The interviewer is looking for your knowledge around cloud databases and your ability to understand and discuss the debates around how database model and service should be structured. There is never one right view in these debates so make sure you present more than one.
The goal here isn't to memorize all the databases in the market and compare. Focus on topics around the database that would be most relevant to IBM Services's clients. Research the latest trends in the cloud database and throw one or two in your answer to demonstrate that you are up to date on this important topic.
IBM Services Interview Questions
What are the open-source cloud databases? Are these the best ones to use for our clients?
The interviewer is looking for your knowledge around cloud databases and your ability to understand and discuss the debates around how database model and service should be structured. There is never one right view in these debates so make sure you present more than one.
"Most of the top cloud providers offer databases leveraging both structured and unstructured data. But the open-sourced ones in the market are MongoDB, CouchDB, and Lucid DB, the relational, NoSQL databases that are cloud-friendly. But the truth is more and more developers are turning to native cloud databases such as Amazon DynamoDB, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud because they're offering easy software procurement/access similar to that of the open-source vendors without the headache of the assembly. These cloud databases have superior analytics that open-source databases such as MongoDB cannot achieve due to the level of data types and volume cloud providers have access to. This convenience makes the native cloud databases more appealing to many. With the rise of IoT and edge computing, a distributed database might be something to pay attention to as well."
How do you keep up to date on the changes in our industry, from regulations to tech?
The interviewer would like to see that you invest the time needed to stay up-to-date on the latest in your industry. Discuss the resources you use to ensure that your knowledge is current, that you bring the best to your employer every day, and that your clients can count on you to be on top of new trends. Asking the interviewer about their favorite resources in return is a great way to get to know their preferences while potentially learning something new.
"I make sure to use trusted and reputable sources for industry news, such as Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and McKinsey. When it comes to tech, I have a subscription to MIT Technology Review. If you have any recommendations, I am happy to hear!"
"The resources that I tend to visit the most include Tech Crunch and BCG Henderson Institute. I am keenly interested in the views and insights of other management consultants, so I also follow the blog of other high-profile consultants such as Tom Peters from McKinsey. Do you have any favorite resources I could check out? I genuinely enjoy learning and growing."
There are times when you need to consider a broad range of options before recommending a solution. What was the situation, and did the solution help the client?
When you're in a position of trust with a client, they lean heavily on you for advice, guidance, and direction. This is a great opportunity for you to explore multiple options that will yield a desirable result for the client. The client will expect you to present options that not only fit within their budget, but meet their business requirements. Some examples might be one or more of the following; Sales Pipeline Development, Product Order Status, Invoicing, Production, Accounts Payables/ Receivables, Project Management, etc. The solution could be a software or hardware solution. Thinking outside the box will give you an advantage. Start with a high level business requirements approach from a strategic level, and drill down to operational and tactical levels if you really want to understand where the customer is coming from, and where they want to be in the future.
"As an IT Consultant, I regularly keep up to date on new technologies in software, hardware, networking, security, and programming. It goes without saying that any consultant would have to fully understand a client's business needs before making any recommendations. In one particular case, i had a meeting with the COO to learn what the business drivers were, and why he thought they needed a new software solution. I learned that their sales organization didn't have a CRM to track and manage customer and sales data. I researched three Customer Resource Manager (CRM's) that met the client's qualification, and after a 30 day trial period, I suggested one that met their needs. After implementation, the client was able to view a pipeline of sales activities, customer order data, closed sales, sales reps activities, which is exactly what they wanted."
"When I build relationships with clients, the first thing I think of is to help my client improve their performance and growth which can result in increased sales and increased value for the business and stakeholders. I start by conducting onsite research, monitoring day to day operations, and analyzing data to learn their business. I take it a step further to learn where manual intervention is needed, and whether a solution will be technology-based, personnel/resource based, or process based. I found that the requirement was personnel/resource-based and that they needed a team of programming experts, along with business analysts and project managers. I suggested bringing in a team that I knew would be able to handle the task of building an application to support their warehousing distribution business."
In consulting, much of your growth will come from feedback on client projects. How do you accept and implement feedback?
