Engineering Manager Interview Questions


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Google Engineering Manager was asked...10 May 2009

You're the captain of a pirate ship, and your crew gets to vote on how the gold is divided up. If fewer than half of the pirates agree with you, you die. How do you recommend apportioning the gold in such a way that you get a good share of the booty, but still survive?

7 Answers

In my finest pirate, I would tell the interviewer: "First I'd take me crew and split dem in half. If der is an odd number of crew, I throw one land-lover overboard to even dem out. I tells each group of drunken landlovers to converse only amongst dem selves and propose to der captain how they would like to divi up de booty. Der dear captain will then choose his favorite proposal." Then I would explain: "This will put both groups in competition with each other to create a proposal I will vote for. Since both groups are exactly half my crew which ever proposal I choose I will still live either way. By keeping the groups separated from each other, neither group will be able to know how much booty the other is offering me, so they will want to make certain that their offer is higher. It turns their greed into my favor." Less

I'm the Captain of the pirate ship because anyone who would dare face me one-on-one would be killed. Therefore of the 100 gold doubloons, I give 33 to two of the other pirates, and 0 to the final two pirates. I keep 34 of the gold doubloons. The final two pirates are (understandably) upset, but they are outnumbered and the three of us kill them. I then offer my 34 gold doubloons to one of the remaining two pirates, for his assistance in killing the third pirate. The third pirate tries to negotiate with the second pirate, but since I have more gold than the third pirate, the second pirate fights on my side. We kill the third pirate and we take his gold. Now there are only two people remaining, myself and one other pirate. I warn the other pirate that I will kill him one-on-one if he does not give me back all of his gold. He complies because he does not want to die. Since it would be useful to have a second set of hands running my ship, I tell him he can either walk the plank, or remain on my crew for 2 gold doubloons. Note that the original version of this question I saw had a hint: "One pirate ends up with 98 percent of the gold." Less

I fire all pirates but one. Propose sharing the least valued gold coin with my only crew member. I'm also a pirate and part of the crew so my positive vote is enough. Ps. Fired crew members keep their salaries and remain on the ship, just enjoying the trip as tourists. Less

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You have a program with something or component that fails 1 week before launch. What do you do?

5 Answers

I believe the point here is not saying that you should/have a back-up plan for this (you can mention that at first, but then assume that something went terribly wrong)... So in my case I would go through the how crucial is this program/component for the launch? can be fixed with an update? how much time/resources are needed to meet the deadline? what would be the impact of delaying the launch until the problem is solved? is it feasible? after the brainstorming and impact analysis you could take the decision of delaying, solve the problem or ship everything as-is and fix the problem afterwards. Once the problem is solved you should go through the situation again and understand what went wrong and prevent it from happening again. Less

Alvaro is right. The question is about how pragmatic and adaptable you are.

I said you look for other solutions, off the shelf parts. I "think" the answer was go ahead and launch and do a redesign after launch. Of course, if it fails how do you launch right? Less

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You have no extra time and no extra resources but is asked by the CEO to add 20 extra features, what do you do?

4 Answers

First, I will try to figure out how important these 20 extra features, whether some or all of them are 'must have', 'should have','could have' or 'nice to have'. I would totally rule out any 'could have' or 'nice to have'. A project/program manager must have courage and conviction to say 'no'. If some or all of those features are 'must have' or 'should have', then I will see what features in current project/program can be dropped in favor of the new features. use creative project/program planning or use overtime as much as possible without adding extra risk. If none of the above is true, then extra resources or time must be negotiated. Through analysis of the situation and clear communication is key to achieve this objective. Less

It's always about trade offs. Add the 20 requested features to the list - then sit with stakeholders (marketing, engineering, etc) and sort the list by priority and by ease of implementation. Customer must haves should come first and these hopefully were articulated when the core product was conceived and started. Include in the list the level of completion of the features. Completed ones are done, move them below the line. Review the remaining - which can be completed in remaining time with available resources and which have to be dropped. Be the strong project manager and present to management. If the company only wants yes persons with no critical thinking skills, you probably don't want the job anyway. Less

