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Tesla Technical Program Manager Interview Guide

Interview Guide Nov 28

Detailed, specific guidance on the Tesla Technical Program Manager interview process - with a breakdown of different stages and interview questions asked at each stage

The role of a Tesla Technical Program Manager

At Tesla, TPMs play a crucial role in managing and executing IT Infrastructure programs at a global scale. This means you'll be responsible for overseeing these programs, fostering positive relationships within the IT department, and ensuring timely, practical solutions.

Working at Tesla can be exciting, but it's important to note that it's a fast-paced and ever-evolving environment—adaptability and flexibility are essential traits for success here. As a TPM at Tesla, you're expected to be a self-starter and highly motivated, with expertise in program management.

On average, the total compensation for a Technical Program Manager at Tesla is $132,209. Here's the breakdown:

  • Base Salary: $116,530
  • Stock Grant (per year): $13,525
  • Bonus: $2,154

Tesla Technical Program Manager Interview Guide

If you’re gearing up for a Technical Program Manager role at Tesla, here's what their interview process looks like.

The process is rather elaborate and comprehensive and takes a little over 4 months. There are 4 main rounds:

  • Phone Screen with a Recruiter (1)
  • Video Calls with Hiring Managers (2)
  • Panel interview (up to 8)
  • Video interview with the Director (1)
Relevant Guides

Tesla Technical Program Manager - Phone Screen with a Recruiter

Overview

This initial step involves a 45-minute conversation with a recruiter. They'll start by asking about your background, so be prepared to walk them through your journey so far. Share your educational and professional highlights, but keep it concise.

Next, they'll dive deeper into your motivations. Why do you want to work for this company? What excites you about the role you're applying for? Be genuine in your response; recruiters appreciate candidates who are genuinely passionate about the company and the position.

Remember to stay relaxed and engage in a natural conversation. It's not just about giving the "right" answers; it's about showing who you are and why you're a great fit for the company.

Tesla Technical Program Manager - Video Call

Overview

After the phone screen, you'll have two video calls ahead of you, each lasting about 45 minutes.

The first call is with a Hiring Manager, which is a great opportunity to dive deep into your professional background. Expect questions that touch on your program management experience and your technical knowledge. They'll likely go through your resume to see if you can provide concrete proof of your skills and experiences.

The second call will be with a senior hiring manager. This one is equally important, and again, they'll be interested in your program management experience and technical expertise.

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Tesla Technical Program Manager - Panel Interview (or Onsite Interview)

Overview

The onsite round consists of a panel interview, which involves presenting to the team for 30 minutes. Following the presentation, you'll have eight individual interviews with various team members, each lasting 30 minutes. These interviews cover a wide range of topics, including System Design, Program Management, Program Sense, Situational, and Behavioral Interviews.

One consistent question in these interviews is, "Why do you want to work for Tesla?" Sometimes, they may even ask you to write an essay explaining why you want to join Tesla and why you're the right fit.

Let's breakdown Tesla Technical Program Manager onsite round:

  • Presentation: This is a critical part of the interview, lasting 30 minutes. You'll need to deliver a PowerPoint business case presentation to a panel. The focus here is on program management and your ability to communicate effectively. After the presentation, there will be a Q&A session where the panel may ask clarifying questions or delve deeper into the case.
  • System Design and Architecture: This part of the interview consists of high-level product design questions. You may encounter questions related to systems you've worked on previously or be asked to design a new system from scratch. These questions dive deep into designing architecture, MVP (Minimum Viable Product) thinking, scaling up to high volumes, technical decisions, trade-offs, caching, CDNs (Content Delivery Networks), and database choices (sharding, partitioning, etc.). This segment can be complex and typically develops over 30-45 minutes, so it's advisable to employ a structured framework for addressing the questions you encounter. 
  • Program Sense: This segment evaluates your holistic understanding of several key elements of program management such as ideation, risk management, prioritization, resource allocation, conflict resolution, stakeholder management, etc. You'll be asked to demonstrate your ability to generate innovative ideas and solutions. You'll need to show your proficiency in allocating resources efficiently. This includes personnel, budget, and technology resources, among others. And so on. To excel in the "Program Sense" portion of the interview, it's important to draw on real-world examples from your experience that demonstrate your ability to navigate complex program management scenarios. Tesla is looking for TPMs who can think strategically, make informed decisions, and effectively drive programs to success.
  • Program Management: At this stage of the interview, your interviewer will look to assess your ability to think comprehensively about programs, whilst considering aspects such as resources, risks involved, managing stakeholders' expectations, costs, deadlines, etc. Your interviewer will delve into your experience with past projects and programs—so expect a good deal of situational "tell me about a time" questions. Tesla prefers PMs with a strong technical background, so make sure you have a bunch of examples queued up. Reflect on both your successes and failures. Discuss what you've learned from your mistakes and how you've applied those lessons to drive success.

You may also face theoretical technical questions such as "Explain X technical concept" or “Explain how the internet works”—make sure to prepare for them. While coding questions are relatively uncommon for TPM roles at Tesla, be prepared for them, especially if you're transitioning from an engineering role. You might be asked to write functional code or provide pseudocode, so keep your coding skills sharp.

Video interview with the Director 

The final stage of the process is a video interview with the Director. This interview mainly focuses on behavioral questions. 

It involves answering 'Tell me about a time' questions related to leadership, challenges, successes, failures, and teamwork, as well as responding to scenarios like 'How would you react in xxx situation.'

Note: This is not always the case, but once you successfully navigate through these stages, you'll advance to the final step: an interview with none other than the CEO, Elon Musk himself. Depending on the specific role you're applying for, Musk may choose to meet candidates in person or engage in a phone conversation.

Interview Questions

Interview Questions:

  • What is the most valuable skill you have learned in your professional development?
  • Tell me about a time when you handled an end-to-end program.
  • What design would you create for a Netflix movie database?
  • Are there any key success indicators for someone serving in a role like Technical Program Manager?
  • Please give me an example of a time when you demonstrated initiative.
  • Could you tell me about a time when you aided a colleague with their work?
  • Describe a time when you took a risk.
  • How many lines of code does a Tesla car have?
  • Tell me about your past project implementation.
  • Why do you want to work for Tesla?
  • What technical program manager experience do you have?
  • What happens when you search for google.com on a search engine?
  • Find the shortest path between two Tesla chargers.
  • If you’re hired by Tesla, what proportion of the day will involve coding, and what other activities will you perform when not coding?

Tesla Technical Program Manager Skills and Qualifications

Here are the skills and qualifications that a Tesla Technical Program Manager must have:

  • A relevant BA/BS degree with a minimum of 5 years of project leadership experience is required, and global experience is a plus.
  • You'll need at least 5 years of hands-on experience in managing infrastructure initiatives, including datacenter setup, WAN implementation, and more. 
  • You should have a solid understanding of storage and database operations, application tiers, and infrastructure sizing. Familiarity with tools like Office 365, JIRA, Confluence, and cloud management is important.
  • Tesla operates at a fast pace with its unique culture. Being able to match that pace and align with the company's values is crucial.
  • Experience in managing large-scale IT infrastructure projects is a must. You'll need to juggle multiple programs and tasks efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions