Champion Credits LabVIEW Community for Mastering Skills

Publish Date: May 25, 2010 | 11 Ratings | 4.73 out of 5 | Print | 2 Customer Reviews | Submit your review

Table of Contents

  1. The 2010 Certified LabVIEW Architect Summit
  2. Double Knight of NI

Mark Balla is a Certified LabVIEW Architect (CLA) who has been developing with NI LabVIEW software since 1997.

He works for Tecnova, a National Instruments Alliance Partner and Certified Design Partner. Outside his day job, Mark is active in giving back to the LabVIEW community, which has contributed to his progression to a “LabVIEW guru.” Mark sat down with us to discuss his experiences with LabVIEW, how he improved his LabVIEW skills, and the benefits he receives from the LabVIEW community.

 Q: What were some of the first projects you worked on with LabVIEW?

A: I first heard about LabVIEW when I was an engineering student working at Underwriters Laboratories in Northbrook, Illinois. I had been researching software to help with automated safety testing and came across the new LabVIEW 4.0. I was able to load the demo software onto one of the engineer’s computers so we could play with it. I remember loving that you could draw computer code instead of having to type it out.

Figure 1. Mark Balla, CLA, has been developing with LabVIEW since 1997

After graduating, I went to work for a controls company as a test engineer. In my job interview, I told my future boss that if I was going to build testers, I wanted to do it in LabVIEW. He sent me to the basic courses, and that was the beginning of my career as a LabVIEW engineer.

My first LabVIEW project was a rotary encoder tester. After floundering with the equipment for two weeks, my boss and I came to the conclusion that we needed help. We contacted a National Instruments sales engineer who recommended a local NI Alliance Partner that could help us with the tester. For the next six months, I looked over his shoulder and absorbed as much LabVIEW knowledge as possible. Having someone there to teach me the correct way to do things gave me a great start and I learned early on about state machines, functional global variables, and basic user interface techniques. I highly recommend that new users find a mentor who can show them how to do things correctly.

The coolest thing I have worked on as a LabVIEW programmer was a tester and calibrator for an intelligent 15 KV power distribution switch. It took every ounce of LabVIEW skills I had to complete this project, which included a variety of hardware such as 8½-digit digital multimeters (DMMs), matrix switching, phase meters, Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) communications, data acquisition devices, and wireless communications.

 Q: What did you do to improve your LabVIEW programming skills?

A: I learned early on to speak with people as much as I could about LabVIEW. One of my favorite sayings is, “I would rather learn from my peers than from my mistakes.” I joined the LabVIEW user group in southern Wisconsin and eventually became a member of its steering committee. We would meet once a quarter and plan the presentations for the upcoming user group meetings. It was a great way to learn about the new features coming up in LabVIEW, as well as techniques for writing better code.

I have been a Certified LabVIEW Developer (CLD) since 2002. As a programmer within a corporation, I took the certification exam just to prove to myself that I was as good a programmer as I thought. However, when I went into consulting, it became more important because it gave our clients more confidence in my abilities. In the process of preparing for my CLD and CLA exams, I investigated new techniques and called other developers to ask for advice. In the end, I learned how to create better code and made some new friends along the way.

NIWeek 2010 will be the 12th consecutive NIWeek I have attended. Initially, I attended NIWeek to absorb as much new knowledge as possible. Now, I find myself looking forward to whom I am going to see and spend time with. NIWeek is the ultimate LabVIEW user group meeting – building a strong network of fellow LabVIEW programmers makes a big difference in how well you can improve your skills.

Q: How do you give back to the LabVIEW community?

A: I have spent the last 14 years professionally programming in LabVIEW, but I have found that my focus for success has shifted from the technical side of engineering to a more personal side.

I am currently the code repository administrator for the LabVIEW Advanced Virtual Architects (LAVA) website at lavag. org. It is a website, independent of, where LabVIEW newcomers and gurus visit to ask questions and share ideas, code, and wire working philosophy. As the code repository administrator, I review code that members want to share. LAVA helped me excel at LabVIEW. With the time I have spent interacting on the site, my programming skills have increased fivefold.


Figure 2. Developers can take advantage of multiple LabVIEW tools, events, and resources for guidance

I am also enthusiastic about teaching others how to use LabVIEW, through answering questions on LAVA, teaching a LabVIEW course, and mentoring my hometown FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics team. The greatest teaching opportunities that I have had are when time and opportunity allow me to instruct someone one-on-one. I attend user group meetings and other local events and recently took part in the first-ever Certified LabVIEW Architect Summit. It was a great chance to meet with some of the best LabVIEW programmers in the world. During the years, LabVIEW has been the vehicle that has allowed me to meet high-level engineers. Although I continue to keep up with the latest technology and always look for new tricks of the trade, I believe that the greatest part of my job is meeting and exchanging ideas with engineers and scientists. LabVIEW is the commonality between us.

Access LabVIEW developer resources.

1. The 2010 Certified LabVIEW Architect Summit

The National Instruments inaugural Certified LabVIEW Architect Summit was held March 8–9 at the NI corporate headquarters in Austin, Texas. More than 30 CLAs attended the two-day event for a variety of technical sessions and networking events. Highlights included the following: 

  • Presentations on preannounced challenge problems 
  • Sessions on common architecture issues 
  • CLA recertification exam 
  • One-on-one meetings with NI developers 

NI will continue to offer special events and opportunities for its community of certified engineers, so make sure you are certified and plugged into the community.

Get certified.

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2. Double Knight of NI

LabVIEW Champion Dennis Knutson has been an active member of the NI Discussion Forums for the past nine years. Recently, Dennis hit the “double knight” of NI mark by increasing his posts from 10,000 to 20,000 in the last three years. National Instruments would like to commend Dennis for his insightful contributions.

Congratulate Dennis.

This article first appeared in the Q2 2010 issue of Instrumentation Newsletter.

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Customer Reviews
2 Reviews | Submit your review

LabVIEW Geezer  - Jun 4, 2010

I guess I qualify as a LabVIEW geezer since I've been working with it starting in 1990 with version 2 on the Mac. I have been using it on a variety of R&D applications, industrial control, automated testing of avionics and biomedical devices, and seismic projects, like the SeismoData earthquake monitoring display at a local TV station. I was also certified as a LabVIEW instructor back in 1996. While my 40+ years of experience include coding in FORTRAN, PASCAL, BASIC, C, C++, and assembly on various machines, none of those languages can match the intuitive and productive power of LabVIEW.

Early LabView  - Jun 1, 2010

Great job, I build my-self in LabView since 1994..early 3.1 and 3.13 for workgroups, and was e hard job. I really appreciate his effort and dedication going on. Go>>go>>go!

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