RESOURCES

How to Show Your Ownership Mindset To Employers

Mar 14, 2024

RESOURCES

How to Show Your Ownership Mindset To Employers

Mar 14, 2024

RESOURCES

How to Show Your Ownership Mindset To Employers

Mar 14, 2024

RESOURCES

How to Show Your Ownership Mindset To Employers

Mar 14, 2024

In today's competitive job market, standing out as a candidate requires more than just a polished resume and strong technical skills. One key differentiator that can set you apart is demonstrating an ownership mindset. 

What are employers looking for when they’re assessing ownership mindset? 

  1. Ability to Handle Ambiguity: In a startup, roles are often fluid. Startups want candidates who are excited to take on responsibilities outside of their defined job description when necessary. They also want to see candidates who are flexible and adaptable in the face of evolving priorities and challenges.

  2. Proactive Mindset: They want candidates who don't wait for instructions, and instead identify opportunities for improvement and take action to address them.

  3. Accountability Mindset: They want to see you taking full responsibility for your tasks, projects, and their outcomes. Acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.

  4. High Standards for Quality: Startups are often redefining what “good” looks like in their industry or space, so having a strong sense of quality work is important. Note that it doesn’t mean working harder per say, it’s more about working smarter and visualizing what the best possible solution could be. 

  5. Good Prioritization: Focus on activities that drive the most value for the company’s vision, mission, big picture, and long-term goals. Not just what you think the best idea is or what interests you. 

  6. Creative / Outside The Box Thinking: Startups are a great place to get creative, and to welcome new ideas and approaches. Showing that you’re interested in getting creative is a big plus for startups that need lots of new ideas. 

  7. Founder Mentality: They want candidates who look at their company's successes and challenges as their own, and are excited to work collaboratively towards shared goals. Think a “we”, not a “me vs them” mindset, and also not just there for a 9-5 & paycheck.  

Example Questions with Do’s, Dont’s, and Examples: 

🎨 "Can you describe a feature you helped develop & how it impacted the product & business?"

Do: Discuss a feature you worked on, focusing on how you identified the need for it, how you collaborated with cross-functional teams, and the impact it had on the product's success.

Don't: Focus solely on the technical aspects without discussing the feature's impact on the product, the business, or the users. And avoid being vague about the results or not mentioning any collaboration with other teams.

Example Good Answer: "As a founding engineer at Centered Mental Health, I contributed to the development of a 'Mood Tracker' feature for our mobile app. This feature, inspired by user feedback and clinical research, allowed users to log their moods daily and receive personalized coping strategies. Collaborating with our clinical psychologist team, UX designers, and data scientists, we ensured the Mood Tracker was user-friendly and clinically sound. 

The impact was substantial on our mobile app growth and overall usage: DAUs surged by 40% in the first three months, and the insights gained from the data helped our clinical team refine treatment approaches. It was cool how the feature not only boosted user engagement but also enhanced our product's clinical value and contributed to the business's growth."

⚖️ "How do you prioritize tasks in a fast-paced environment?"

Do: Explain how you use a product-focused approach to prioritize tasks, considering factors like user impact, business value, and technical feasibility.

Don't: Suggest that you prioritize tasks based solely on technical preference without having awareness of other objectives.

Example Good Answer: "At the seed-stage fintech startup I worked at, Centered Payments, we faced tight deadlines and shifting priorities. I prioritized tasks based on their impact on our core product, a mobile payment app. For example, when we noticed a high dropout rate during the sign-up process, I prioritized optimizing the onboarding flow over other features. This involved streamlining the UI and reducing the number of steps required. By focusing on user experience and retention, we saw a 25% increase in completed sign-ups within a month."

🚀 “How do you ensure your work aligns with the product vision and goals?"

Do: Describe how you stay aligned with the product vision, actively seek input from product managers, and measure the success of your work against key product metrics.

Don't: Imply that you work independently without seeking input from the product team. Avoid suggesting that you don't measure the impact of your work on the product's success.

Example Good Answer: "In my role as a Full Stack Engineering Lead at a Centered (a Series B health-tech startup), alignment with the product vision was crucial for our engineering team since resources were limited. I made sure we stayed aligned by actively participating in weekly product strategy meetings, where I gained insights into the long-term vision and immediate goals. For instance, when we aimed to enhance our telemedicine platform's accessibility, I focused my efforts on developing a feature that allowed users to switch to a text-based consultation if their internet connection was weak.

✈️ "How do you handle tight deadlines or changing requirements?"

Do: Provide examples of when you had to adapt to shifting priorities or tight timelines. Show how you took responsibility for managing your time effectively, communicating with your team, and ensuring the project's success despite the challenges.

Don't: Complain about unrealistic deadlines or indecisive stakeholders. Avoid giving the impression that you're resistant to change or unable to cope with pressure.

Good Example Answer: "In my role as a Backend Engineer at Centered Payments, we were developing a payment gateway integration feature slated for release in four weeks. Two weeks into the project, the client requested additional fraud detection capabilities, significantly altering the scope. We scheduled an immediate meeting with Eng and Product and reassessed our priorities, identifying tasks that could be deferred or streamlined while asking the client for a 1-week delay to deliver on their key objectives. Given the updated roadmap were able to deliver the feature with an additional week, without compromising on security and performance. 

💪🏼 "Can you describe a challenging project you worked on?"

Do: Talk about a specific software engineering project where you faced significant challenges. Highlight your role, the obstacles you encountered, and how you took ownership to overcome them. Emphasize the results and what you learned from the experience.

Don't: Blame others for the difficulties or downplay your role in the project. Avoid vague answers that don't showcase your direct involvement in resolving the challenges.

Good Example Answer: "As a software engineer at Centered Trucking, I led a project to integrate real-time tracking into our delivery management system using a third-party GPS tracking API. The challenge was that the API documentation was outdated, and we encountered unexpected issues like inconsistent data formats and intermittent connectivity. 