Being able to accept feedback graciously is a highly valued skill, especially in the consulting space, where you are continually putting yourself in vulnerable situations, where your recommendations and findings may not always be welcomed or understood. The interviewer wants to know that you accept feedback well, but they also want to see that you see the value of implementing immediate change. Show the interviewer that you:
- Ask for feedback often
- Listen to the input openly
- Take what you know to be important, and leave the rest
- Do not take the feedback personally
- Can take corrective action to implement change
"I ask for feedback on a monthly basis from one of my toughest-to-please managers. Her feedback is accurate, and I trust it. Once she tells me what I could try doing differently, I will take the time to research and plan how I can implement the change. This practice has helped me grow in my career significantly."
"At the end of every project I will give my clients, and their entire team, a survey focused specifically on my service, knowledge base, and if they felt they received the value from me that they expected. The feedback is blind, but I take every bit of it as though it came from the CEO of the company. I analyze the comments for common denominators as well. If the feedback is consistent, I will create a learning plan based around that common piece of feedback."
The way we approach clients in our business is we identify client needs and recommend solutions to their needs. Tell me about a time when your knowledge and expertise allowed you to make a recommendation to resolve a problem or address a pain point?
The is a classic example of the hiring manager asking you to role play your response. The way it works is the hiring manager asks you to role play as the consultant, and he/she is the client who asks you to give them a pitch about why your company is a firm that they need to work with. There are a few ways to make this role play work in your favor. Here are a few examples you can use in a response. 1. Act as a problem solving adviser that can find and recommend solutions quickly, 2. Tell the client they have accessibility to you and other team members as needed, 3. Point out the benefits that they will get when they hire your company, 4. Share some examples of successes from companies of a similar industry, size or market.
"I've been a firm believer that the customer is always our highest priority and that I need to be the eyes and ears of the customer. With that said, there some examples I can share that will hopefully resonate with you. I typically ask what solutions have been proposed in the past, and how they have worked. Are there metrics to track the success or failure of past efforts? Having data to review helps me understand the process and approach previously used. Knowing the team makeup, and what methodology they used will also give me a deeper insight into what they were thinking. I like to conduct a voice of the customer survey, which I believe adds tremendous value to this campaign. Lastly, it's important for me to analyze the cause & effect relationships from the customer surveys, because It reveals a lot of underlying issues like task failures, root cause problems, and how good or bad the data is."
"My recommendations would be based on what the customer wants and how well they articulated the deliverable. If, for example, the client wanted something that resembles a ketchup bottle, but the team delivered a salt shaker, that would indicate a miscommunication of what the client requested. My approach would be to closely dissect the customer requirements, then build a mock-up of what they requested, and have them review for approval before going to the next phase of development. After this phase is approved, I would do testing and debugging before presenting it to the customer. Mapping the customer journey is a visualization process a customer goes through and tracks each step along the way with the vendor, so everyone is on the same page."
Our best consultants continually grow and learn. What have you done to expand your knowledge in the past three months?
Professional growth is vital and directly associated with the success you will see in your career. The interviewer would like to know that you understand the importance of expanding your knowledge and taking the lead in your own professional development. Perhaps you have taken coursework, attended a workshop, read books, or listen to podcasts. Share with the interviewer the ways that you invest in your career knowledge.
"To expand my professional knowledge, I have started an online course through NYU on microeconomics. It was important to me that I take the initiative to learn more on this topic and keep my knowledge current. To grow personally, I have read a couple of books on leadership. I love to read and learn from other professionals and behavioral experts."
"I appreciate that you have asked about professional development. It's a topic that is important to me. I have committed to reading one new book per month on a topic related to organizational development, leadership, and strategy. I listed to The Growth podcast every day, on my commute, to hear business turnaround stories. I find them inspiring."
Tell me how the Internet of Things (IoT), AI and blockchain will impact cloud computing.
At IBM Services, the interviewer wants to assess your ability to analyze rising trends and articulate your opinions/views. The key here is to not get too specific about small details about the technologies. It's best if you start with some facts that are generally agreed on in the industry and objectively highlight the benefits and risks of these technologies present to cloud services professionals. It's always good to mention a recent case study/news to support your points, especially relevant to the industry/sector you are interviewing for.
