major challenges and pain points in a job like yours? What approaches are effective in overcoming them? Discussing examples will help students learn better.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Sat Nov 07 2020
I think one of the key things is being able to manage priorities, right? So it's very easy to say, You know, we'll just take the most highest priority issue and we'll focus on that. But typical of, like, experience is everything is a top priority, right? So really being ableto figure out where we need to go and focus Resource is, um, and kind of prioritize things. And one of the ways we do that is, Well, look at you know something, for example, that we've already shipped. You know, there's it's out in the field. It's working with customers versus something that we're working on that's going to be going out but isn't out yet. So we'll go in and prioritized thing that's actually affecting customers and has, you know, impact to our brand on Go figure out what that does or what the bare minimum we is to get by on the new program. Um, so, yeah,

What are the job titles of people who someone in your role routinely works with, within and outside of the organization? What approaches are effective in working with them?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Sat Nov 07 2020
totally so few. The key ones are, you know, program manager, Project manager, depending on the company. Work quite a bit with firm or software engineering managers. Electrical engineering is a big key group that we work with as well on kind of what I found to be the most effective is all going approach. A lot of these cross functional groups and ask them, right, Like, what are your dependencies on software and firmware like, What do we do? You know, you guys are our customers. In a sense, on what is it that you guys look for? One of the pain points. What is it that we can do better and being able to understand that from them rather than, you know, this is what I think they need. You kind of pull those two together and make sure that, you know, we're constantly in the loop. This isn't just like a one time thing, because we kind of go along Thio, you know, making sure that we can adapt Thio things that they're seeing us struggle with, or areas where there's gaps

How would you describe your management style? How has it evolved over the years? Can you tell about experiences or books that influenced your management style?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Sat Nov 07 2020
uh, it to say this, but the management style really depends on the program or the person, right? So, um, it's kind of involved in that sense, For me is you know, as I've worked with different personality types or different programs with, you know, different levels of complexity or different versions of schedules. Um, early on, I guess. You know, I like to give the team space so they could focus on getting their work done on not being bothered, you know, with frequent check ins or, you know, maybe even daily stand ups. But as we get towards the end or towards, you know, a major milestone, that's when we'll start checking in, you know, regularly and moving to that daily stand up or something more went to a scrum. Um, just to make sure that we are on track and if we're not, you know how we can go and get back on track. So that's kind of my my style. A Sfar is like a book. There's one I'm reading right now, which is called The Effective Manager by Mark Horseman. Um, so far, it's pretty good. I haven't finished it yet, but I'd recommend it based on what I've read so far,

How can one get better recognition of work from one's boss and higher management? What mistakes should one avoid? Stories or examples will be quite helpful.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Sat Nov 07 2020
Yeah. No, totally. It's a great question, E think one of the best things to Dio is you know, I've learned along the ways to really anticipate what management wants to know, right? Like it's very easy to be able to go in and provide an update just to give an update. Right? This is where we're at, and this is what we did. But being able to see what you think that they would want to know e think is one of the key things. So, um, you know, I've said this before, but really highlighting progress towards a milestone, right? Like, this is the next major milestone that we're at. This is how we're progressing. Maybe these are the two or three areas that I see as, you know, risk for us to be able to hit that milestone and that kind of your two steps ahead of what they're thinking, right? And then the other thing is, I've noticed when giving a nup date on say, like, a certain issue. Um, it's one thing to say, right? You know, this is the issue. This is the root cause, but really being able to dive into, you know, um, example we had is, you know, we had him performance target that we had set early on. And we found out later on that we had actually, we had set incorrectly. So when we wanted to give an update, it was basically, like, you know, this is the initial performance target we had. This is the assumption that we made that led us to believe that this was our target A to this point thes air, the options that we have right to get us back to that original performance target thes air, the risks associated with each and every single one of them. And then as a team, as the subject matter experts, here's our proposal on That's the kind of level of update if we give. I think if you give that to management, you're really trusted with being ableto be the subject matter expert and know that you know your craft on bond. This is what you're hired for, right? So I think that Z kind of the best way to do is, you know, see, try and see what they would want to know

What skills and qualities do you look for while hiring? What kind of questions do you typically ask from candidates?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Sat Nov 07 2020
a few of the skills and qualities that look for when hiring one of them is especially in our role, is being able to understand how hardware and software intersect, Right? That's a key thing in Consumer electron ICS, and being ableto pull that picture together is one thing I typically look for. Um, simply put enthusiasm about the role right, having a hunger toe learn. Another key thing is, you know, having really strong communication skills and confidence in being able toe articulate those. So some of the questions I asked, you know, try and peel out that information is, you know, ask them what they know about the rule they're applying for, like, what do they think the day to day is? Um and you know how they how they anticipated gives me a good idea, what they already know and how much kind of research they've done about the role. I try to figure out what motivates them, right, like it may. You know, this role may not be the one for them, but, you know, it could be a good stepping stone into getting them in and then also helping me kind of place them later on where they where they want to go. Um, I asked them about their management style and just like you asked about me mainly to gauge if they're going to be a cultural fit. You know, a lot of things can be learned, but getting a true cultural fit, that's that sometimes the most tough, the toughest thing. Um, I asked them to explain a very complex issue and how they would do it. Thio management. Right, Because management doesn't they're not, you know, key electrical engineers or software engineers. Exactly right there. They're looking at you to be able to do that and articulate that in a way that makes sense to them. So ask them to do that interview in a verbal way and also written. I asked them to define milestones on how they would gauge of something is going on track. Um, ask them how they would go about getting a schedule back on track. Somehow they would manage a remote team s those kind of things that I look for