I took ownership by establishing direct communication with the API provider's technical team, which allowed us to clarify ambiguities and receive timely updates on fixes. I also implemented a robust testing strategy, including mock services to simulate API responses, ensuring our system could handle edge cases gracefully. This integration significantly enhanced our platform's value proposition by providing customers with live tracking of their deliveries, leading to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction scores."

🥊 "How do you handle conflicting priorities between the tech & product teams?"

Do: Discuss how you navigate conflicts by focusing on the product's best interest, facilitating open communication, and seeking win-win solutions.

Don't: Indicate that you always prioritize technical considerations over product needs. Avoid suggesting that you avoid communication with the product team or that you're unwilling to compromise.

Example Good Answer: "In my last role I was part of a team developing a new analytics feature for online publishers. Midway through the development, the product team received feedback from beta users requesting an additional dashboard visualization that we hadn’t initially considered (utilizing real-time heatmap data, a new feature for us). However adding this dashboard conflicted with our technical team's focus on optimizing the backend for scalability. 

To resolve this, we brought in product and eng so both teams could present their priorities and constraints. We discussed the potential impact of the new feature on user engagement and weighed it against the technical risks. We reached a consensus to proceed with a simplified version of the requested visualization that wouldn't compromise backend performance.

😬 "Tell me about a time you made a mistake in your work."

Do: Choose an instance where you acknowledged an error in your coding or design. Explain how you identified the mistake, took corrective action, and implemented measures to prevent similar issues in the future. This demonstrates accountability and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Don't: Try to shift blame to others or minimize the seriousness of the mistake. Avoid responses that suggest you're unwilling to learn from your errors or take corrective action.

Example Good Answer: "In my previous role as a backend engineer at Centered Payments, I implemented a new payment processing feature. In my initial deployment, I overlooked an edge case where transactions could duplicate under certain network conditions. This bug went live and caused discrepancies in our financial reports. 

Upon discovering the issue, I immediately took ownership by notifying our finance and development teams. I then worked diligently to isolate and fix the bug, implementing additional transaction idempotency checks to prevent future occurrences. To ensure such an oversight wouldn't happen again, I enhanced our testing framework to include more comprehensive edge case scenarios. This experience underscored the importance of thorough testing and reinforced my commitment to maintaining high standards of code quality."

👎 "Tell me about a time that a feature you worked on flopped or got negative feedback from customers/internal stakeholders. 

Do: Share how you embraced the feedback, collaborated with stakeholders to understand their concerns, and took proactive steps to improve the feature.

Don't: Get defensive or blame others for the negative feedback. Avoid dismissing the feedback or failing to take action to address the concerns.

Example Good Answer: "At my previous job as a Full Stack Lead for Centered Travel Bookings, I led the development of a feature that allowed users to book multiple destinations in a single itinerary. After launch, we received negative feedback from users, who found the interface confusing and wrote to customer service for support. 

We took the feedback seriously and brought the UX, customer service, and product teams to investigate the issues further. It became clear that the lack of clear instructions contributed to the confusion, so we added a step-by-step tip tool guide within the feature. The result was a 30% increase in the usage of the multi-destination booking feature and a significant reduction in related customer service calls. This experience taught me the importance of listening to user feedback and the value of cross-functional collaboration in addressing product challenges."

💎 "How do you ensure the quality of your code?"

Do: Discuss your approach to writing clean, maintainable code. Mention specific practices you follow, such as code reviews, unit testing, and adherence to coding standards. Show that you take ownership of not just your work but also its long-term impact on the project.

Don't: Give generic answers that don't reflect a personal commitment to code quality. Avoid suggesting that quality control is solely the responsibility of others, such as testers or QA teams.

Good Example Answer: "In my role as a Tech Lead at Centered Mental Health, ensuring code quality was paramount due to the sensitive nature of the data we handled. My approach to maintaining high-quality code for our team involved several key practices:

  • I made sure we followed industry-specific standards and regulations, such as HIPAA and HL7, to ensure that my code met the required security and interoperability criteria.

  • We implemented unit testing for every feature and bug fix, particularly for features related to patient data management and video consultation, to ensure accuracy and reliability in data handling and communication. For instance, when developing a patient data encryption module, We wrote tests covering various edge cases and potential security vulnerabilities. This practice helped catch issues early in the development process and provided a safety net for future changes. 

  • I actively participated in peer code reviews. I reviewed my colleagues' code and submitted my own for review, fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement. This practice not only helped catch errors but also facilitated knowledge sharing and promoted best practices within the team.

  • I also integrated static code analysis tools into our continuous integration pipeline. Tools like SonarQube automatically scanned our codebase for potential issues, such as code smells or security vulnerabilities, ensuring that these were addressed before merging into the main branch.

  • Lastly, I made a habit of refactoring code regularly. During the development of a complex data synchronization feature, I noticed that the initial implementation was becoming unwieldy. I took the initiative to refactor it into smaller, more manageable components, significantly improving its readability and maintainability.

By combining these practices, I was able to consistently deliver high-quality code that was secure, maintainable, and aligned with our project's goals.

🌊 "How do you stay updated with new technologies & trends in software engineering?"

Do: Share your strategies for continuous learning, such as following industry blogs, participating in online forums, attending conferences, or contributing to open-source projects. Highlight how this proactive approach helps you bring fresh ideas and innovation to your work.

Don't: Indicate that you only learn new technologies when required by a job. Avoid suggesting that keeping up with trends is not a priority for you.

Good Example Answer: 

  • Within Centered Mental Health, I organized regular knowledge-sharing sessions where our engineering and product teams could discuss the latest trends and technologies in HIPPA Complaint product development. 

  • I’ve contributed to a couple of open-source libraries designed for HIPAA-compliant applications, specifically 'FHIR.js,' which is for working with FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) data compliantly.

  • I subscribe to a couple of podcasts that focus on digital health, like 'The Pulse by Wharton Digital Health' and 'Healthcare Tech Talk' to stay aware of general industry trends. 

  • I regularly read articles and attend webinars on health data security, focusing on encryption, access control, and audit trails. I've also implemented these practices in our projects, ensuring that our patient data management systems meet HIPAA standards. 