"I believe the role of cloud platforms and capabilities would inevitably increase in all of the Industry 4.0 technologies such as IoT and AI. Connecting all the devices and sharing data naturally would rely on the cloud to store, communicate and access the data on behalf of all authorized/relevant parties. We already saw how cloud computing evolved to deal with increasing required capacity for IoT - Cisco introduced fog computing to expand cloud infrastructure and capabilities to meet the user-centric needs of businesses. Clients and the public are increasingly expecting machine learning and AI to be part of the cloud services. It's a differentiator for sure - as more systems, devices and data sources are connected in higher capacity and at a faster speed, the ability to automatically analyze and act upon many of those data points is critical. For blockchain, while I don't doubt that the cloud would be instrumental in implementing killer blockchain apps and a requirement in driving mass adoption of blockchain, I think it's too premature to determine exactly how blockchain will be incorporated or partner with Cloud. Due to blockchain's decentralized nature, using a cloud platform (AWS, for instance) as the infrastructure layer upon which to build blockchain app might present complications."
IBM Services works with clients across many industries. Which of our clients' industries interests you the most?
Before your interview you should have a thorough idea of the clients that IBM Services takes on. Be prepared also to list the client industries in which you have worked. Show the interviewer that you have experience in the same sectors, as this will build their confidence in your abilities to jump in with their clients right away.
"When researching IBM Services, I saw that the bulk of your clients are in the energy, finance, and education sectors. Your experience in these areas is part of what prompted me to apply since the bulk of my experience is there. I have a special interest in finance clients, particularly. I majored in finance while attending university, so it's a solid area for me."
"My industry expertise is in healthcare. When I saw that you were hiring, particularly for your clients in the healthcare sector, I knew I had to apply. I am highly confident working in this sector, and look forward to learning about the other clients you take on at IBM Services, particularly those in e-commerce."
A client wants to implement a new software system that was recommended by a different division of the same company. How do you evaluate it to ensure it's the right choice?
It's not uncommon for many corporations with multiple locations or divisions to have different computer systems and networks that don't necessarily talk to each other. They may share a few common systems that allow them to communicate with other locations or business units to conduct business as usual. Since companies that are decentralized have systems, networks, and/or software that could differ from other locations, hiring managers will ask how you will gather information, who you will talk to, the method you will use to evaluate the new software, and how you will arrive at a decision to recommend or not recommend the software. Giving an example or short checklist of what you will cover in the evaluation process will be important.
"I've been in similar situations like this before, and have consulted clients on what needs to be considered before a new software implementation can take place. In a consulting engagement, a proper discovery and background must be conducted on the business. This step is absolutely critical. If you don't understand why the customer is asking you to evaluate new software for their business, you'll miss the most important part of why you are evaluating the software. My experience has shown that if you find the compelling event or pain point that's prompting them to look at a new system, you'll know if it's the right choice for them."
"There's a step-by-step process that I follow that yields great results when it comes to evaluating new software for a corporation or division. As mentioned earlier, a proper discovery of the business operations is critical. Let me walk you through the process I use as part of the discovery:
1. Have the client explain the need for the software and the problems they expect it to solve for them.
2. Ask if they have the technical expertise internally to maintain the software, or do they plan to outsource the maintenance for the software to an IT Consultant or firm.
3. Do an assessment of their current technology infrastructure to see if they can support this new software and if they need to purchase additional hardware to run the system.
4. Find out how many people would potentially need to be trained on the new software, starting with key personnel (Administrators/Power Users) managing the system.
5. Provide a comparison of similar software with similar features, benefits, along with a breakdown of pricing for each software solution, and what it will cost in the long run.
6. Ask when they want you to submit a report on your evaluation."
How would you explain machine learning to someone who does not know the industry?
Machine learning (ML) is a part of the AI field (artificial intelligence). Machine learning allows computer systems to 'learn' from the data and statistics that we provide to it. The interviewer knows that the better you understand ML, the easier it will be for you to explain the concept to someone outside of the industry, who may not be as tech savvy as you are. Try preparing a 2-3 sentence 'elevator pitch' on what machine learning is. Keep your reply as simple as possible, and give an example if possible.
