Big Ask: Questions for Prospective Employers

As a Build Person, what do I want to find out?

So I’m at the end of an interview, and it’s my turn to ask questions.

Yes, this is the part where I continue to show off what an insightful match I am for the position, how much research I’ve done, ask about management style, etc.

But as conventional wisdom goes, I’m also interviewing the company. This is my chance to probe what I’d be getting myself into.

There are lots of important Big Questions about culture and whatnot. My favorites include “What do you wish you’d known when you started working here?” and “How do people know what they are supposed to be working on?”

But today, let’s think about the questions a Build person needs answered.

Processing…

Yes. I just want to know if they have a process, and if it’s all hammajang.

  1. Can you describe your bulid infrastructure?

    This gives me some technology stack background, but more importantly it clears up questions about the elements and stages of the build process. How automated is their testing and staging? What is their release cadence? Etc.

  2. What would other teams say are their most common issues/complaints?

    As a “glue” person, I want to be aware of how all the people involved work together. Are folks working to solve the wrong problems? How much do they know about the rest of their operation’s needs?

  3. Or, what would you identify as the major current bottlenecks or constraints?

    My interviewer wants someone to smooth out a rough patch or a drain on someone’s time and energy. Many build and release positions begin as a side duty of a software engineer. The build tasks grow, the SWE wants their main job back, and thus they find someone full-time to pick up the slack.

    (Although I hear stories of the DevOps Engineer title being applied to a SWE who does a little ops on the side.)

    But there can be so many “ouch this always breaks why” points, and this question reveals what their priorities are.

  4. Walk me through the process of a feature or fix moving from inception to production.

    Here I found out what drives changes, and who has input as they make their way down the line. Is their process too heavy? To whimsical? Does it sound realistic, or do I suspect corners are being cut?

  5. What does a great release look like?

    Again, what are their priorities? Do their match up with mine? Whose happiness is held most important? (Steve. Always make Steve happy.)

  6. What project would you focus on, if only you had the resources and personnel?

    Here I find out their dreams--and perhaps, their dream candidate. Did they advertise for someone to tidy up Jenkins, but what they really dream of is automated Unreal testing? What technical debt looms in the back of their minds, its smokey hand clutching their hearts?

Even if you’re not a build/release/CI/CD/DevOps person, I hope these questions get you thinking.