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Wolfram Research Interview
Questions

27 Questions and Answers by Ryan Brunner

Published January 13th, 2020 | Ryan has over 10 years of experience interviewing
candidates in the healthcare, public service, and private manufacturing/distribution industries.
Question 1 of 27
If you were faced with a situation that you didn't know the answer to or understand, what would your next steps be?
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How to Answer
Work as an IT support specialist in the software industry could potentially put you in a situation to handle a question or issue that leaves you scratching your head. While explaining to your interviewer that you have the ability to take a methodical approach to getting a problem solved with the help of others, make sure not to lost sight on what is important to the customer. Talk about how you will put the customer at east by considering their needs as part of your process.
27 Wolfram Research Interview Questions
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  1. If you were faced with a situation that you didn't know the answer to or understand, what would your next steps be?
  2. What data cleaning methods are you familiar with and comfortable using if hired for this role at Wolfram Research?
  3. Do you consider yourself stronger in C++, C#, Java, or Python?
  4. Do you have experience working with data in a cloud computing environment?
  5. We are looking for innovators to join us here at Wolfram Research. Where have you brought innovation in automation to a process in your career?
  6. In Java, why shouldn't you use strings to store a password?
  7. What programming languages would you consider yourself fluent in?
  8. In a technical support role here at Wolfram Research, we expect that you would be able to bring great customer service skills to the role. Describe your customer service philosophy in the support that you would provide.
  9. What do you consider to be a good litmus test for when you would automate a test process for a new system versus testing manually?
  10. Our cloud computing at Wolfram Research requires our experts to take proper security measures in their work. What security measures are you familiar with utilizing in a cloud platform?
  11. A huge part of our business here at Wolfram Research is designing software for iOS. In this role, how would you steer away from retain cycles when using closures in Swift programming language?
  12. How would you handle a situation where a colleague was being very difficult to work with?
  13. What do you feel are the primary features and benefits of the Java programming language?
  14. What software analysis and design tools do you have familiarity working with?
  15. What SDLC models are you familiar in working with?
  16. At Wolfram Research, we rely on a full team effort to deliver top quality products to our customers. Tell me about a time that you worked well as part of a team. Are you comfortable in a similar role here?
  17. When do you consider a project to be finished?
  18. Here at Wolfram Research, we ask our test engineers to follow specific QA protocols. What role do you feel QA plays in software development and testing?
  19. What is one unique personality trait you possess that would help you be successful in this role with Wolfram Research?
  20. How do you stay organized and on track when working on multiple projects or duties at the same time?
  21. If you were asked to review a colleague's code that they had written, what key things would you look for?
  22. If hired here at Wolfram Research to develop iOS and Android software, when would you use a fragment rather than an activity?
  23. In your mind, when is monkey testing the most effective in testing new software?
  24. Do you have experience working with different CASE tools? If so, what do you have experience with?
  25. Tell me about a time that there was a delay in the project and how did you handle that delay?
  26. Would you say that you are a goal oriented on the job? What would I be able to do as your manager to help you achieve your goals if hired here at Wolfram Research?
  27. If hired here at Wolfram Research, what do you feel would be the biggest hurdle for you to overcome from the start?
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15 Wolfram Research, Inc. Answer Examples
1.
If you were faced with a situation that you didn't know the answer to or understand, what would your next steps be?
Work as an IT support specialist in the software industry could potentially put you in a situation to handle a question or issue that leaves you scratching your head. While explaining to your interviewer that you have the ability to take a methodical approach to getting a problem solved with the help of others, make sure not to lost sight on what is important to the customer. Talk about how you will put the customer at east by considering their needs as part of your process.