"Machine learning is a term that refers to how computer technology is used to collect information about customers and businesses. The information is then used to help companies make business decisions related to marketing, advertising, and product development."
"To best way to explain machine learning to someone outside of the industry would be to give a relatable example. I like to use the example of the Hello Barbie toy. Using machine learning and language processing, Hello Barbie listens and responds to a child's questions. A microphone on the toy transmits the conversation to a hub. The recording is then analyzed to determine the appropriate response. Then, the correct response comes back to the child, in under one second. Answers are stored for future use, and used to help the machine 'learn,' ensuring more accurate answers as time goes on."
What are the platforms used for cloud computing? How do they compare?
The interviewer would like to test your basic knowledge around top cloud platforms and their capabilities. Many employees of IBM Services would likely hold certification from at least one of the platforms. First start with a quick overview of the top platforms and focus a little more on the advantage of a platform you believe clients of IBM Services might prefer.
It might help set you apart if you research some latest trends in the industry and see if there are any up-and-comers that may be of interest to IBM Services. Depending on the role, you may also want to be more specific about the development models/environment each platform supports.
"The biggest market share goes to AWS (Amazon Web Services), which is the most powerful and flexible solution since it first introduced the concept of Infrastructure As A Service (IaaS) in 2004. It offers two main categories of service umbrellas - EC2, the virtual machine service, and S3, the storage system. EC2 comes with most of the attributes of an actual computer including hardware such as CPUs & GPUs, hard-disk/SSD for storage & memory RAM with many pre-loaded apps like web-servers. Then there are Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft's Azure and IBM's Bluemix. With AWS and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), you also can do cloud computing for certain mobile and web apps. Azure enables deployment of Windows apps with remote app service which is a fairly unique advantage. I believe that Google has been winning at the analytics with services like MapReduce and Genomics but AWS is catching up with QuickInsight that's very good at synthesizing big data and articulating the meanings in simple terms to businesses. IBM Bluemix supports a wider range of the languages preferred by the developers."
"There's Rackspace which partners up with some of these main players but offers a more personalized customer service to clients. They provide hands-on, long-term guidance for firms who want to implement a long-term migration strategy from on-prem to cloud. Similar to IBM, Rackspace also offers more customized 'hosted' or 'on-prem cloud' solutions for customers who are concerned about data security risks associated with virtual, public cloud environment."
What is the highest ROI percentage you have delivered to a client?
An excellent consultant will know exactly what they have delivered to clients in the past, and why they were able to achieve such exceptional results. Talk to the interviewer about the greatest ROI you have been able to help a client achieve. Include your thoughts on what made the project a success and assure the interviewer that you will be able to repeat that success.
"The highest ROI I was able to deliver to a client was a whopping 62%. Our company's standard at that time was 26% so you can see my excitement when our team was able to generate such a great result. The client did not expect such a significant return, and I attribute the success to our highly collaborative approach, excellent communication, and an exceptionally talented team. I look forward to delivering similar results to IBM Services."
"Last year, my average ROI was 17%, with an industry average of 9%. I believe my success is directly related to the fact that I perform regular progress reports, ensuring my clients are fully aware of where the project is headed. Clear communication means a smoother project and top-notch results. I am excited to bring these same results to IBM Services and your clients."
Help me understand your standards for success in your last job. Please describe what you did to attain those standards, and if you fell short of expectations, what did you do to remedy the problem?
If you look at companies of all sizes, you'll find different types of standards for each one of them. A smaller company's standards might differ from a larger one, and this could be based on processes, management and overall operations. They hiring manager in this case would like to hear if you value standards, and if you are involved in setting standards or following them. Ideally you want to explain that you have involvement with both. Start with some basic facts about the standards you have set, and how you have garnered support from leadership and have successfully maintained those standards over a long period of time. It's also important to talk about times you had challenges maintaining standards, and how you were able to remedy issues that came up, and regain the support of your teams. This shows the interviewer your human side, because everyone falls short of expectations at some point, but what you did to remedy the problem will be something they will pay close attention to.
