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Tom Bress

The Paper Chase

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I've just started a new blog called The Paper Chase, stop by and check it out. The focus of the blog will be LabVIEW certification and other issues relevant to the LabVIEW community. I recently gave a talk about the certification process at NI Week 08 and it sparked a lot of good conversations with LabVIEW programmers of all levels of experience and with NI employees. This blog is an attempt at continuing and expanding that conversation with the broader LabVIEW community.

My hope is that the blog will be a place for discussion among the already certified, a place to make suggestions on how to improve the current system. I also hope that it will be a place for all those "how do I prepare for the CLAD/CLD/CLA exam" discussions.

I currently have a poll on the blog. Is certification a good idea in general for the LabVIEW community? Stop by and vote. I plan on having a series of such polls on the blog. If any of you premium members out there would like to create LAVA polls of the same questions I would appreciate it. My ultimate goal with this blog is to compile the results and suggestions and share them with the certification people at NI.

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QUOTE (Tom Bress @ Aug 12 2008, 07:07 AM)

The focus of the blog will be LabVIEW certification and other issues relevant to the LabVIEW community...

Thanks for the link Tom. I was just beginning yesterday to look into what it would take to get my CLA certification and I was surprised at how little information exists about the exam. Hopefully I can find something useful as your blog develops.

On that same note, watch for a post from me soliciting more information from those who know (I don't want to hijack this thread).

-Toby

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QUOTE (Tom Bress @ Aug 12 2008, 10:07 AM)

...Is certification a good idea in general for the LabVIEW community? ...

Absolutely. Especially the CLD. When someone is a CLD it tells me two things: they can code, and they can code under pressure.

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Tom,

Thanks for leading this effort. I think it's great to have someone from the user community provide this kind of input and drive to improve the process.

I really appreciated your presentation last week. Like you said, the value in certification is not the paper at the end of the road, but the process of learning and (coding) process improvement that you make along the way. You'll see a lot more NI people go through the certification process and that will hopefully improve the process as well as the code generated by NI.

In the wider community I see a lot more value to get many developers to the CLD level (and provide a good LabVIEW programmer base) as opposed to getting some developers to the CLA level.

PS: I just completed the CLAD at NIWeek and will be working on the CLD over the next few months. Even though I have 10+ years of LV experience (and am a supposed expert), it forces you to think more carefully about your own ingrained programming practices and habits, and improve them at least in some ways (more comments in my case and more consistent good design even for simple examples that are distributed).

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QUOTE (LV_FPGA_SE @ Aug 12 2008, 12:15 PM)

PS: I just completed the CLAD at NIWeek and will be working on the CLD over the next few months.

Did they change the rules? I thought NI employees couldn't take the exams...

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Yes, the rules have changed. That will be the subject of my next post. Stay tuned...

QUOTE (Phillip Brooks @ Aug 12 2008, 12:29 PM)

Did they change the rules? I thought NI employees couldn't take the exams...

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QUOTE (PaulG. @ Aug 12 2008, 09:40 AM)

... and they can code under pressure.

Just out of curiousity, why is this important?

Joe Z.

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QUOTE (jzoller @ Aug 12 2008, 03:36 PM)

Just out of curiousity, why is this important?

Joe Z.

If I have kept track of "which shell the pea is under", I think Paul is working with a consulting firm (usually refered to in my shop as "the bad guys"** :) ) like myself. So in my shop we occationally have to do what I call "Stand-up Comedy Routines" where we have to walk into a buisness we know very little about and while the customer is watching and asking questions "blow their socks off!" with our LV-Powers*. So being able to code under-fire is very useful, although not a requirement.

Ben

* I cheat. I have been doing this so long that I can usually start telling a "sea-story" of a similar situation that keeps them distracted while I am doing the real work.

** In case there is any question, yes I am just joking about "the bad guys".

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QUOTE (LV_FPGA_SE @ Aug 12 2008, 12:15 PM)

I just completed the CLAD at NIWeek and will be working on the CLD over the next few months. Even though I have 10+ years of LV experience (and am a supposed expert), it forces you to think more carefully about your own ingrained programming practices and habits, and improve them at least in some ways (more comments in my case and more consistent good design even for simple examples that are distributed).

I have similar thoughts. I did not do as well as expected on the CLAD, although I passed. I perhaps overthought some of the questions. I have spent most of the last 6 months re-doing stacked-nested-and-stacked sequence code, and it has been very rewarding. And educational. And painful :ninja: I hope that the CLD will actually be easier in some ways than the CLAD because it is all about coding and coding well, not about interpreting the question.

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My promised post about NI's recent change of policy regarding employee certification is now up.

QUOTE (Tom Bress @ Aug 12 2008, 12:59 PM)

Yes, the rules have changed. That will be the subject of my next post. Stay tuned...

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A new post is up based on a recent forum discussion. Do we need more CPIs? It also poses the question: now that NI employees can get certified, will NI encourage/require their in-house teachers to get CPIs?