Ryan's Answer #1
"In times where this has happened in my current role, I have explained to the customer that an advanced issue like theirs needs to go to one of our subject matter experts to ensure that they get the best support possible. I explain that I am going to put their call on hold and reach out to the department that I need to. If possible, I connect them immediately. If not possible, then I walk through our protocol of submitting a help desk ticket to the appropriate group while explaining to the customer that our expectation is a 24 hour turnaround. I am very appreciative of these protocols because they set very easy to follow standards for our customers and help to avoid unnecessary follow up calls."
Ryan's Answer #2
"My first step would be to ask for help from my lead in the department or my supervisor. I would let the customer know that I would be putting them in contact with another person that has more expertise on their problem and doing so was best to help problem solve in this case. If hired for this role here at Wolfram Research, would that method meet the expectations of the department?"
2.
What data cleaning methods are you familiar with and comfortable using if hired for this role at Wolfram Research?
To improve data quality and increase overall productivity of a system, Wolfram Research relies on their data analysts to use data cleansing methods to ensure quality data exists in their software. Be open and honest with the ways that you've helped ensure quality and accurate data in the systems that you've worked with while also showing that you have an open mind to learning and utilizing more methods if hired for this position.

Ryan's Answer #1
"In my current work, I use a very methodical fashion in cleaning data for finished systems. My first step is to remove duplicate and irrelevant observations within the data. Then I scan the data to remove extra spaces, convert numbers stored as text into numbers and remove duplicate data. These steps help ensure clean and accurate data and I never overlook them. If hired for this position, what methods does the current data analyst team her at Wolfram Research utilize?"
Ryan's Answer #2
"I am familiar with many methods used in the cleansing of data. The initial monitoring of errors within a system is very important to identifying where errors occur and give insight into how to fix corrupt data. I have utilized the tools within Domo software to validate data accuracy and scrub for duplicate data in my processes as well. Being very proficient in data analysis, I'm very open to learning new methods as well if hired for this position."
3.
Do you consider yourself stronger in C++, C#, Java, or Python?
Before your interview, do some research to understand what tech stack Wolfram Research uses so you can best prepare and highlight your expertise. If you aren't as strong in one of the skills you feel is necessary, be sure to explain how you've used it and how you are growing your knowledge to become better. Be sure to be honest in your answer, as the company will likely test your strengths.

Ryan's Answer #1
"In my last company, we had a bit of an outdated tech stack and used C# and .NET. I found myself fully immersed in those technologies, but had a strong desire to learn more and become more familiar with modern technologies and how I can apply that in my career. That's what has me so interested in this role. Over the last year, I've taken courses in Java and C++, which I noticed you prefer. I've become proficient in the skills and in side projects, applied my increasingly strong knowledge. I'm probably strongest professionally in C# as that has been where my experience lies, but my passion and dedication is on the Java and C++ side, as I feel that's the more modern alternative. I'm excited about the possibility of applying that knowledge in a role at Wolfram Research."
Ryan's Answer #2
"I am motivated and excited about this new opportunity because it will challenge me to grow in my (X) skills. I love soccer and enjoy spending time with my teammates. I am interested in continuing my education by studying (Y) to further my career."
4.
Do you have experience working with data in a cloud computing environment?
Over recent years, more and more companies are converting to cloud based computing services because the conversion allows them to save money and have better auditing trails. As a prospective data engineer with Wolfram Research, your interviewer will be looking to hear that you are at least familiar with the concepts of working with cloud based data. Talk in details about the experiences you have while keeping your mind open to working with more in the future if hired with Wolfram Research.

Ryan's Answer
"My current organization has been using Apprenda, a PaaS, that allows us to develop, test and maintain our software projects. I also have experience mining and converting data off of public, community and private cloud networks. If hired here at Wolfram Research, I think I would bring a wealth of cloud based experience to the data engineering team."
5.
We are looking for innovators to join us here at Wolfram Research. Where have you brought innovation in automation to a process in your career?
Innovation in software has occurred in many phases over the last 20 years and Wolfram Research is always striving to be on the forefront of innovation in their field. For this question, think back on your automation experience and talk about a concept that you helped create that you felt was innovative. Really sell your interviewer on your ability to think outside of the box with this question by hammering home the idea that you can help bring new innovations to the team at Wolfram Research.