For SW projects, we have to freeze requirements, scope, they can not change after a certain phase. Else developers has to start the design phase. I will take the 20 items to my dev team and ask what can be accommodated with minimal changes to existing plan. Ultimately business needs over-write all others. Less

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A IQ question: I have 9 coins and 8 have the same weight and the last one is heavier. I also have a balance beam to weigh the coins with. I can only use the balance beam 2 times to find the heavier coin. How do you find the heavier coin?

4 Answers

Divide the coins into 3 piles of 3. Weigh the first 2 piles. If they balance then the heavier coin is in the 3rd pile otherwise its on the balance beam. Take the heavier pile and place 1 coin on each end of the beam. If they are equal then the heavier coin is the 3rd coin else it is on the beam. Less

OMG... It says the last coin was heavier! FIND THE LAST COIN...duh!

@ranee : The answer given is correct. If the heavier coin is in the 3rd pile , then take any two from them and weigh them . If they are equal , you can easily say the last coin is the heaviest , otherwise the heaviest coin is one of the two being weighed. If in the first go , you can get hold of the heavier pile , do the same procedure as above. You can easily find it by using the balance twice. Less

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How do you define success?

3 Answers

I said it depends on the perspective of the person. Some people have simple goals and others have deep drives to be the best. Less

1. Consumer sanctification considering time and quality of product

You achieve the defined goals per schedule, under budget.


What would you do if your coworker anounced two days before launch that they were not going to deliver and in fact had not been working on their deliverables as previously stated in prior meetings.

2 Answers

Didn't envision myself getting into this situation but would mitigate if all else failed. Less

I would first determine how far away the deliverables were from completion to see if the situation could be salvaged. Would additional resources help? Longer hours? If the situation was not salvageable, I'd do an impact assessment and estimate the time to correct, meet with my direct supervisor and plan to notify the shareholders as soon as possible Less


How many bits is the access flags of a file?

3 Answers

I'd say 9, since the three bits you have mentioned have to be multiplied by the three user groups (owner, group, others). rwxrwxrwx Less

9 is closest, but you may have forgotten about 3 more bits used for special access; setgid, setuid, and the sticky bit. Which makes 12. They are part of the inode that describes the file permissions and file type - the last 4 are the file type but not related to permissions, which is what the question asked. Less

Traditional Unix permissions are broken down into: so answer is 3 read (r) write (w) execute file/access directory (x) Each of those is stored as a bit, where 1 means permitted and 0 means not permitted. Less


Fastest way to count number of bits in a 32-bit or 64-bit integer.

3 Answers

You are in google and you have almost infinite resources so you can keep a table with all the options o(1) this works for 32bit Less

Most efficient would be keeping a table for number bits in a byte. You need 4 lookups for 32 bit number or 8 lookups for 64 bit number. 256-entry table is small enough to fit in the cache of the highest level in virtually any CPU architecture. Technically this is still linear solution thought. Less

Should be better than linear -- optimal solution is log(n). Search the web for the solution. Less


How to manage chains of coordinate transforms.

3 Answers

I tried rooftop slushie mentioned above and it was pretty helpful. I recommend it. Less

It's essential to demonstrate that you can really go deep... there are plenty of followup questions and (sometimes tangential) angles to explore. There's a lot of Engineering Manager experts who've worked at Cruise, who provide this sort of practice through mock interviews. There's a whole list of them curated on Prepfully. Less

It's a series of matrix multiplication if the dimension space is preserved y = A*x; z = B*y; u = C*z; and so on. Thus the single transform is a single matrix of the form M = A * B * C ...... Less

Crossover for Work

Where is GAC located?

3 Answers

I didn't know.

It's located at path C:\Windows\


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