By focusing your responses on these do's and don'ts, you can effectively demonstrate an ownership mindset during your software engineering interviews, setting you apart and hopefully landing you the offer of your dreams <3

In today's competitive job market, standing out as a candidate requires more than just a polished resume and strong technical skills. One key differentiator that can set you apart is demonstrating an ownership mindset. 

What are employers looking for when they’re assessing ownership mindset? 

  1. Ability to Handle Ambiguity: In a startup, roles are often fluid. Startups want candidates who are excited to take on responsibilities outside of their defined job description when necessary. They also want to see candidates who are flexible and adaptable in the face of evolving priorities and challenges.

  2. Proactive Mindset: They want candidates who don't wait for instructions, and instead identify opportunities for improvement and take action to address them.

  3. Accountability Mindset: They want to see you taking full responsibility for your tasks, projects, and their outcomes. Acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.

  4. High Standards for Quality: Startups are often redefining what “good” looks like in their industry or space, so having a strong sense of quality work is important. Note that it doesn’t mean working harder per say, it’s more about working smarter and visualizing what the best possible solution could be. 

  5. Good Prioritization: Focus on activities that drive the most value for the company’s vision, mission, big picture, and long-term goals. Not just what you think the best idea is or what interests you. 

  6. Creative / Outside The Box Thinking: Startups are a great place to get creative, and to welcome new ideas and approaches. Showing that you’re interested in getting creative is a big plus for startups that need lots of new ideas. 

  7. Founder Mentality: They want candidates who look at their company's successes and challenges as their own, and are excited to work collaboratively towards shared goals. Think a “we”, not a “me vs them” mindset, and also not just there for a 9-5 & paycheck.  

Example Questions with Do’s, Dont’s, and Examples: 

🎨 "Can you describe a feature you helped develop & how it impacted the product & business?"

Do: Discuss a feature you worked on, focusing on how you identified the need for it, how you collaborated with cross-functional teams, and the impact it had on the product's success.

Don't: Focus solely on the technical aspects without discussing the feature's impact on the product, the business, or the users. And avoid being vague about the results or not mentioning any collaboration with other teams.

Example Good Answer: "As a founding engineer at Centered Mental Health, I contributed to the development of a 'Mood Tracker' feature for our mobile app. This feature, inspired by user feedback and clinical research, allowed users to log their moods daily and receive personalized coping strategies. Collaborating with our clinical psychologist team, UX designers, and data scientists, we ensured the Mood Tracker was user-friendly and clinically sound. 

The impact was substantial on our mobile app growth and overall usage: DAUs surged by 40% in the first three months, and the insights gained from the data helped our clinical team refine treatment approaches. It was cool how the feature not only boosted user engagement but also enhanced our product's clinical value and contributed to the business's growth."

⚖️ "How do you prioritize tasks in a fast-paced environment?"

Do: Explain how you use a product-focused approach to prioritize tasks, considering factors like user impact, business value, and technical feasibility.

Don't: Suggest that you prioritize tasks based solely on technical preference without having awareness of other objectives.

Example Good Answer: "At the seed-stage fintech startup I worked at, Centered Payments, we faced tight deadlines and shifting priorities. I prioritized tasks based on their impact on our core product, a mobile payment app. For example, when we noticed a high dropout rate during the sign-up process, I prioritized optimizing the onboarding flow over other features. This involved streamlining the UI and reducing the number of steps required. By focusing on user experience and retention, we saw a 25% increase in completed sign-ups within a month."

🚀 “How do you ensure your work aligns with the product vision and goals?"

Do: Describe how you stay aligned with the product vision, actively seek input from product managers, and measure the success of your work against key product metrics.

Don't: Imply that you work independently without seeking input from the product team. Avoid suggesting that you don't measure the impact of your work on the product's success.

Example Good Answer: "In my role as a Full Stack Engineering Lead at a Centered (a Series B health-tech startup), alignment with the product vision was crucial for our engineering team since resources were limited. I made sure we stayed aligned by actively participating in weekly product strategy meetings, where I gained insights into the long-term vision and immediate goals. For instance, when we aimed to enhance our telemedicine platform's accessibility, I focused my efforts on developing a feature that allowed users to switch to a text-based consultation if their internet connection was weak.

✈️ "How do you handle tight deadlines or changing requirements?"

Do: Provide examples of when you had to adapt to shifting priorities or tight timelines. Show how you took responsibility for managing your time effectively, communicating with your team, and ensuring the project's success despite the challenges.

Don't: Complain about unrealistic deadlines or indecisive stakeholders. Avoid giving the impression that you're resistant to change or unable to cope with pressure.

Good Example Answer: "In my role as a Backend Engineer at Centered Payments, we were developing a payment gateway integration feature slated for release in four weeks. Two weeks into the project, the client requested additional fraud detection capabilities, significantly altering the scope. We scheduled an immediate meeting with Eng and Product and reassessed our priorities, identifying tasks that could be deferred or streamlined while asking the client for a 1-week delay to deliver on their key objectives. Given the updated roadmap were able to deliver the feature with an additional week, without compromising on security and performance. 

💪🏼 "Can you describe a challenging project you worked on?"

Do: Talk about a specific software engineering project where you faced significant challenges. Highlight your role, the obstacles you encountered, and how you took ownership to overcome them. Emphasize the results and what you learned from the experience.

Don't: Blame others for the difficulties or downplay your role in the project. Avoid vague answers that don't showcase your direct involvement in resolving the challenges.

Good Example Answer: "As a software engineer at Centered Trucking, I led a project to integrate real-time tracking into our delivery management system using a third-party GPS tracking API. The challenge was that the API documentation was outdated, and we encountered unexpected issues like inconsistent data formats and intermittent connectivity. 

I took ownership by establishing direct communication with the API provider's technical team, which allowed us to clarify ambiguities and receive timely updates on fixes. I also implemented a robust testing strategy, including mock services to simulate API responses, ensuring our system could handle edge cases gracefully. This integration significantly enhanced our platform's value proposition by providing customers with live tracking of their deliveries, leading to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction scores."