Ryan's Answer #1
"To be very honest with you, I was really drawn to the automation side of engineering because of the constant need to be flexible and continuing me education to stay ahead of new trends. Last year, I helped develop a codeless test automation for my company that brought together our software engineers and end users to test in environments in a fast and efficient manner. The codeless testing was a first for my organization and really helped free up time for our software engineers to come up with solutions rather than spend time testing."
Ryan's Answer #2
"About four years ago, I was on a team that developed an AI bot that could test scripts and provide analysis on extremely large amounts of data in a short period of time. Our work focused on the algorighms that the AI would utilize in its testing work. From the start, the AI process was extremely accurate and efficient. Now, as things have changed over time, modifications to the AI system all center around changes to the algorithms. Based on our success, we presented our AI system at a national conference last year and it received a lot of great accolades."
6.
In Java, why shouldn't you use strings to store a password?
While this may seem like a rudimentary question regarding your knowledge of Java, your interviewer is looking to ideally hear that you understand the principle differences between string and character arrays. Asking about the storage of passwords within a system gives you the opportunity here to point out the differences between the two. In the end, while explaining the differences, be sure to tie it back to the original question on why strings shouldn't be used to store passwords.

Ryan's Answer #1
"To store a password, character array is the obvious best choice because character arrays are mutable. If a string was utilized to store passwords, a definite security risk would be present to anyone that would have access to the memory dump from the system."
Ryan's Answer #2
"This question simply boils down to a string being immutable. Because strings are a sequence of characters represented as a single data type, the system requires garbage creation to fully get rid of it out of memory. In my time designing software, I have used Char array and its mutable features to store passwords for the security of our end users "
7.
What programming languages would you consider yourself fluent in?
While this question gives your interviewer insight into the diversity of your programming language experience, they most importantly want to know that you are adaptable and able to learn on the fly if needed. Talk about the different languages that you consider yourself fluent in and, if possible, do as much research into Wolfram Research as you can prior to your interview and try to speak to the specific languages that they work with.

Ryan's Answer #1
"From the start of college, where software engineering grew into a passion for me, I've become very fluent in Java, JavaScript and C++. My current role has me working primarily with C++, but I pride myself on my ability and passion to learn new programming languages and would be able to do so if hired for this role with Wolfram Research."
Ryan's Answer #2
"During my training to be an engineer and then in my current role since graduating, a majority of my experience falls within Python. My current role delves deeply into artificial intelligence and Python is awesome with this advanced technology. As I understand it from talking to another engineer here at Wolfram Research, a requirement would be for me to learn Scala. Though I haven't worked directly with Scala, I believe my experience and willingness to learn would have me up and running in no time if hired for this role."
8.
In a technical support role here at Wolfram Research, we expect that you would be able to bring great customer service skills to the role. Describe your customer service philosophy in the support that you would provide.
While your interviewer will be able to get great insight into your technical expertise during your interviewer, this one question will allow you the opportunity to describe how you will bring solid interpersonal skills to the role. Your interview knows that customers will rely on you to provide quick and sensible support for their needs, but the expectation to do that in a pleasing manner is of utmost importance. Talk from a high level about your feelings on why providing great service is important and give an example or two of ways that you have done that in the past.