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QUOTE (Tom Bress @ Aug 13 2008, 11:42 PM)

My promised post about NI's recent change of policy regarding employee certification is now up.

I was told but an NI Engineer that they are (or more correctly now - were) not allowed to get certified because once they did people would leave for higher paid jobs!

True story.

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QUOTE (jgcode @ Aug 15 2008, 09:25 AM)

I was told but an NI Engineer that they are (or more correctly now - were) not allowed to get certified because once they did people would leave for higher paid jobs!

True story.

I've also heard this rumor floating around NI, but it is not true. Given the need for experienced LV users in the field, a lack of certification is not preventing any NI engineer from finding a different job if they really want to leave NI. Any LV programmer who has the proper LV coding experience would be able to prove their worth to a potential employer in a short amount of time. In the end certification is just a piece of paper, what you do or know to get the certification is what will bring you or your employer the benefits and value.

I would hope that if anyone is hiring a LV programmer into their organization they are not relying solely on the certification of a given candidate in making a hiring decision.

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QUOTE (LV_FPGA_SE @ Aug 15 2008, 11:25 AM)

I've also heard this rumor floating around NI, but it is not true. Given the need for experienced LV users in the field, a lack of certification is not preventing any NI engineer from finding a different job if they really want to leave NI. Any LV programmer who has the proper LV coding experience would be able to prove their worth to a potential employer in a short amount of time. In the end certification is just a piece of paper, what you do or know to get the certification is what will bring you or your employer the benefits and value.

I would hope that if anyone is hiring a LV programmer into their organization they are not relying solely on the certification of a given candidate in making a hiring decision.

This is exactly the kind of discussion I was looking for when I started the blog. What does certification mean and why should you get it? Here's the thing: you stated that "Given the need for experienced LV users in the field, a lack of certification is not preventing any NI engineer from finding a different job if they really want to leave NI". Let's rephrase that to "Given the need for experienced LV users in the field, a lack of certification is not preventing anyone finding an LV job". If that is true (and it probably is), why bother getting certified? Certification is valuable in a crowded field of applicants, but if there is no crowd (indeed, if the market is hungry for LV programmers) than why bother? If you are talented you should be able to prove it in an interview even if you don't have the piece of paper. Indeed, some well-known employers make applicants take their own internal exam anyway. So what's the point in getting certified?

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QUOTE (LV_FPGA_SE @ Aug 15 2008, 11:25 PM)

QUOTE (Tom Bress @ Aug 15 2008, 11:57 PM)

So what's the point in getting certified?

Why not with all else being equal? If you are applying for a pure full-time LV programming position and you have Joe A and Joe B with equal Academic Quals for the job.

The hirer's are familiar with NI products and knoq that certs aren't given out on weeties packets.

Joe A has his CLA & CPI (and additionally certs for DAQ, RT, CRIO, & MV courses).

Joe B with no LV certification - who are you going to lean towards off the bat?

In fact, its quite possible Joe B's CV could be scraped up front.

If the hirer's have no idea about LV certs then yes, its probably a waste of time.

But IMO its no different to a uni degree. Its just a piece of paper, but its what the piece can do - to get your foot in the door thats important.

Given the above example, if Joe A got the job because he looked more impressive on paper, then the cert is worth it.

:oops: At the end of the day its who you know... turns out Joe B was good mates with the boss's son and got the job.

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QUOTE (jgcode @ Aug 15 2008, 07:34 PM)

Why not with all else being equal?

That's not what LV_FPGA_SE is saying. Sure, if all else is equal then selecting or denying a candidate based on certifications might be appropriate, but, paraphrasing LV_FPGA_SE, certification isn't the only thing you should consider when hiring someone.

That said, I've hired a lot of people in my career, and I've never been in a situation where "all else" has been equal. :unsure:

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QUOTE (crelf @ Aug 16 2008, 10:02 PM)

That's not what LV_FPGA_SE is saying. Sure, if all else is equal then selecting or denying a candidate based on certifications might be appropriate, but, paraphrasing LV_FPGA_SE, certification isn't the only thing you should consider when hiring someone.

That said, I've hired a lot of people in my career, and I've never been in a situation where "all else" has been equal. :unsure:

I understand what FPGA is saying, I agree, but I don't agree that this is the case 100% of the time.

As there would be certain circumstances when it would be appropriate whether rare or not.

And I was highlighting one - here is another:

E.g. graduate entry level job..straight out of uni, no experience, all candiates have are certs/academic quals.

The thing they are going to look at for sure is what you have achieved on paper (grades etc...) and references (as you have no experience).

It gonna depend on the situation.

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I think we're agreeing and now just arguing semantics. That said, in my experience, there are so many things that I look for in a candidate that certifications have never been the only things that I've been forced to rely on to differentiate them. In your example:

QUOTE (jgcode @ Aug 16 2008, 02:38 PM)

E.g. graduate entry level job..straight out of uni, no experience, all candiates have are certs/academic quals.