🥊 "How do you handle conflicting priorities between the tech & product teams?"

Do: Discuss how you navigate conflicts by focusing on the product's best interest, facilitating open communication, and seeking win-win solutions.

Don't: Indicate that you always prioritize technical considerations over product needs. Avoid suggesting that you avoid communication with the product team or that you're unwilling to compromise.

Example Good Answer: "In my last role I was part of a team developing a new analytics feature for online publishers. Midway through the development, the product team received feedback from beta users requesting an additional dashboard visualization that we hadn’t initially considered (utilizing real-time heatmap data, a new feature for us). However adding this dashboard conflicted with our technical team's focus on optimizing the backend for scalability. 

To resolve this, we brought in product and eng so both teams could present their priorities and constraints. We discussed the potential impact of the new feature on user engagement and weighed it against the technical risks. We reached a consensus to proceed with a simplified version of the requested visualization that wouldn't compromise backend performance.

😬 "Tell me about a time you made a mistake in your work."

Do: Choose an instance where you acknowledged an error in your coding or design. Explain how you identified the mistake, took corrective action, and implemented measures to prevent similar issues in the future. This demonstrates accountability and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Don't: Try to shift blame to others or minimize the seriousness of the mistake. Avoid responses that suggest you're unwilling to learn from your errors or take corrective action.

Example Good Answer: "In my previous role as a backend engineer at Centered Payments, I implemented a new payment processing feature. In my initial deployment, I overlooked an edge case where transactions could duplicate under certain network conditions. This bug went live and caused discrepancies in our financial reports. 

Upon discovering the issue, I immediately took ownership by notifying our finance and development teams. I then worked diligently to isolate and fix the bug, implementing additional transaction idempotency checks to prevent future occurrences. To ensure such an oversight wouldn't happen again, I enhanced our testing framework to include more comprehensive edge case scenarios. This experience underscored the importance of thorough testing and reinforced my commitment to maintaining high standards of code quality."

👎 "Tell me about a time that a feature you worked on flopped or got negative feedback from customers/internal stakeholders. 

Do: Share how you embraced the feedback, collaborated with stakeholders to understand their concerns, and took proactive steps to improve the feature.

Don't: Get defensive or blame others for the negative feedback. Avoid dismissing the feedback or failing to take action to address the concerns.

Example Good Answer: "At my previous job as a Full Stack Lead for Centered Travel Bookings, I led the development of a feature that allowed users to book multiple destinations in a single itinerary. After launch, we received negative feedback from users, who found the interface confusing and wrote to customer service for support. 

We took the feedback seriously and brought the UX, customer service, and product teams to investigate the issues further. It became clear that the lack of clear instructions contributed to the confusion, so we added a step-by-step tip tool guide within the feature. The result was a 30% increase in the usage of the multi-destination booking feature and a significant reduction in related customer service calls. This experience taught me the importance of listening to user feedback and the value of cross-functional collaboration in addressing product challenges."

💎 "How do you ensure the quality of your code?"

Do: Discuss your approach to writing clean, maintainable code. Mention specific practices you follow, such as code reviews, unit testing, and adherence to coding standards. Show that you take ownership of not just your work but also its long-term impact on the project.

Don't: Give generic answers that don't reflect a personal commitment to code quality. Avoid suggesting that quality control is solely the responsibility of others, such as testers or QA teams.

Good Example Answer: "In my role as a Tech Lead at Centered Mental Health, ensuring code quality was paramount due to the sensitive nature of the data we handled. My approach to maintaining high-quality code for our team involved several key practices:

  • I made sure we followed industry-specific standards and regulations, such as HIPAA and HL7, to ensure that my code met the required security and interoperability criteria.

  • We implemented unit testing for every feature and bug fix, particularly for features related to patient data management and video consultation, to ensure accuracy and reliability in data handling and communication. For instance, when developing a patient data encryption module, We wrote tests covering various edge cases and potential security vulnerabilities. This practice helped catch issues early in the development process and provided a safety net for future changes. 

  • I actively participated in peer code reviews. I reviewed my colleagues' code and submitted my own for review, fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement. This practice not only helped catch errors but also facilitated knowledge sharing and promoted best practices within the team.

  • I also integrated static code analysis tools into our continuous integration pipeline. Tools like SonarQube automatically scanned our codebase for potential issues, such as code smells or security vulnerabilities, ensuring that these were addressed before merging into the main branch.

  • Lastly, I made a habit of refactoring code regularly. During the development of a complex data synchronization feature, I noticed that the initial implementation was becoming unwieldy. I took the initiative to refactor it into smaller, more manageable components, significantly improving its readability and maintainability.

By combining these practices, I was able to consistently deliver high-quality code that was secure, maintainable, and aligned with our project's goals.

🌊 "How do you stay updated with new technologies & trends in software engineering?"

Do: Share your strategies for continuous learning, such as following industry blogs, participating in online forums, attending conferences, or contributing to open-source projects. Highlight how this proactive approach helps you bring fresh ideas and innovation to your work.

Don't: Indicate that you only learn new technologies when required by a job. Avoid suggesting that keeping up with trends is not a priority for you.

Good Example Answer: 

  • Within Centered Mental Health, I organized regular knowledge-sharing sessions where our engineering and product teams could discuss the latest trends and technologies in HIPPA Complaint product development. 

  • I’ve contributed to a couple of open-source libraries designed for HIPAA-compliant applications, specifically 'FHIR.js,' which is for working with FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) data compliantly.

  • I subscribe to a couple of podcasts that focus on digital health, like 'The Pulse by Wharton Digital Health' and 'Healthcare Tech Talk' to stay aware of general industry trends. 

  • I regularly read articles and attend webinars on health data security, focusing on encryption, access control, and audit trails. I've also implemented these practices in our projects, ensuring that our patient data management systems meet HIPAA standards. 

