Re: Interview Questions for PM

Subject: Re: Interview Questions for PM
From: CBamber -at- castek -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2000 08:44:17 -0400

Pam Mandel wrote:

>I'm the tech doc manager for a start-up. We are interviewing for PM
>candidates. I'm new to this, but I know I want the PM's to be making sure
>that documentation is in the specs, that my writers are integrated in to
>development process, and that engineers understand that part of their
>responsibility is to contribute to the feedback loop.
>With that in mind, what does a tech doc manager ask a PM in an interview?

I have a perspective on this - I'm a PM (Project Manager) who used to be
the tech doc manager (and am still career manager for all the TWs at my

1. I've noticed over the years that many tech doc people are obsessed with
documentation to the extent that they don't have a clue about the big
picture in the company. I've also noticed that many PMs are obsessed with
their projects to the extent that *they* don't have a clue about the big
picture, either. In a start up, it's critical that everybody be moving in
the same direction and that people understand where they fit and how what
they do contributes to the bottom line. TechDoc managers who can express
what TWs do in the context of the company's business needs have way more
credibility than those harp on about how they just deserve more respect. A
PM who can also express what TWs do in the context of the company's
business is someone who understands the value that a good technical writer
can bring to a development project. These are the kind of PMs you want to
hire if you want them to care about your writers.

2. At my company, some PMs are more preferred by the techwriters than
others because they "know what a tech writer is good for besides just
updating user manuals". On those projects, TWs get a great experience: they
do business analysis, process development, participate in architecture,
market research, client JADs, window design, QA reviews, training. They do
communication planning and the senior writer is on the project leadership
team (most of our projects have 30 or more people). In other projects, it
doesn't even enter the PM's mind that a good TW can add value in a variety
of ways. The PMs who really use the abilities of the TWs were willing to be
educated by me, and by the performance of the individual TW. The others
refuse to be sold.

So questions that I might ask include:

* How do you see yourself fitting in to our business model? (assuming the
candidate has heard the explanation of the point of the company - extra
points if they have done sufficient research that they can explain the
business model to you)
* How do you define project success? (for us, the project is on time, on
budget, plus a number of other neat things happen - especially that a
percentage of the people on the project are ready for more responsible
* Thinking of your most successful development project - what do you think
is the optimum make up of a development project team? (points for
mentioning a TW)
* How do you resource the design team? What roles do you think are
important? (points for mentioning a TW)
* Which is better - a team made up of specialists or a team made of more
flexible resources and why? (points depend - I give max point for a
combined team where the TW is one of the flexible resources YMMV)
* What is the core competency for these roles: tech writer, QA analyst,
tester, business analyst, developer, etc (points for getting them right)
* What are some value-adds offered by people in these roles: tech writer,
QA analyst, tester, usability expert, business analyst, developer, etc...
(points for coming up with the various things you want your tws to
participate in)
*Where in the process do you see TWs (BAs, QAAs, UEs etc) fitting in?
(points for fitting them in where you want them to go)
*What work would you assign a TW in the Analysis process? (points for
thinking of something useful)
*What are the responsibilities of the developers? BAs? Architects? (points
if they include "communication with other roles like TWs" in the list of
* What responsibilities would you give a technical writer to help them grow
as a professional?

I could think of more... mostly, I want to get at how flexible their minds
are, whether they understand how the TWs contribute to the point of the
business, whether they are committed to growing the people who work for
them, if they have anything against tech writers, whether their idea of a
development project is just to write software (tech only) or if it includes
being able to run the business of the software as well, whether they get
the kinds of communication that have to go on for the project to be
successful. I can educate them from there, and just as importantly, other
functional managers inthe comapny should be able to as well.

My 2 cents.


----------------Putting the Future Together------------------

Candace Bamber
mailto:cbamber -at- castek -dot- com
416-777-2550 X 331

221 Front Street East, Toronto, ON, M5A 1E8

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