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Need help hiring a competent LabVIEW programmer!


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Subtitle:  Cat's continuing attempt to finally retire

I retired from the gov't (US Navy) around August of 2019.  Since the gov't is the gov't they didn't think about replacing me until after I retired.  So being a good little civil servant I came back part time as a contractor to fill the gap.  The basic requirements for my replacement were: 5+ years LV work, engineering degree, experience working with large data sets, experience working with large (2500+ vi) code sets, able to work independently (I have always been a team of 1).

The gov't finally hired my replacement and they started work in January of 2021.  It still being pandemic time, I didn't have a lot of face-to-face (or mask-to-mask) interaction with them, but I got more and more worried when I did.  While they had a lot of fundamentals down, there were glaring gaps in their technical knowledge.  They were more of a okay beginner programmer than the solid intermediate to expert level that we needed.  And they had obviously only ever worked in a team where everything was spoon-fed to them and then someone cleaned up after them.  They were let go.

This person had 6 years of programming LabVIEW on their resume.  But it was obviously 6 years of programming LV badly.

Going forward, how do I not repeat this mistake?  Should NI certification be required, and if so, is CLD good enough or should it be CLA?  Any other suggestions?  I really want to retire!!

 

Cat

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I would start with having a CLD (recent or in the past) as being helpful, but not necessarily a requirement. 

Ask them if they've taken any LabVIEW courses and what they were.  This should give a baseline of their expected knowledge/experience.  Quiz them on what they SHOULD know having taken them.  

Quiz them on the commonly used LabVIEW frameworks (or commonly used in YOUR job) to get a feel for their grasp on the concepts (e.g. QDMH, DVRs, OOP, etc. LIB MR DUCKS).

A courses, a degree, or CLD doesn't necessarily equal competence (but I agree, it gives more of a 'warm-n-fuzzy' feeling) - I've seen it several times in my career.  Some of the most competent people I've worked with have no official degree, but lots of experience.  Some people can have loads of LabVIEW experience, but never went for a CLD/CLA because the certification wasn't required for their job or field. 

If they can (and it's not always able to be done because of intellectual property constraints), ask them to provide sample code for you to review.  

I'm sure others will have more (and much better) insights than I do, since I haven't taken part in many candidate interviews for LabVIEW positions. (Although I will be here in the near future). 

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Thanks for the response.  I hadn't thought of asking about LabVIEW courses.

This position is actually more than "just" LabVIEW programming.  It's the software part of a team that designs/develops/tests/fields data acquisition systems.  So an engineering degree is helpful to being able to see the big picture.  Or so the guy who does the hiring believes...

I personally fit in the "lots of experience but no certification" slot.  That's why I didn't think it would be necessary to require it.  Plus it will make it harder to fill the position.  If I go that route, having never taken the exam myself, I'm wondering if the group mind here thinks CLD would be good enough, or should it be CLA?  Especially considering the person will have to be the "A"rchitect as well as the "D"eveloper.

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4 hours ago, Cat said:

Or so the guy who does the hiring believes

 

7 hours ago, Cat said:

Going forward, how do I not repeat this mistake?

You didn't and can't. Unless you are interviewing, there's not a lot you can do.

When I interview I get them to do a 30 minute test. It's a test that they cannot complete in 30 mins. I tell them that they are not expected to finish, it's not expected to work, there is no right answer and I just want to see their thought process when tackling a task - just make sure it's tidy enough so I can read it. This is all true.

After, we discuss the task. What they thought, what they were and weren't happy with, what issues they think their code has and why they did certain things. Additionally I ask things like how would they improve *my* test. Did it make them too uncomfortable, would they have preferred a specific result/correct answer etc.

A good engineer will be able to articulate problems with  interpretation of the instructions, the assumptions and decisions they had to make and what they would change now they know the task and we have discussed it with my input. What code they actually write is almost irrelevant and only serves as a common talking point but you'll spot the fakers straight away.

You very quickly find out who is an engineer and who is a code monkey.

 

Edited by ShaunR
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15 hours ago, Cat said:

I'm wondering if the group mind here thinks CLD would be good enough, or should it be CLA?  Especially considering the person will have to be the "A"rchitect as well as the "D"eveloper.

Well - Finding a CLA may be more difficult than finding a CLD.  Some people may (like myself) have gone the path up to feeling qualified to take the CLA Exam, but never pulled the trigger for one reason or another (mostly $$ reasons).  I never did it because - working for a company - a CLx never benefited me in any way nor did it benefit my company.  They were willing to foot the bill for the exams, some of the time, but I never went through the process and let my certification expire long ago after only one renewal.

You could specify CLA-Level of experience without necessarily making them have an active or expired credential. However, you'd still have to determine somehow by evaluation or by faith that they have the level of experience they claim to have.

10 hours ago, ShaunR said:

You very quickly find out who is an engineer and who is a code monkey.

Hey!  I (likely) resemble that remark! :)

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1 hour ago, Bryan said:

Hey!  I (likely) resemble that remark!

I doubt it. Code monkeys have extreme problems with this kind of test because there are few parameters for them to follow. They are forced to think of a solution instead of being told how to implement one. The interesting thing is, though. Even if they are a code monkey, they may show skills or a propensity to think of solutions in the discussion afterwards that they previously haven't been called upon to utilise. While I don't think that is useful in Cat's case, it very useful if you are looking for a team member that you can cultivate.

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This thread on interview questions might be helpful.  I suggested asking about describing reentrancy in your own words, but I think that might not work.  Matt in that thread suggested asking what your favorite, and least favorite features of LabVIEW are which might give incite into their experience level.

Still finding good engineers who don't need much hand holding often takes years.  And I don't mean like 6 years of experience, where you repeated the first year 6 times.  Those types of people are either very expensive, or are very under appreciated.

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Hmm. I would have answers for (almost) all questions I see in these interview question threads (many "dunno but I'd approach the question like this and that" answers), I even know hooovahh is not really Homer Simpson, but I don't feel any competent for a real Labview job. I can solve problems, made many mid-sized applications (control+daq, data analizers, report generators) that are team uses on a daily basis, I struggled with many architectures, fixed errors in 3rd party APIs, I know error handling is not simply connecting serially every crap with an error terminal to make a huge yellow snake (a thing that I see even in APIs of serious equipment from respected companies). Sounds promising. Yet my code and especially the architectures get so f... spagetti after a while, you'd get brain aneurysm just by looking at.

These questions are only good for first stage screening. If I were hiring, I would definitely go for a test Labview project in some way.

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Down here, you can't really hire a good LabVIEW programmer; all 10 of them have jobs they don't want to leave, so you'll just have to make your own. That's often easiest if that person has no LV experience. In that case you know they haven't been poisoned by "that uni course" they did where most certainly single-vi spaghetti with lots of local variables for "storing data" was the result. Candidate must have good understanding of generic concepts and not make a face when quizzed about graphical programming

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