By focusing your responses on these do's and don'ts, you can effectively demonstrate an ownership mindset during your software engineering interviews, setting you apart and hopefully landing you the offer of your dreams <3

In today's competitive job market, standing out as a candidate requires more than just a polished resume and strong technical skills. One key differentiator that can set you apart is demonstrating an ownership mindset. 

What are employers looking for when they’re assessing ownership mindset? 

  1. Ability to Handle Ambiguity: In a startup, roles are often fluid. Startups want candidates who are excited to take on responsibilities outside of their defined job description when necessary. They also want to see candidates who are flexible and adaptable in the face of evolving priorities and challenges.

  2. Proactive Mindset: They want candidates who don't wait for instructions, and instead identify opportunities for improvement and take action to address them.

  3. Accountability Mindset: They want to see you taking full responsibility for your tasks, projects, and their outcomes. Acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.

  4. High Standards for Quality: Startups are often redefining what “good” looks like in their industry or space, so having a strong sense of quality work is important. Note that it doesn’t mean working harder per say, it’s more about working smarter and visualizing what the best possible solution could be. 

  5. Good Prioritization: Focus on activities that drive the most value for the company’s vision, mission, big picture, and long-term goals. Not just what you think the best idea is or what interests you. 

  6. Creative / Outside The Box Thinking: Startups are a great place to get creative, and to welcome new ideas and approaches. Showing that you’re interested in getting creative is a big plus for startups that need lots of new ideas. 

  7. Founder Mentality: They want candidates who look at their company's successes and challenges as their own, and are excited to work collaboratively towards shared goals. Think a “we”, not a “me vs them” mindset, and also not just there for a 9-5 & paycheck.  

Example Questions with Do’s, Dont’s, and Examples: 

🎨 "Can you describe a feature you helped develop & how it impacted the product & business?"

Do: Discuss a feature you worked on, focusing on how you identified the need for it, how you collaborated with cross-functional teams, and the impact it had on the product's success.

Don't: Focus solely on the technical aspects without discussing the feature's impact on the product, the business, or the users. And avoid being vague about the results or not mentioning any collaboration with other teams.

Example Good Answer: "As a founding engineer at Centered Mental Health, I contributed to the development of a 'Mood Tracker' feature for our mobile app. This feature, inspired by user feedback and clinical research, allowed users to log their moods daily and receive personalized coping strategies. Collaborating with our clinical psychologist team, UX designers, and data scientists, we ensured the Mood Tracker was user-friendly and clinically sound. 

The impact was substantial on our mobile app growth and overall usage: DAUs surged by 40% in the first three months, and the insights gained from the data helped our clinical team refine treatment approaches. It was cool how the feature not only boosted user engagement but also enhanced our product's clinical value and contributed to the business's growth."

⚖️ "How do you prioritize tasks in a fast-paced environment?"

Do: Explain how you use a product-focused approach to prioritize tasks, considering factors like user impact, business value, and technical feasibility.

Don't: Suggest that you prioritize tasks based solely on technical preference without having awareness of other objectives.

Example Good Answer: "At the seed-stage fintech startup I worked at, Centered Payments, we faced tight deadlines and shifting priorities. I prioritized tasks based on their impact on our core product, a mobile payment app. For example, when we noticed a high dropout rate during the sign-up process, I prioritized optimizing the onboarding flow over other features. This involved streamlining the UI and reducing the number of steps required. By focusing on user experience and retention, we saw a 25% increase in completed sign-ups within a month."

🚀 “How do you ensure your work aligns with the product vision and goals?"

Do: Describe how you stay aligned with the product vision, actively seek input from product managers, and measure the success of your work against key product metrics.

Don't: Imply that you work independently without seeking input from the product team. Avoid suggesting that you don't measure the impact of your work on the product's success.

Example Good Answer: "In my role as a Full Stack Engineering Lead at a Centered (a Series B health-tech startup), alignment with the product vision was crucial for our engineering team since resources were limited. I made sure we stayed aligned by actively participating in weekly product strategy meetings, where I gained insights into the long-term vision and immediate goals. For instance, when we aimed to enhance our telemedicine platform's accessibility, I focused my efforts on developing a feature that allowed users to switch to a text-based consultation if their internet connection was weak.

✈️ "How do you handle tight deadlines or changing requirements?"

Do: Provide examples of when you had to adapt to shifting priorities or tight timelines. Show how you took responsibility for managing your time effectively, communicating with your team, and ensuring the project's success despite the challenges.

Don't: Complain about unrealistic deadlines or indecisive stakeholders. Avoid giving the impression that you're resistant to change or unable to cope with pressure.

Good Example Answer: "In my role as a Backend Engineer at Centered Payments, we were developing a payment gateway integration feature slated for release in four weeks. Two weeks into the project, the client requested additional fraud detection capabilities, significantly altering the scope. We scheduled an immediate meeting with Eng and Product and reassessed our priorities, identifying tasks that could be deferred or streamlined while asking the client for a 1-week delay to deliver on their key objectives. Given the updated roadmap were able to deliver the feature with an additional week, without compromising on security and performance. 

💪🏼 "Can you describe a challenging project you worked on?"

Do: Talk about a specific software engineering project where you faced significant challenges. Highlight your role, the obstacles you encountered, and how you took ownership to overcome them. Emphasize the results and what you learned from the experience.

Don't: Blame others for the difficulties or downplay your role in the project. Avoid vague answers that don't showcase your direct involvement in resolving the challenges.

Good Example Answer: "As a software engineer at Centered Trucking, I led a project to integrate real-time tracking into our delivery management system using a third-party GPS tracking API. The challenge was that the API documentation was outdated, and we encountered unexpected issues like inconsistent data formats and intermittent connectivity. 

I took ownership by establishing direct communication with the API provider's technical team, which allowed us to clarify ambiguities and receive timely updates on fixes. I also implemented a robust testing strategy, including mock services to simulate API responses, ensuring our system could handle edge cases gracefully. This integration significantly enhanced our platform's value proposition by providing customers with live tracking of their deliveries, leading to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction scores."