Can you discuss career accomplishment(s) that you feel good about? Please discuss the problem context, your solution, and the impact you made.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Sat Nov 07 2020
it's gonna sound a little cliche, but really, you know what drives me on bees? Accomplishments is really seeing something go from a concept, right? Like, early on were just thinking about it in, you know, in a meeting room. Like, you know what's built a product that does this, this and that. Um, really taking it from that concept phase and through, you know, painful one or two years of development going into, like, a prototype stage. And then, you know, eventually your boarding a plane and you see someone wearing that product that you worked on. So I think those air, the big things that drive me, um, you know, as far as, like, a problem, Andi, how that was solved, You know, one of the ones they brought up earlier, which was, you know, a lot of performance targets that are made early on something as simple as you know, battery life on a project and seeing right assumptions. You make that. You know, you know, maybe a customer will be okay with x amount of hours, but really going back and reading reviews later. That Wow, I love this because of X, y and Z. So, um, I hope that answers the question, but that's kind of what helps drive me

What responsibilities and decisions did you handle? What were the top three priorities and pain points? What strategies were effective in dealing with challenges?

Based on experience at: Lead Software QA Engineer, Beats by Dr. Dre
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Sat Nov 07 2020
Yeah, So I think a twist in the beats roll It was Mawr startup driven, right versus um, Apple, where everything is very much well defined. There's processes that effective, um, faras responsibilities and decisions. Back in that point, we were leveraging a lot of in region groups and vendors. So my responsibly at that point where more to be the subject matter expert for my domain, which at that point was software Q A and kind of helping drive and evangelize that with vendors or CMEs that we were using kind of helped bring them up to speed and then making sure that team is well equipped to be ableto one be ableto be effective on their timeline. But on my side, I can go and see what they're doing and communicate that up. So kind of doing the handoff back and forth between us and in region. That was the big one of the key differences

What three life lessons have you learned over your career? If any, please also discuss your experiences facing adversity, or trying something unusual.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Sat Nov 07 2020
um, as far as life lessons, you know, I think one of the big ones I feel is just being well prepared. Right. So, um, one of it, this could be in an interview could be in a presentation. Seems very simple, but not on Lee being well prepared. So you know what you're saying? Um comes off with confidence, but if you're well prepared, then you yourself are gonna be a stressful when you're gonna be ableto be very confident in your delivery, Aziz. Well, I think the other thing, at least in my role, is building real relationships. Right. So it's one thing where you just having a work with people on a day to day basis and be strictly business about everything but a zoo. You build the Israel relationships with people working with them 10 hours a day, five days a week for a year. Right? So it kind of helps, um, one for you and that person, right, To be able to get along with one another, and then you also learn their communication style, right? What works for one person is not gonna work for another one person may be okay with texting and the other one wants to get on a phone call and talk. So, you know, I think building Israel relationships really helps kind of everyone in that team really work together. Well, um, and I think the third thing that I found is find what motivates you, right? Like, go out and try a few different things. And you know what? Assumption you may have made about one thing. Maybe completely wrong. But once you go and actually try it, you know, you end up somewhere completely different, but finding what motivates you is key, and the rest will kind of follow.

What starting job (after internship) would you recommend to students who hope to grow professionally like you? What other parting advice, dos, and don'ts would you give?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Sat Nov 07 2020
So it's a, um it's really good to have a strong engineering background. So few of the different ones is, you know, maybe start is a firm or engineer an electrical engineer, software engineer or Q A or developer and test. You know, I think these internships are very valuable. Um, but, you know, maybe someone that is a grad student, you know, those those types of internships could be like a project manager, a program manager, scrum master product owner. This really helps develop the fundamentals that you need to be ableto be successful program manager. Um, I think the biggest do you know, I would say is you know, as you're kind of getting into interviewing and looking at rolls is be very well prepared to speak to anything on your resume, right? Like the worst thing anyone can do is put something down that they're not well versed in or, um, you know, they just don't know. Your credibility is lost right away. If something's on there and you get asked about it and you can't speak to it. So I think the best thing is full transparency, right? Like if you put something on there and it's, you know, very, very clear to say, like, this is as much as I know about it. But I'm very willing to learn. Or if you don't know about something, you know, just take it off because, you know, I think the key in a lot of interviews is for people to find those holes right. Um, and like I said before, sometimes a cultural fit and honesty and transparency is really what matters. And knowing what drives and motivates a person is the best. So you could put a lot of things on there that you know, I know just enough to be dangerous, for example. And that might be good enough. Yeah, I think that's the biggest thing.