Don’t Settle For Just a LabVIEW Programmer

You need a LabVIEW program, so it’s logical you are looking for a LabVIEW Programmer.  But, is that really enough?  Let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture.  LabVIEW is an awesome environment for development of automated systems for test, measurement, and control.  But it’s much more than just a programming language.    There is a suite of tools that work synergistically with LabVIEW.  And, with the newer generation of LabVIEW NXG, even more tools and capabilities are included, and they are more thoroughly integrated.  This in turn means that instead of just a LabVIEW programmer, you should look for a more broader-based test engineer, with more than just a little LabVIEW experience.

So how do you determine if someone has what you need?  One indication is how many years the person has been developing systems in LabVIEW full-time.  Many students graduate with LabVIEW experience now, but typically that is just a few dozen hours in a few classes.  There is so much to LabVIEW that it can take years of full-time work with it to really become fluent.  Another indication is certifications.  National Instruments (NI) has a certification program for LabVIEW developers (as well as other NI tools).  There is more on that subject in “What Is All This About LabVIEW Certification?”, and “Do You Need A Certified LabVIEW Developer (CLD)?”.  Also worth considering is if the prospective developer is a “one-person shop”, or if they are one of several strong engineers in a company specializing in developing automated test systems.  If they are part of a team already, then you can rest assured they can work with your team.  Also, if the task is large and / or requires some specialized knowledge, they have their team to turn to.  Not to mention the value of having a “second set of eyes” looking over their work.

But, even that is not enough.  I’m sure the LabVIEW program you need is part of an overall system.  That system nearly always includes data acquisition hardware, often from NI.  so, you want someone that has extensive experience with data acquisition hardware.  Then, there are issues like ground loops, common-mode rejection, open-collectors, etc.  There is an entire science behind even something as “simple” as grounding.  So, it pays to have someone that understands electronics.

Furthermore, most systems have many parts to them, such as pumps and valves (hydraulics), motors and gears (mechanics), sensors and actuators (robotics), reaction vessels (chemistry), and so on.  Perhaps you have those aspects covered, but it is important that your test system developer can at least communicate accurately and efficiently in all these areas.  So, you are looking for someone with a very broad engineering background, like a degree in, or at least a strong background in, physics.  After all, physics is arguably the foundation for all engineering specialties.

In summary, in addition to the basic requirement of a LabVIEW programmer, ideally you want the following:
– Extensive (5 years or more) experience with LabVIEW
– Strong familiarity and experience with data acquisition hardware, especially from NI
– LabVIEW certification
– Part of a team
– Firm, practical understanding of electronics
– Broad engineering background, including a strong foundation in physics

In short, a Systems Engineer.

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