Questions that Senior Systems Engineers want answered

You know that interviewing is a painful and expensive problem when your friends send you pages worth of questions that they use to evaluate future employers.

These questions come from an experienced senior systems engineer friend of mine. They gave me permission to publish, but asked to remain anonymous. This person is currently interviewing.

If you're not looking to hire systems engineers, this article is less relevant to you, but I think you'll still find it valuable.

– David

Anonymous writes...

Things I want to know about a prospective employer. At the conclusion of this list, I will attempt to define questions that will elicit the answers to these questions. Note that the questions actually asked may not necessarily correspond to the questions that one wants to ask.

What I Really Want to Know

Be careful:

Safer Phrasings That Get at the Same Answers

The following practical questions might provide insights into the above theoretical questions:

– Anonymous
Senior systems engineer in the SF bay area

David here. You may see the pattern: more senior people, even those who are extremely technical, want high autonomy work, and want to be involved in business decisions. They want to avoid teams and managers where they're just another pair of hands, where no one tracks the impact of engineering work. They want their engineering leaders to perceive the kinds of rot and dysfunction that are difficult to explain to non-technical decision-makers.

You'll also notice that even someone who is more senior is cautious about asking hard questions. Interestingly, I ask similar questions in my interviews for full stack growth engineering positions, although they lean towards growth.

david ått

PS Want to impress all your engineering candidates with how great you and your company are? Email me, I can help.

PPS Tomorrow I'll be writing and sending my book review of Moneyball–you're going to like it because you'll get a better feel for how to measure & value engineering work.

In the mean time, I made this tool for you:–it helps you calculate whether an engineering feature will pay back the time investment. You can drag the numbers to adjust them to your situation.

David Trejo

Engineer at Chime & consultant. Past clients include Credit Karma, Aconex, Triplebyte, Neo, the Brown Computer Science Department, Voxer, Cloudera, and the Veteran's Benefits Administration.