System Design Interview Guide for Technical Program Managers | High Prob

date
Apr 5, 2024
slug
technical-manager
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Published
tags
Prep-Strategy
summary
Prepare with a high-probability system design strategy for technical managers. Enhance your ability to develop robust, scalable systems.
type
Strategy
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probability
high-probability
This guide offers a tailored strategy for your system design interview preparation, aligned with your unique profile and the types of companies you're aiming for.
If you're unsure about your personal profile, it's likely you haven't yet taken our complimentary assessment test, which guides you to the strategy best suited for you.
Take the assessment test HERE, it takes below 1 minute to complete.
By adhering to the advice provided here, you'll step into your system design interviews with confidence, enhancing your odds of securing your ideal role at a top tech company. Let's dive in.

The Assessment Result

First, let me present the results of your assessment test. These results will indicate the likelihood of you encountering a structured system design interview and, if so, what types of questions you can expect and the level of complexity of the systems covered.

Probability of encountering a System Design Interview

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Based on a combination of your experience and the tier of companies you are interviewing with, the likelihood of you encountering a structured system design interview during your job hunt is high.

Most Common Types of System Design Interview Questions

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In case you are prompted with a structured system design interview. It's most likely that you will face real-world high level design question. Engineering managers are rarely asked to dive into low level design questions.

Real-world High Level Design

Real-world systems, are much more complex and require careful consideration of technical and architectural aspects as well as user experience. An example of a real-world system question might be to design a system like Dropbox. In this scenario, the interviewer is looking to see if you can design a large-scale and complex system that takes into account various technical challenges such as data storage and synchronization, as well as user needs such as ease of use and accessibility.

Expected Level of System Complexity

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For technical manager roles, the interest of interviewers is mainly if you are capable of developing and maintaining a high level understanding of large scale systems rather than testing your ability to go very deep into technical details like engineers would have to do.
This means that you may only need to explain medium-complex high-level architectures or discuss low level design topics like advanced algorithms. By successfully estimating the level of complexity you can expect, it is much easier to prioritize the types of questions you most likely encounter during your interview.

Your Preparation Strategy

Get the Fundamentals Right

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Technical managers, such as program managers or product managers, who are preparing for system design interviews should have a solid understanding of high-level design concepts and be able to identify the requirements and constraints of a given problem.
In addition, it's important for technical managers to have a basic understanding of the technologies used in the system they are managing. This includes databases, caching mechanisms, web servers, and cloud infrastructure. Understanding how these components work together can help technical managers make informed decisions and ensure that the system they are managing is well-architected, scalable, and maintainable.
One of the most important components to understand is the system architecture, including microservices architecture, service-oriented architecture (SOA), and monolithic architecture. Technical managers should understand the benefits and drawbacks of each architecture and be able to select the best one for their specific use case.
Technical managers should also be aware of emerging technologies and trends in the industry, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, blockchain, and serverless architecture. Knowledge of these technologies can help inform decision-making and keep the system up-to-date with the latest advancements.
Overall, a deep understanding of high-level design concepts, combined with a basic knowledge of the technologies used in the system, can help technical managers ace system design interviews and manage robust, scalable systems.

Exercise most efficiently

Cluster by Cluster

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One approach that can be effective is what I call "cluster by cluster". Let's dive into each of these strategies in more detail. The "cluster by cluster" strategy involves starting with the easiest cluster of features relevant to your background and the companies you're interviewing with, and then working your way up to more complex clusters. For example, if you're focused on streaming services, you could start by practicing the core features of Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify, all of which cluster around streaming. As you progress through these clusters, you can also adapt to the small differences between each implementation. For instance, YouTube is a platform where users upload content, whereas all of Netflix's content is uploaded by their own staff.

Mix & Match

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Another preparation strategy is "Mix and Match". As you traverse through the clusters, you can then "Mix and Match" support features like recommendation engines, full text search, and user management to build up a knowledge base of support features you can draw from during the interview. This will help you to be better prepared to answer questions related to these features and will give you a more well-rounded understanding of system design as a whole.

Prioritize Relevant Systems

To succeed in your interviews, it's important to understand the company's product range and prepare accordingly. Companies often ask questions that relate to their own products, allowing them to test your system design skills while also assessing your research skills and the degree of transferable knowledge you possess.
For example, Netflix is likely to ask questions related to streaming systems, while Amazon may focus on e-commerce or marketplaces.
On the other hand, Google for example is unlikely to ask questions about products from their competitors like ChatGPT.
By understanding the product range of the company you're interviewing with, you can better prepare yourself for system design interviews and increase your chances of success.
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