"There are standards that I follow which have made me successful. I start by putting together a winning team. The way that I select a team is I look for winning attitudes, and quality attributes that fit within our team dynamics. Each team member must possess a willingness to learn from failures, and the eagerness to practice and improve even under challenging deadlines. Each person on my team has to accept ownership of their role, and be accountable for their work. Lastly, each and every person on my team has to be respectful to each other."
"When it comes to standards, there are many ways to measure success. For me, customer satisfaction is a very important measurable metric. It's my job to figure out what the client is looking for in order to ensure complete satisfaction. I admit, client satisfaction isn't always easy to measure, but once you develop a system that allows them to measure success, you will have a better idea of how to meet their needs. This is a common practice that I developed and use with all my customers. In rare cases where I fell short of my client's expectations, I always examine where things went wrong, and implement a change to immediately right the ship. It could be a number of things like budget, bureaucracy, unrealistic timelines, etc. I document all project cases so I prevent failures in the future."
What do you believe is the most important service we offer at IBM Services?
Before your interview, take the time to comb through the IBM Services website. From a clients' point of view, which service seems to offer the most value? Is there a particular service that is mentioned more than others, when you go through the materials and marketing by IBM Services? Discuss what you believe to be the most essential service, and express why it is so significant.
"What stands out the most to me is your teams' expertise in strategic workforce planning. When you can optimize a clients' workforce, and introduce them to cutting-edge tech in their industry, you can change their profitability exponentially. I agree with the statement on your website that agile organizations use strategic workforce planning to stand out from the competition."
"From my research, I believe that a lot of your business comes from clients seeking cultural transformation and organizational development. The two go hand in hand, and it appears that IBM Services believes you cannot have one without the other. I appreciate that you stand firm on your ability to help your clients define the culture that will deliver their best organizational strategy."
What steps do you take when researching a new market or industry?
A successful management consultant will have excellent research skills. When laying down the groundwork for a successful project, this is where the work should always begin. As you likely know, cutting corners will result in a sub-par result. Take the interviewer through your process when researching a market or industry with which you may not be overly familiar.
"When I take on a project within a new market or industry, I will find someone in my network that I know, trust, and admire, and ask for 30 minutes of their time. Essentially, I want to interview a subject matter expert. I will uncover their best resources, and research thoroughly from there."
"I have strong research skills and a three-step process when it comes to learning about a new market or industry. First, I find what I can from reputable online resources. Next, I create a list of questions that need answering. Third, I source and subject matter expert from my network whom I can ask these questions. It's important to use a wide variety of reputable sources when conducting research, and collecting findings."
Who are our clients at IBM Services?
How do you manage the lifecycle of your projects, ensuring on-time deliverables, and deadlines?
How would you convince your client to migrate over to true/public cloud from on-premise?
Our clients have high expectations of our work, tell me about a time you worked with challenging time constraints, but were still able to exceed client expectations.
Volvo claims it's one of the safest cars in the world because fewer people die in a Volvo than in any other car manufacturer. As a consultant, how would you answer this question not knowing the accuracy of this information?
Have you worked on application development projects, if so what technologies have you used, and what was your specific role on those projects?
What have you done in the last few months to strengthen your professional network?
In your opinion, what makes you a great problem solver?
Tell me about the deployment/business models we could offer to our clients.
Describe a situation where a project you were managing failed. What did you learn about this failure, and were you able to salvage or turn it around?
At IBM Services we use leading-edge technology. Which management tools have you used in your career?
What is your experience with Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud as a PaaS platform, and give me an example of how you used all three?
Getting team members on the same page and committed to common goals has its challenges when you encounter differing opinions. Tell me about a time when you were able to influence team members to be more committed to a project?
We're a company of innovative thinkers; we rely upon our innovative thinking to solve client problems. Tell me about a time when you came up with a breakthrough idea that was not obvious to others. Describe your idea and how you developed it?
What are the latest trends in cloud computing?
IT projects rely on teams and each other to succeed. Describe a scenario were you lead your team to a successful outcome?
What is the most challenging client issue you have faced this year? How did you overcome the situation?