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What Are Cross-Functional Partnerships and What Role Do They Play in TPM Interviews?

Posted on 
November 8, 2021
|
by 
Team Interview Kickstart

The need for employees who can collaborate with stakeholders from several different functional areas is more now than ever before. A majority of tech companies, including FAANG, emphasize building cross-functional teams to accommodate people with different skill sets to work together and create new products and solutions. 

That’s why simply being technically competent is no longer enough. If you are interviewing for technical project manager positions, you also need to crack collaboration interview questions. Whether a Google TPM interview or a Facebook TPM interview, knowing how to answer TPM interview questions about cross-functional partnerships can undoubtedly give you an edge over your peers.

If you want to know more about TPM technical interview questions around cross-functional collaborations, you have come to the right place. At Interview Kickstart, we believe that with the correct preparation strategy, you can crack these interviews and land a data engineer job at any leading tech company.

Having trained over 9,000 software engineers, we know what it takes to crack the toughest tech interviews. Since 2014, Interview Kickstart alums have been landing lucrative offers from FAANG and Tier-1 tech companies, with an average salary hike of 49%. The highest ever offer received by an IK alum is a whopping $933,000

At IK, you get the unique opportunity to learn from expert instructors who are hiring managers and tech leads at Google, Facebook, Apple, and other top Silicon Valley tech companies.

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In this guide, we'll tell you what you need to know about cross-functional partnerships and also provide a breakdown of how to answer TPM interview questions to impress the hiring managers. You’ll learn about:

  • Cross-Functional Partnerships and Their Importance
  • Essential Qualities of a TPM to Effectively Manage Cross-Functional Teams
  • How TPM Interviews Are Conducted in Most Organizations
  • TPM Technical Interview — What Questions to Expect and How to Answer Them
  • How to Get Ready to Face TPM Interview Questions and Talk About Cross-Functional Partnerships
  • FAQs

Cross-Functional Partnerships and Their Importance

Cross-functional partnerships involve bringing together different people to leverage their skills/expertise to accomplish a common goal. Such collaboration is necessary for tech companies for better innovation to stay on top of the game. 

When different team members appointed in different roles are brought together, they are more likely to come up with an out-of-the-box solution and get better results. Cross-functional collaborations also minimize communication challenges and keep project timelines on track, even when multiple stakeholders are involved. 

Here’s a quick rundown of how a typical cross-functional collaboration looks like:

  • Analysts provide necessary professional and technical specifications to developers.
  • Testers work on the technical requirements of the project
  • The product manager identifies the customer needs and works on the specific features of the product to fulfill larger business objectives 
  • The finished product moves through the supply chain and sales channels

Instead of working independently, the strengths of different professional groups are combined to achieve a better result more quickly. Such cross-functional partnerships are an integral part of technical project management positions. As a result, if you are a software engineer or software developer aspiring to get hired in a TPM role, brace yourself for several questions on the subject. 

Following are some of the departments that a TPM is expected to establish a cross-functional partnership with:

  • Engineering: In any tech company, the engineering team will be crucial for cross-functional partnerships for any TPM. As a TPM, you will need to collaborate with engineering managers and tech leads to draw up various timelines and milestones for any technical project. 
  • Design team: In most organizations, the design team often works in silos, impacting the overall timeline of a technical project. Therefore, a cross-functional partnership with the design team is a critical responsibility of the TPM to ensure everything is on track. 
  • Data Science team: Cross-functional partnership of TPMs with their data science team is also important to evaluate the efficacy of a project and analyze the shortcomings. 

Essential Qualities of a TPM to Effectively Manage Cross-Functional Teams

The success of a cross-functional team depends on several important capabilities of a technical program manager. Without the right capabilities, every team will struggle. 

Some of the key traits include:

Defining Goals Clearly

According to a 2015 article in Harvard Business Review, 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional. The primary reason for the same is the absence of a clear alignment on shared goals. Therefore, the first quality of a TPM is the ability to define clear project goals and the actual deliverables needed for achieving the goal. This will make sure that your team is working collaboratively towards those goals. 

Building the Right Team

TPMs must bring together a team with a unique mix of skills and talents for successful cross-functional partnerships. That’s why it is important to choose the right team players. You want to capitalize on individual skills to achieve the best results for your project.

Read Facebook Technical Program Manager Roles and Responsibilities to get a thorough understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a TPM at top tech companies.

Building Trust

In a cross-functional partnership, trust is of paramount importance. The ultimate goal of the cross-functional partnership is improving collaboration and fostering creativity. Building a culture of trust and acceptance will ensure that various team members have the confidence to present their ideas to anyone in the organization in a simple and jargon-free manner. 

It is also essential to let the team members know that they have permission to fail and ample opportunity to bounce back. 

Handling Difficult Situations

Workplace conflict is the reality of most workplaces. And managing a cross-functional partnership may mean more conflict resolution than expected. After all, the teams brought together are traditionally siloed, resulting in the team members having little or no experience working across verticals. As an efficient TPM, the goal should be to embrace conflict and identify opportunities for growth and new ideas. 

Using the Right Communication Tools

Using the appropriate project management and office communication tools can ensure that cross-functional partnerships go on smoothly. Familiarity with asynchronous communication channels is even more important when team members are working from different locations. 

It is also the TPM’s responsibility to work on various team-building exercises, open up lines of communication within the team, schedule regular meetings to get updates on the project’s progress and listen to new ideas from the team members. 

