Journey to CLD certification

The Certified LabVIEW Developer (CLD) is the middle one of three LabVIEW certifications (ok, there is a fourth, but the CLED is somewhere parallel to the CLA) and earning it was one of my resolutions for the beginning of 2018. The LabVIEW certifications are part of my plan to become a LabVIEW expert and, of course, my boss likes it when I engage in further education. Beside my personal motivations, with the CLD you get a nice proof of your LabVIEW skills. You’re not a bloody beginner anymore and at least it’s a cool badge in the NI forum.

In this post I want to write a little bit about my way to the CLD and give you a lead to find your own way.

CLD Certificate
CLD Certificate Manuel Sebald.

LabVIEW, My new Friend

I started to work with LabVIEW in fall 2016 at my former company. With my background in occasional Python coding, the transition to the graphical approach of LabVIEW with the data-flow paradigm was not easy. Everything was different in a strange way and I missed a lot of functions and libraries from the huge Python ecosystem. To get a better start with LabVIEW, my first step was to login into my NI account, go to the training section and view the Core 1 and Core 2 online trainings. This was a really helpful start to learn how the basics work (Core 1) and – more important – to learn the first basic design patterns and coding style (Core 2).  I started coding, made errors, failed, tried again, and with the time I began to like and appreciate LabVIEW.

A new Chapter with LabVIEW

For several reasons I quit my job and started in May 2017 at Hampel Software Engineering as a LabVIEW Software Engineer (Manuel Sebald joins #teamhampelsoft). With this step I committed myself to becoming a LabVIEW expert, and started to absorb anything related to LabVIEW.

The fastest way to get better at something is always to do what you really like, do it regularly (not hard if it’s your job) and do it with people who are better than you (not hard if it’s your boss 😉 ). With all three conditions satisfied and a little bit of preparation I passed the first certification, the CLAD, in July 2017. Tip: you can download sample exams from NI. The first step was done, but much harder steps were in front of me. My plan was to get the CLD certification in early 2018. Time passed and suddenly it was Christmas and new year, time to start to do something. So I registered for the CLD exam at the next possible date in early February. Now, that I had a deadline, I started to think about how to prepare for the exam.

Preparation

The first, and probably best, source for preparation materials is the NI CLD website itself. There you can download the CLD Success Package and sample exams. This material and exercises teach you the most important concepts and design patterns for the CLD exam (and of course, for the daily developer work). The main topics are timing in different implementations, reading and writing configuration files and the basic state machine. If you have been a LabVIEW developer for some time, you probably already worked with these concepts and think that it’s easy and no problem. But don’t underestimate the CLD exam,  you don’t have the time to think about and solve new problems.

The next and probably most important preparation step is exercising! The CLD Success Package contains a bunch of example tests with detailed solutions. You should use them (at least a few) and practice the test with the CLD time limit of four hours. These examples show you the principle structure of the tasks and the recommended approach for a solution. The structure and problem type is more or less the same for all exercises, so if you practice them enough, you won’t see surprises in the real exam.

The day has come

I travelled to Munich one day before the exam in the evening, and spend the night in a hotel near the NI Germany Headquarter and Training Center. In the morning, I had a relaxed walk of just about 15 minutes to the Training Center. The NI people gave me a friendly welcome and showed me the exam room with about 15 PCs and maybe 10 fellows already waiting excitedly too. Everybody was concentrated and focused on their task – passing the CLD or CLA exam. I picked a seat and suddenly, my relief was gone and nervousness came to me.

The four hours of exam time started, I tried to relax, read the exercise and was a little bit relieved that it was very similar to the exercises that I had practiced. Four hours sound like a lot, but believe me, if you’re really focused on a task, the time flies by very fast. I thought I was well in time, until the proctor said “one hour left”, and I started to get nervous and panicked a little bit. The main task of the CLD exam is to deliver a runnable program, so I focused on getting the loose ends together and fixing the worst bugs. I just ignored a share of the requirements and did not even proper testing on the implemented features. But I managed to get a runnable and well documented program in the last few minutes of the exam time, and left the NI Training Center with a bad feeling in my gut.

I did my best, it was not perfect, but after a few weeks of uncertainty I got the email that I passed the CLD exam 🙂  A running program, at least a good share of the required features, as much documentation and VI symbols as possible, a cleaned up and proper coding style, that’s what you need to pass the CLD exam. Prepare your self with the official CLD Success Package, practice the examples and get ready for a four hour coding sprint and you will become a Certified LabVIEW Developer, too.

Next Steps

This was just a small step in my LabVEW journey, many more will come and I look forward to it. Never stop learning and getting better at what you love! I have my next goal already in sight: passing the CLA certification in early 2019. See you at the next CLA Summit 😉

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