🥊 "How do you handle conflicting priorities between the tech & product teams?"

Do: Discuss how you navigate conflicts by focusing on the product's best interest, facilitating open communication, and seeking win-win solutions.

Don't: Indicate that you always prioritize technical considerations over product needs. Avoid suggesting that you avoid communication with the product team or that you're unwilling to compromise.

Example Good Answer: "In my last role I was part of a team developing a new analytics feature for online publishers. Midway through the development, the product team received feedback from beta users requesting an additional dashboard visualization that we hadn’t initially considered (utilizing real-time heatmap data, a new feature for us). However adding this dashboard conflicted with our technical team's focus on optimizing the backend for scalability. 

To resolve this, we brought in product and eng so both teams could present their priorities and constraints. We discussed the potential impact of the new feature on user engagement and weighed it against the technical risks. We reached a consensus to proceed with a simplified version of the requested visualization that wouldn't compromise backend performance.

😬 "Tell me about a time you made a mistake in your work."

Do: Choose an instance where you acknowledged an error in your coding or design. Explain how you identified the mistake, took corrective action, and implemented measures to prevent similar issues in the future. This demonstrates accountability and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Don't: Try to shift blame to others or minimize the seriousness of the mistake. Avoid responses that suggest you're unwilling to learn from your errors or take corrective action.

Example Good Answer: "In my previous role as a backend engineer at Centered Payments, I implemented a new payment processing feature. In my initial deployment, I overlooked an edge case where transactions could duplicate under certain network conditions. This bug went live and caused discrepancies in our financial reports. 

Upon discovering the issue, I immediately took ownership by notifying our finance and development teams. I then worked diligently to isolate and fix the bug, implementing additional transaction idempotency checks to prevent future occurrences. To ensure such an oversight wouldn't happen again, I enhanced our testing framework to include more comprehensive edge case scenarios. This experience underscored the importance of thorough testing and reinforced my commitment to maintaining high standards of code quality."

👎 "Tell me about a time that a feature you worked on flopped or got negative feedback from customers/internal stakeholders. 

Do: Share how you embraced the feedback, collaborated with stakeholders to understand their concerns, and took proactive steps to improve the feature.

Don't: Get defensive or blame others for the negative feedback. Avoid dismissing the feedback or failing to take action to address the concerns.

Example Good Answer: "At my previous job as a Full Stack Lead for Centered Travel Bookings, I led the development of a feature that allowed users to book multiple destinations in a single itinerary. After launch, we received negative feedback from users, who found the interface confusing and wrote to customer service for support. 

We took the feedback seriously and brought the UX, customer service, and product teams to investigate the issues further. It became clear that the lack of clear instructions contributed to the confusion, so we added a step-by-step tip tool guide within the feature. The result was a 30% increase in the usage of the multi-destination booking feature and a significant reduction in related customer service calls. This experience taught me the importance of listening to user feedback and the value of cross-functional collaboration in addressing product challenges."

💎 "How do you ensure the quality of your code?"

Do: Discuss your approach to writing clean, maintainable code. Mention specific practices you follow, such as code reviews, unit testing, and adherence to coding standards. Show that you take ownership of not just your work but also its long-term impact on the project.

Don't: Give generic answers that don't reflect a personal commitment to code quality. Avoid suggesting that quality control is solely the responsibility of others, such as testers or QA teams.

Good Example Answer: "In my role as a Tech Lead at Centered Mental Health, ensuring code quality was paramount due to the sensitive nature of the data we handled. My approach to maintaining high-quality code for our team involved several key practices:

  • I made sure we followed industry-specific standards and regulations, such as HIPAA and HL7, to ensure that my code met the required security and interoperability criteria.

  • We implemented unit testing for every feature and bug fix, particularly for features related to patient data management and video consultation, to ensure accuracy and reliability in data handling and communication. For instance, when developing a patient data encryption module, We wrote tests covering various edge cases and potential security vulnerabilities. This practice helped catch issues early in the development process and provided a safety net for future changes. 

  • I actively participated in peer code reviews. I reviewed my colleagues' code and submitted my own for review, fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement. This practice not only helped catch errors but also facilitated knowledge sharing and promoted best practices within the team.

  • I also integrated static code analysis tools into our continuous integration pipeline. Tools like SonarQube automatically scanned our codebase for potential issues, such as code smells or security vulnerabilities, ensuring that these were addressed before merging into the main branch.

  • Lastly, I made a habit of refactoring code regularly. During the development of a complex data synchronization feature, I noticed that the initial implementation was becoming unwieldy. I took the initiative to refactor it into smaller, more manageable components, significantly improving its readability and maintainability.

By combining these practices, I was able to consistently deliver high-quality code that was secure, maintainable, and aligned with our project's goals.

🌊 "How do you stay updated with new technologies & trends in software engineering?"

Do: Share your strategies for continuous learning, such as following industry blogs, participating in online forums, attending conferences, or contributing to open-source projects. Highlight how this proactive approach helps you bring fresh ideas and innovation to your work.

Don't: Indicate that you only learn new technologies when required by a job. Avoid suggesting that keeping up with trends is not a priority for you.

Good Example Answer: 

  • Within Centered Mental Health, I organized regular knowledge-sharing sessions where our engineering and product teams could discuss the latest trends and technologies in HIPPA Complaint product development. 

  • I’ve contributed to a couple of open-source libraries designed for HIPAA-compliant applications, specifically 'FHIR.js,' which is for working with FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) data compliantly.

  • I subscribe to a couple of podcasts that focus on digital health, like 'The Pulse by Wharton Digital Health' and 'Healthcare Tech Talk' to stay aware of general industry trends. 

  • I regularly read articles and attend webinars on health data security, focusing on encryption, access control, and audit trails. I've also implemented these practices in our projects, ensuring that our patient data management systems meet HIPAA standards. 

