Question: Tell me about a time you took a calculated risk. How did it go? What tradeoff did you make?
Answer: I was all javascript, open-source and Node JS. I figured companies are using these technologies, and I would be able to get the job. When I first applied, I was worried because the company I applied to didn’t use open source technologies.

Q: I see, what risk did you take?
A: The company was using proprietary technologies, not open source technologies. But it was great for me finally. They had flexible hours. I was able to work remotely, which allowed me to go to school full-time. I assumed this company was so small (3 people) that I would get lots of opportunities doing something outside of coding—meeting the customers, for instance. It gives you a broader understanding of why things are the way they are. I speak to tech leads, and I am trying to come up with solutions. They say that if that happens, it’s the customers’ fault. My understanding is we don’t want to support this scenario, because we have this underlying problem. I see the bigger picture.

Question: Tell me about a time you didn’t consult with your leadership before making a decision.
Answer: The main thing I did – I didn’t get approval from my manager – quoting hours. I would meet the client, I would write down all the requirements, after the conversation I would think about how much work, I would come with the number of hours. As long as the customer agreed and approved, and it was feasible, that was all that was important. The most significant task was probably 40 hours, two weeks.

Analysis

Competency asserted: Bias for Action

Vote: 👎

I asked about a calculated risk situation and got an answer describing how the candidate joined a company using proprietary software. However, the candidate believed that it would be better to join a company using open-source software. When asked about mitigating the risk, the candidate commented that the company provided them with flexible working hours and working remotely. Not really a good example.

Then I asked about an important business decision done without consulting their manager. The candidate said that they estimated hours for a given project without getting any approval on that. Not really showing bias for action either.

I am concerned about not getting good examples from an SDE II candidate.

Lesson

Make sure you understand what the interviewer wants from you. Repeat the question out loud and ask clarifying questions if you don’t get it.

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