How TPM Interviews Are Conducted in Most Organizations

Regardless of the company, every TPM interview follows the five stages listed below and takes anywhere between four to eight weeks:

  • Resume, cover letter, and referrals
  • Recruiter phone screen: one interview
  • TPM phone screen: one to two interviews
  • Writing exercise
  • TPM on-site interview: four to six interviews

The recruiter phone screen round usually includes the usual questions like "Tell me about yourself,” "Why do you want to join this company?" or "Describe a day in your life as a technical program manager." When answering these questions, make sure to back up every claim with examples. Also, familiarize yourself with the values and principles of the company so that you can demonstrate why you are a good fit for the organization.

These questions may seem trivial, but the interviewers gauge your interests and drive through these questions. Read this article on How to Answer the “Why Apple” Interview Question to learn the best approach to answer such questions.

The phone screen round exists to ensure that you are actually worth the time and effort to invite on-site. Some companies such as Amazon also conduct a written test for TPMs to assess whether you can communicate in a structured and clear way. The on-site rounds have a mix of technical and behavioral questions, and you are evaluated based on your technical knowledge of architecture and system design, delivery, and communication skills. 

Additionally, a company like Google is also keen to know whether you possess the right amount of Googlyness — whether you are comfortable with ambiguity, have a bias to action, and bring on board a collaborative nature.

TPM Technical Interview: What Questions to Expect and How to Answer Them

Whether you’re looking to crack the Amazon TPM interview, Facebook TPM interview, or Google TPM interview, your interviewer will ask you questions to evaluate your ability to manage technical partnerships. Some of the common TPM technical interview questions you can expect will be centered around the following topics

System Design Questions

  1. Design WhatsApp/Facebook Messenger
  2. Design AWS/Google Cloud
  3. Tell me about a system you recently worked on in detail (expect follow-up questions)

While answering system design questions, you must take a very structured approach. Read System Design Interview Preparation Tips for a breakdown of how to answer such interview questions.

Technical Explanation Questions

  1. Describe the memory structure of an operating system.
  2. How are passwords passed securely from server to client?
  3. How does the cloud work?

Coding Questions

  1. Write a program to identify all the equal elements between two arrays
  2. Implement a queue in an array
  3. Write a program to find if an integer is a palindrome

Whenever you are attempting to answer such questions, use it as an opportunity to demonstrate your capabilities as a project manager. So use your experiences to highlight your expertise.

Software engineers or coding engineers aspiring to become TPMs can also expect questions about their track record to work well within the cross-functional partnerships. You’ll need to demonstrate a proven track record and back up your answers with credible examples. You’ll also need to talk about various actionable insights you have derived from your experience of working in cross-functional partnerships.

Behavioral and Project Management Questions

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to manage a technical program from end to end.
  2. How can you tell when a project is not working up to its potential?
  3. What is the biggest mistake that you have ever made on a project?
  4. What is your strategy for prioritizing project tasks?
  5. What does an ideal project look like to you?
  6. What is your experience like in budget management?
  7. What is one word that someone would use to describe you as a project manager, and why?
  8. How do you delegate tasks among a team?
  9. How do you prioritize and allocate resources when your team is too small?
  10. How would you resolve a conflict between two or more team members?
  11. What's your process to kickoff programs?
  12. What's your process to sunset programs?
  13. How do you choose to build in-house vs. to use a third-party solution?

Certain companies may also schedule interviews with cross-functional team members as part of the TPM interview process.  Make sure to take this opportunity to ask questions about the dynamics between different teams and talk about your specific experience of successful cross-functional partnerships aligned with the same department. 

You should also try and learn as much as you can about the team dynamics, ownership of work, and overall work environment. or more technical program manager interview questions, check out:

FAQs on the TPM Role

1. What are the basic qualifications required for a TPM role?

While the exact requirements vary depending on the company, here’s a breakdown of minimum requirements:

  •  3-6 years of technical program management experience in a related industry
  •  Bachelor's degree in engineering, computer science or equivalent
  •  Exceptional written and verbal communication, and comfortable presenting in large groups and handling high-pressure communication with senior management
  •  Experience with managing large cross-functional projects
  • A good grasp of the software development lifecycle from conception to delivery

2. Do I need any technical certifications to get an edge during TPM interviews?

PMP and Scrum certifications are great options if you want to bag a job as a TPM. Having said that, no amount of certifications can replace the experience of handling cross-functional teams. 

3. What are the key competencies evaluated in Facebook TPM interviews?

You will be tested on certain fundamental areas such as architecture and system design, program sense, leadership and team collaboration, and Facebook values. The ultimate goal is to evaluate your ability to navigate the problems, communicate effectively with different team members, and handle technical constraints proficiently.

Ready to Face TPM Interview Questions and Talk About Cross-Functional Partnerships?

If you are racking your brains about how to crack Amazon TPM interview or struggling with Google TPM interview preparation, know that you are not alone. Gauging the importance of cross-functional partnership during TPM interview preparation can be a confusing one since there is a lot of emphasis on achieving greater collaboration across functional boundaries. With Interview Kickstart, you will have an easier time facing the cross-functional partnership portion of TPM interviews and impress the hiring managers.

At IK, you get an opportunity to learn from the very best as you can practice one-on-one with tech leads and hiring managers from FAANG+ companies. We go over all the critical concepts that you need to know to answer any question about cross-functional partnerships. 

You can easily level up your skills for any technical interview and perform effortlessly. Plus, our dedicated bootcamps get you ready for your coding interview. If you want to get a structured interview prep, look no further. Register for a free webinar right away and get an inch closer to your dream job.









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