By focusing your responses on these do's and don'ts, you can effectively demonstrate an ownership mindset during your software engineering interviews, setting you apart and hopefully landing you the offer of your dreams <3

In today's competitive job market, standing out as a candidate requires more than just a polished resume and strong technical skills. One key differentiator that can set you apart is demonstrating an ownership mindset. 

What are employers looking for when they’re assessing ownership mindset? 

  1. Ability to Handle Ambiguity: In a startup, roles are often fluid. Startups want candidates who are excited to take on responsibilities outside of their defined job description when necessary. They also want to see candidates who are flexible and adaptable in the face of evolving priorities and challenges.

  2. Proactive Mindset: They want candidates who don't wait for instructions, and instead identify opportunities for improvement and take action to address them.

  3. Accountability Mindset: They want to see you taking full responsibility for your tasks, projects, and their outcomes. Acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.

  4. High Standards for Quality: Startups are often redefining what “good” looks like in their industry or space, so having a strong sense of quality work is important. Note that it doesn’t mean working harder per say, it’s more about working smarter and visualizing what the best possible solution could be. 

  5. Good Prioritization: Focus on activities that drive the most value for the company’s vision, mission, big picture, and long-term goals. Not just what you think the best idea is or what interests you. 

  6. Creative / Outside The Box Thinking: Startups are a great place to get creative, and to welcome new ideas and approaches. Showing that you’re interested in getting creative is a big plus for startups that need lots of new ideas. 

  7. Founder Mentality: They want candidates who look at their company's successes and challenges as their own, and are excited to work collaboratively towards shared goals. Think a “we”, not a “me vs them” mindset, and also not just there for a 9-5 & paycheck.  

Example Questions with Do’s, Dont’s, and Examples: 

🎨 "Can you describe a feature you helped develop & how it impacted the product & business?"

Do: Discuss a feature you worked on, focusing on how you identified the need for it, how you collaborated with cross-functional teams, and the impact it had on the product's success.

Don't: Focus solely on the technical aspects without discussing the feature's impact on the product, the business, or the users. And avoid being vague about the results or not mentioning any collaboration with other teams.

Example Good Answer: "As a founding engineer at Centered Mental Health, I contributed to the development of a 'Mood Tracker' feature for our mobile app. This feature, inspired by user feedback and clinical research, allowed users to log their moods daily and receive personalized coping strategies. Collaborating with our clinical psychologist team, UX designers, and data scientists, we ensured the Mood Tracker was user-friendly and clinically sound. 

The impact was substantial on our mobile app growth and overall usage: DAUs surged by 40% in the first three months, and the insights gained from the data helped our clinical team refine treatment approaches. It was cool how the feature not only boosted user engagement but also enhanced our product's clinical value and contributed to the business's growth."

⚖️ "How do you prioritize tasks in a fast-paced environment?"

Do: Explain how you use a product-focused approach to prioritize tasks, considering factors like user impact, business value, and technical feasibility.

Don't: Suggest that you prioritize tasks based solely on technical preference without having awareness of other objectives.

Example Good Answer: "At the seed-stage fintech startup I worked at, Centered Payments, we faced tight deadlines and shifting priorities. I prioritized tasks based on their impact on our core product, a mobile payment app. For example, when we noticed a high dropout rate during the sign-up process, I prioritized optimizing the onboarding flow over other features. This involved streamlining the UI and reducing the number of steps required. By focusing on user experience and retention, we saw a 25% increase in completed sign-ups within a month."

🚀 “How do you ensure your work aligns with the product vision and goals?"

Do: Describe how you stay aligned with the product vision, actively seek input from product managers, and measure the success of your work against key product metrics.

Don't: Imply that you work independently without seeking input from the product team. Avoid suggesting that you don't measure the impact of your work on the product's success.

Example Good Answer: "In my role as a Full Stack Engineering Lead at a Centered (a Series B health-tech startup), alignment with the product vision was crucial for our engineering team since resources were limited. I made sure we stayed aligned by actively participating in weekly product strategy meetings, where I gained insights into the long-term vision and immediate goals. For instance, when we aimed to enhance our telemedicine platform's accessibility, I focused my efforts on developing a feature that allowed users to switch to a text-based consultation if their internet connection was weak.

✈️ "How do you handle tight deadlines or changing requirements?"

Do: Provide examples of when you had to adapt to shifting priorities or tight timelines. Show how you took responsibility for managing your time effectively, communicating with your team, and ensuring the project's success despite the challenges.

Don't: Complain about unrealistic deadlines or indecisive stakeholders. Avoid giving the impression that you're resistant to change or unable to cope with pressure.

Good Example Answer: "In my role as a Backend Engineer at Centered Payments, we were developing a payment gateway integration feature slated for release in four weeks. Two weeks into the project, the client requested additional fraud detection capabilities, significantly altering the scope. We scheduled an immediate meeting with Eng and Product and reassessed our priorities, identifying tasks that could be deferred or streamlined while asking the client for a 1-week delay to deliver on their key objectives. Given the updated roadmap were able to deliver the feature with an additional week, without compromising on security and performance. 

💪🏼 "Can you describe a challenging project you worked on?"

Do: Talk about a specific software engineering project where you faced significant challenges. Highlight your role, the obstacles you encountered, and how you took ownership to overcome them. Emphasize the results and what you learned from the experience.

Don't: Blame others for the difficulties or downplay your role in the project. Avoid vague answers that don't showcase your direct involvement in resolving the challenges.

Good Example Answer: "As a software engineer at Centered Trucking, I led a project to integrate real-time tracking into our delivery management system using a third-party GPS tracking API. The challenge was that the API documentation was outdated, and we encountered unexpected issues like inconsistent data formats and intermittent connectivity. 

I took ownership by establishing direct communication with the API provider's technical team, which allowed us to clarify ambiguities and receive timely updates on fixes. I also implemented a robust testing strategy, including mock services to simulate API responses, ensuring our system could handle edge cases gracefully. This integration significantly enhanced our platform's value proposition by providing customers with live tracking of their deliveries, leading to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction scores."

🥊 "How do you handle conflicting priorities between the tech & product teams?"