Ryan's Answer #1
"To me, my job duties aren't fully satisfied if an end user leaves our conversation without a smile on their face. While any technical support specialist can handle the customer aspect of the job, few have the people skills to do so pleasantly for their customers. In any interaction that I have with a customer, I talk in a calm and boosting manner. If they are upset or mad about a situation, I reflectively listen and never place any blame back on them. By taking this approach, my customer surveys in my current position have been excellent for the three years I've held that role."
Ryan's Answer #2
"If hired for this role here at Wolfram Research, you'll quickly find that my mantra in working with customers is speed with a smile. To do this, I need to be resourceful in providing them with an answer or triaging them to the correct person. I need to be knowledgeable in our product base to give them answers with confidence. And last, but not least, I need to be positive in all interactions with them."
9.
What do you consider to be a good litmus test for when you would automate a test process for a new system versus testing manually?
As your role with Wolfram Research will look to help further their automate testing processes for new systems, you will need to have a good sense for when automation makes sense and when it does not. Reiterate your sense for this to your interviewer by sticking to the high level response that repetitive tasks, as are common with large software companies, are prime candidates for automation whereas one time test cases are not.

Ryan's Answer #1
"Having been in automation in both manufacturing for many years and now software for the last three years, a common misconception among people is that automation can help improve any situation and that couldn't be further from the truth. The amount of time, effort and resources that goes into an automation process makes it ideal for repetitive tasks and tests that have multiple data sets. If a testing process calls for unique and one time process, it would make the most sense to run that process manually."
Ryan's Answer #2
"I"n my current position, most of the automation testing that I design is in program sanity testing. These automated tests work great because they run on similar systems following changes in code to ensure that no bugs remain in the system. If our group of engineers are working on unique, one off type projects, my automation processes are not utilized."
10.
Our cloud computing at Wolfram Research requires our experts to take proper security measures in their work. What security measures are you familiar with utilizing in a cloud platform?
As with any server or database storage, unique security risks are posed to organizations that have moved their data and applications to the cloud. At Wolfram Research, part of your role will be to ensure that all security measures are in place with the organizations data in the cloud and your interviewer is looking to hear that you are familiar with diagnosing security risks and taking action to prevent them with this question. Talk about your knowledge of the different cloud service providers and other security measures that you are familiar with taking in your work.

Ryan's Answer #1
"For me, the planning stage of the cloud deployment process really sets the groundwork for security in a project. In my current role, each project adopts a cloud framework that suits the project the best. This framework is the base for our security measures in the cloud. From there, I always look to utilize a cloud service that encrypts our data and take all measures to steer away from storing sensitive information within the cloud. Last, as with any project, I help implement strict testing measures to check on the security of our cloud operations."
Ryan's Answer #2
"In my current role, the biggest security risks that we face are loss of sensitive data and malware infections. To take all security measures possible, our first plan of attack for security is to ensure that all of our data is backed up locally with electronic copies of data. To prevent malware in all ways possible, we have implemented a strict password strength policy and we install anti-virus software in our own equipment and recommend that customers do the same as well."
11.
A huge part of our business here at Wolfram Research is designing software for iOS. In this role, how would you steer away from retain cycles when using closures in Swift programming language?
This question allows your interviewer to assess your technical knowledge and skills in designing apps for iOS products in a very simple way. To successfully answer it, make sure that you can speak knowledgeably about the swift programming language and using closures to capture and store references within the software. To piece together everything for your interviewer, give a clear understanding of why retain cycles must be avoided in your processing.

Ryan's Answer
"Because ARC handles most of the memory knowledge in Swift, I know ARC is prone to memory leaking and this can cause major issues in apps over time. The fix that I've used in my career to avoid retain cycles is using weak references in my coding."
12.
How would you handle a situation where a colleague was being very difficult to work with?
In the team based atmosphere at Wolfram Research, departments with different skills and backgrounds can often see things from different points of view and these situations can cause some internal conflict between coworkers. With this question, your interviewer is looking to hear how you handle situations where you are working with someone that can be seen as difficult. To give them the sense that you are able to work through conflict in a professional and sensible manner, try to talk through how you handled a conflict at work previously in the past and highlight the interpersonal skills that you used to help make it a positive situation.

