We recently received an email from a fellow Product Manager job hunter looking for some help navigating a technical case study assignment. For this blog post, Nkem Nwankwo, Senior Product Manager at Calendly, will show us the best practices of how to navigate a technical case study assignment in an interview. You can listen along to the podcast:
This is a real-life example of what you may be asked. These questions are typically asked during on-site interviews, but could also be asked in a second-round phone interview to test your competency quickly.
If you haven’t solved a technical case study assignment before and don’t know what a typical one looks like, we strongly encourage you to read our case study guide and watch our case study video:
Technical Case Study Assignment: Uber Example
Now that you know how to solve a case study, let’s get started with this example. We will be using a popular case study question asked by Uber in their Product Manager interviews.
Here’s the intro, prompt, and question for the technical case study assignment given by Uber:
Uber provides a platform for over 3 million drivers to enjoy on-demand earnings. Some drivers choose to do so 40+ hours a week while others do to augment other income streams. But for all drivers, operating on the Uber platform incurs ongoing operational expenses: gas, food, telecom, car insurance, and more. Further, many of our drivers have limited access – if at all – to essential financial services like checking and savings accounts.
The Financial Products team endeavors to provide drivers access to core financial services and payment products that improve the quality of their experience on Uber, generate rewards for their activity on Uber and unlock value for their spend off Uber.
You’re the Product Manager of a team that focuses on Financial Products for our drivers. You’re tasked with designing a financial product (or suite of products) that addresses our driver’s needs in Brazil.
What questions do you have to understand this opportunity better? What objectives and metrics should we consider for this effort? How would you research and validate the early hypothesis? And finally, which product(s) should we build, and how would you sequence them?
What we’re looking for:
A fun discussion that explores your thought process that demonstrates your grasp of the economics of a financial product, product and customer intuition, and a curiosity for understanding how to address real needs and challenges our drivers face in Brazil.
Solving the Technical Case Study Assignment
Product Gym: Here’s the task. Make a payment app for Uber drivers in Brazil.
Nkem Nwankwo: The first step is to ask clarifying questions. This is very important. For this assignment, we will ask, is this an app within Uber or a 3rd party?
For example, let’s assume this will be a 3rd party app. We will assume that since it’s a 3rd party, it connects to Uber’s actual app, but is not part of Uber itself; Uber uses their services.
Clarifying Questions to Ask:
Who are the users?
Who are we building this for?
Drivers, full-time drivers, part-time drivers, Uber itself, banks/payment processors?
Focus on one user – we’ll focus on one of these users, Uber drivers.
Possible Use Cases:
The drivers want to be paid as fast as possible because they’re doing the work. Keep logs of their daily trips to see how much they’ve earned that day, reimbursements for expenses, such as tolls to dispute fares as well. Drivers need to do their taxes, so a report should be generated for them. Also, they can use driving statistics to maximize revenue.
Features that relate to use the cases:
Get paid fast as possible – direct credit to driver & cash transfer from a financial institution to Uber can happen later.
Daily Trip Log – automated ledger from activity (driving people around), including details such as day, time, vicinity, an area the driver can add comments to reconcile disputes, etc.
Taxes – generate a report for tax purposes to file them at the end of the year. We can have a monthly paystub that generates a 1040 and is directly emailed to the driver.
Driver Statistics – view miles, view revenue they are bringing in to determine if driving is viable, as well to keep them coming back to the application and use it.
Nkem Nwankwo: Now, product management doesn’t stop there – we need to track whether our features will be successful or not. We need to see if we created the right thing or not.
Metrics to track:
How often are they coming back and actually using the feature
Want to learn more about the metrics that matter for Product Managers? We strongly suggest you read this great guide from Andreessen Horowitz to learn more.
We can track these across the app to see the usage levels among those features. For example, how fast do people get their money?
That will determine how much people come back to the app or how much Uber is incentivized to use this payment app. If drivers have a good experience getting paid quickly, they will use Uber as an app, and the 3rd party payment app will stay on Uber’s platform.
There could be problems with transferring to/from the bank, which raises friction and could get this 3rd party payment app we are proposing kicked off the platform.
We can track how many complaints there are in general (net promoter score) and how many financial institutions have signed up. Since it’s a B2B2C situation, Uber’s connection to the financial institution is essential for this to be seamless.
The more frictionless the transaction is, the easier it will be for financial institutions to sign up for this.
If you are 3rd party app (backing Uber in this plan and backing their payment processor), you can use synergy to get other apps and contracts.
People will look and say, hey, you made this much from Uber; if you can produce a report that shows you your distribution or split in revenues among all different apps you use, it would be helpful from a consumer perspective, as more people will use you. An end-user will want to use your payment app because it’s streamlined across apps they do their odd jobs on, giving it a good reputation. Ultimately, this makes it harder for another company to come in.
Product Gym: What is this and what are the tradeoffs?
Nkem Nwankwo: You would backtrack how you’d investigate this area of the app. Who would you get involved? How would you solve the problem and say whether or not you solved it?
You can compare it to others on the market and see what you are improving and how to continue.
Technical Case Study Assignment: The Details
Now that you’ve laid the framework for your answer, you and the interviewer may go back and forth about details and whatever else you may want to discuss with the product.
Product Gym: As this prompt is specific to Brazil, what can you say that might help you?
Nkem Nwankwo: Anything you can acknowledge how this 3rd party app will affect users, stakeholders, who you are building for, and mentioning how these things can change the design of your app is ideal.
Product Gym: If the interview prompt seems pretty vague, what should I do?
Nkem Nwankwo: Always ask clarifying questions, never feel bad for doing so. Don’t make too many assumptions (as the devil is in the details). You should be comfortable asking clarifying questions when dealing with customers, so you should be comfortable asking them in an interview as well.
Technical Case Study Assignment Resources
Like the Uber case study, we have been working with our case study instructors to solve other popular questions. Make sure you watch our case study video on how to solve the most popular case study question asked by FAANG company.
About Nkem Nwankwo:
Nkem Nwankwo is a Senior Product Manager at Calendly and the author of the book, “After School: Is Getting an MBA Really Worth It?”.
Before his current role at Calendly, Nkem held Senior Product Manager and Product Manager roles at BetterCloud and Microsystems. During this time, he also published his book, which was also featured in America’s most prominent MBA blog, Poets & Quants. He still publishes similar content in his blog!
Nkem holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Georgia Tech and an MBA from the University of Michigan, Ross School of Business.