The thing they are going to look at for sure is what you have achieved on paper (grades etc...) and references (as you have no experience).

Yes, I would absolutely look at grades and references, amongst a gah-zillion other things, including (often most importantly) their interviews. Candidates might look very similar on paper (as your example suggests), but, in my experience, there are never so similar in an interview that I would ever have choose one over another due to their grades alone.

In summary, yes - certifications, amongst many many many other things, can be used when differentiation between job candidates.

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QUOTE (crelf @ Aug 17 2008, 03:11 AM)

I agree! :P I could see this topic going nowhere. Good call.

QUOTE (crelf @ Aug 17 2008, 03:11 AM)

Yes, I would absolutely look at grades and references, amongst a gah-zillion other things, including (often most importantly) their interviews. Candidates might look very similar on paper (as your example suggests), but, in my experience, there are never so similar in an interview that I would ever have choose one over another due to their grades alone.

I admit the examples were out-there. I was wrong to say with all else being equal as in reality and from experience as you pointed out this is not the case.

I guess more correctly the point I would like to get across is that what people look like on paper: whether exp/certs/quals/refs/comm skills and personality (from cover letter) is going to stand them in good steed to get lined up for an interview as the CV is the first impression of the candidate on the interviewer, and is usually the first step in applying for a job. And although I have never interviewed anyone, from talking to interviewers when they have a stack of applications and they need to sort out the shortlist from the circular filing cabinet - they are just merciless e.g. spelling mistake: in the bin.

QUOTE (crelf @ Aug 17 2008, 03:11 AM)

In summary, yes - certifications, amongst many many many other things, can be used when differentiation between job candidates.

Agreed. At the end of the day certification is important to me whether for the piece of paper alone or for validation of my skills/effort.

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QUOTE (jgcode @ Aug 17 2008, 06:20 AM)

they are just merciless e.g. spelling mistake: in the bin.

I would call that reasonable or stupid, not merciless. All things being more or less* equal, a spelling mistake on the document which is supposed to present you to potential employers is a reasonably valid reason to get rid of someone without giving them much thought.

The stupid option is if you have someone who's highly qualified and you throw out their resume based on an itsy-bitsy speelling mistake.

I don't really do sales much, and around here it probably wouldn't really matter anyway, but I suppose certification could matter to companies seeking work - if you say "I have 3 CLAs and 20 CLDs" you might get a better chance if they don't know you.

* More or less - with an average tolerance of no more than 4.7%. See IEEE 4342.F.

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QUOTE (Yair @ Aug 17 2008, 01:18 PM)

I don't really do sales much, and around here it probably wouldn't really matter anyway, but I suppose certification could matter to companies seeking work - if you say "I have 3 CLAs and 20 CLDs" you might get a better chance if they don't know you.

I used to think that too, but that only applies when the customer cares about the tools used to complete the product. In our example, we use NI products extensively to create test solutions, but in our chosen marketspace, not many of our customers care what tools and/or DAQ hardware that we use - they're more interested in the value-add that our test experience can bring to the table. Sure, sometimes customers' engineering staff are psyched that we have a bunch of NI-certified resources on staff, but that rarely wins us business. I supposed it's the same as having certs on your resume - it can't help, but it's not necessarily the deal-maker.

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QUOTE (crelf @ Aug 18 2008, 04:37 AM)

I used to think that too, but that only applies when the customer cares about the tools used to complete the product. In our example, we use NI products extensively to create test solutions, but in our chosen marketspace, not many of our customers care what tools and/or DAQ hardware that we use - they're more interested in the value-add that our test experience can bring to the table. Sure, sometimes customers' engineering staff are psyched that we have a bunch of NI-certified resources on staff, but that rarely wins us business. I supposed it's the same as having certs on your resume - it can't help, but it's not necessarily the deal-maker.

This is a awesome point and a lesson I just recently learnt and realised the value of!

Sell the solution to the problem - not the hardware/software

Customers who don't know (e.g. about NI/LV), don't care, they just want their problem solved!

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Welcome, Tom, to the LabVIEW blog community. It's very interesting how the certification topic generates such passionate debate and discussion!

I'll reiterate my perspective on certification, which is that certification is an important part of sharpening the tool, both for the individuals getting certificated and for the organizations that encourage the practice. As crelf alludes to, most work comes from having great solutions, created by skilled engineers, and a track-record of success. Making sure that your team and organization stay sharp is what enables this process.

Certification might not be a great value for every team, but it sure is for ours.

Cheers,

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QUOTE (jgcode @ Aug 17 2008, 06:51 PM)

Ain't that the truth!

QUOTE (Jim Kring @ Aug 17 2008, 07:18 PM)

As crelf alludes to, most work comes from having great solutions, created by skilled engineers, and a track-record of success. Making sure that your team and organization stay sharp is what enables this process. Certification might not be a great value for every team, but it sure is for ours.

I couldn't have said it better myself :)

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