Ryan's Answer #1
"In all honesty, any great work atmosphere that I've been a part of in the past has involved conflict between colleagues. In situations I have witnessed, conflict has stemmed from very open-minded people giving their two cents in particular situations and two people not seeing eye to eye. This happened recently to me in the planning phases of a new project. On of our UX Designers and I had a disagreement on the final layout of a new software roll out we were planning. It worked best for both of us to talk about our ideas and list the pro's and con's for our ideas. I kept an open mind to learn from her point of view and she did the same to me on my end. This led us to come up with a great compromise in the end."
Ryan's Answer #2
"Last year, we had a new engineer join our team that was hired on from his internship with us. From his first day, he made it very evident that he would only handle certain tasks within our team and only work on certain projects. As his mentor to help get him up and running, I sat him down and discussed the expectations of each of our engineers as part of our larger team. I explained to him that our approach was not to pigeonhole ourselves into smaller tasks, but rather be well rounded engineers that could handle any project and be able to cover for each other if needed. He really appreciated this approach when I explained the benefits for his long term career goals with this approach. This example shows my approach to being very direct with people that I have a conflict with in the workplace and doing so in a very professional and educational manner."
13.
What do you feel are the primary features and benefits of the Java programming language?
As a company that utilizes Java, Wolfram Research and your interviewer want to make sure that you have an understanding of the Java programming language and they do so by asking this question. Obviously a language packed with unique features, talk about the features that you can speak the most knowledgeably about and tie your direct experience to.

Ryan's Answer
"When I started working with Java three years ago, the first huge benefit was the fact that the Java syntax was based on C++. At that time, I had a great working knowledge of C++ and my transition to Java was absolutely seamless. The other amazing feature that I've come to appreciate with Java is how robust the memory management is in exception handling and automatic garbage collection."
14.
What software analysis and design tools do you have familiarity working with?
As a software engineer for Wolfram Research, your interviewer wants to hear that you have experience in utilizing tools that you make you more proficient in your work. Dig back on your past experiences and talk openly about your experiences with the different analysis and design tools that are available to help you be better in the work that you do. In the end, make sure that your interviewer understands that you are proficient in the use of these tools and open to learning and using new tools as well.

Ryan's Answer #1
"As my career and experience in software engineering has grown over the years, I've come to really appreciate and utilize these tools that are available. A great example of this would be my recent education and use of Structured English for designing insurance claim software for a large auto insurer. The simplicity of the structured decisions in the program were a perfect example of a program that could utilize the tool and the end product ended up very functional for our customer."
Ryan's Answer #2
"I have great working knowledge in creating and reading data flow diagrams. To help with both our own sales staff and with customers, DFD's have been super helpful and I consider myself very proficient in creating them. I've also recently been introduced to decision tables to aid in product testing. I was working on a new system that involved some very complicated business rules and the decision table helped outline everything perfectly for our testing."
15.
What SDLC models are you familiar in working with?
As a software engineer, you are very familiar with the software development life cycle. For this question, your interviewer is looking to hear what models you have worked on in the past. While there isn't necessarily a right or wrong answer to this question, try to show your flexibility to working with different SDLC models by bringing up your past experiences. Then, show you have knowledge of different models like the waterfall model or agile model. It is also a good idea to use this question as an opportunity for you to learn more about Wolfram Research by asking your interviewer which model they work off of.

Ryan's Answer #1
"During my training in software engineering and in my early career, the waterfall model was the standard. In this model, each phase of the development process happens in a set order and projects using this model are easily managed. But over time, as the development projects that I have led have become more complicated and intricate, I have implemented the spiral model. This model has allowed the ability of end users to give feedback early on and often during development and helps to build a more customized product to our customers."
Ryan's Answer #2
"In my current position with XYZ Company, my department utilizes the agile model in development life cycle. Since our products are so tailored to the needs of our customers, we get a working product very early on in the process and then I work hand in hand with customers to fine tune the software moving forward. It is a very effective model that has built a great reputation for our software among customers. I also have familiarity working with the iterative model and it has similar advantages to the agile model. If I were hired here at Wolfram Research, can you expand on what models you use here in your software development life cycle?"
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