Do: Discuss how you navigate conflicts by focusing on the product's best interest, facilitating open communication, and seeking win-win solutions.

Don't: Indicate that you always prioritize technical considerations over product needs. Avoid suggesting that you avoid communication with the product team or that you're unwilling to compromise.

Example Good Answer: "In my last role I was part of a team developing a new analytics feature for online publishers. Midway through the development, the product team received feedback from beta users requesting an additional dashboard visualization that we hadn’t initially considered (utilizing real-time heatmap data, a new feature for us). However adding this dashboard conflicted with our technical team's focus on optimizing the backend for scalability. 

To resolve this, we brought in product and eng so both teams could present their priorities and constraints. We discussed the potential impact of the new feature on user engagement and weighed it against the technical risks. We reached a consensus to proceed with a simplified version of the requested visualization that wouldn't compromise backend performance.

😬 "Tell me about a time you made a mistake in your work."

Do: Choose an instance where you acknowledged an error in your coding or design. Explain how you identified the mistake, took corrective action, and implemented measures to prevent similar issues in the future. This demonstrates accountability and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Don't: Try to shift blame to others or minimize the seriousness of the mistake. Avoid responses that suggest you're unwilling to learn from your errors or take corrective action.

Example Good Answer: "In my previous role as a backend engineer at Centered Payments, I implemented a new payment processing feature. In my initial deployment, I overlooked an edge case where transactions could duplicate under certain network conditions. This bug went live and caused discrepancies in our financial reports. 

Upon discovering the issue, I immediately took ownership by notifying our finance and development teams. I then worked diligently to isolate and fix the bug, implementing additional transaction idempotency checks to prevent future occurrences. To ensure such an oversight wouldn't happen again, I enhanced our testing framework to include more comprehensive edge case scenarios. This experience underscored the importance of thorough testing and reinforced my commitment to maintaining high standards of code quality."

👎 "Tell me about a time that a feature you worked on flopped or got negative feedback from customers/internal stakeholders. 

Do: Share how you embraced the feedback, collaborated with stakeholders to understand their concerns, and took proactive steps to improve the feature.

Don't: Get defensive or blame others for the negative feedback. Avoid dismissing the feedback or failing to take action to address the concerns.

Example Good Answer: "At my previous job as a Full Stack Lead for Centered Travel Bookings, I led the development of a feature that allowed users to book multiple destinations in a single itinerary. After launch, we received negative feedback from users, who found the interface confusing and wrote to customer service for support. 

We took the feedback seriously and brought the UX, customer service, and product teams to investigate the issues further. It became clear that the lack of clear instructions contributed to the confusion, so we added a step-by-step tip tool guide within the feature. The result was a 30% increase in the usage of the multi-destination booking feature and a significant reduction in related customer service calls. This experience taught me the importance of listening to user feedback and the value of cross-functional collaboration in addressing product challenges."

💎 "How do you ensure the quality of your code?"

Do: Discuss your approach to writing clean, maintainable code. Mention specific practices you follow, such as code reviews, unit testing, and adherence to coding standards. Show that you take ownership of not just your work but also its long-term impact on the project.

Don't: Give generic answers that don't reflect a personal commitment to code quality. Avoid suggesting that quality control is solely the responsibility of others, such as testers or QA teams.

Good Example Answer: "In my role as a Tech Lead at Centered Mental Health, ensuring code quality was paramount due to the sensitive nature of the data we handled. My approach to maintaining high-quality code for our team involved several key practices:

  • I made sure we followed industry-specific standards and regulations, such as HIPAA and HL7, to ensure that my code met the required security and interoperability criteria.

  • We implemented unit testing for every feature and bug fix, particularly for features related to patient data management and video consultation, to ensure accuracy and reliability in data handling and communication. For instance, when developing a patient data encryption module, We wrote tests covering various edge cases and potential security vulnerabilities. This practice helped catch issues early in the development process and provided a safety net for future changes. 

  • I actively participated in peer code reviews. I reviewed my colleagues' code and submitted my own for review, fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement. This practice not only helped catch errors but also facilitated knowledge sharing and promoted best practices within the team.

  • I also integrated static code analysis tools into our continuous integration pipeline. Tools like SonarQube automatically scanned our codebase for potential issues, such as code smells or security vulnerabilities, ensuring that these were addressed before merging into the main branch.

  • Lastly, I made a habit of refactoring code regularly. During the development of a complex data synchronization feature, I noticed that the initial implementation was becoming unwieldy. I took the initiative to refactor it into smaller, more manageable components, significantly improving its readability and maintainability.

By combining these practices, I was able to consistently deliver high-quality code that was secure, maintainable, and aligned with our project's goals.

🌊 "How do you stay updated with new technologies & trends in software engineering?"

Do: Share your strategies for continuous learning, such as following industry blogs, participating in online forums, attending conferences, or contributing to open-source projects. Highlight how this proactive approach helps you bring fresh ideas and innovation to your work.

Don't: Indicate that you only learn new technologies when required by a job. Avoid suggesting that keeping up with trends is not a priority for you.

Good Example Answer: 

  • Within Centered Mental Health, I organized regular knowledge-sharing sessions where our engineering and product teams could discuss the latest trends and technologies in HIPPA Complaint product development. 

  • I’ve contributed to a couple of open-source libraries designed for HIPAA-compliant applications, specifically 'FHIR.js,' which is for working with FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) data compliantly.

  • I subscribe to a couple of podcasts that focus on digital health, like 'The Pulse by Wharton Digital Health' and 'Healthcare Tech Talk' to stay aware of general industry trends. 

  • I regularly read articles and attend webinars on health data security, focusing on encryption, access control, and audit trails. I've also implemented these practices in our projects, ensuring that our patient data management systems meet HIPAA standards. 

By focusing your responses on these do's and don'ts, you can effectively demonstrate an ownership mindset during your software engineering interviews, setting you apart and hopefully landing you the offer of your dreams <3

Stay in the Loop

Stay in the Loop

Stay in the Loop