European CLA Summit

I recently attended the European CLA Summit in Vienna, and as seems to be custom nowadays I have written a blog post about it!

What is the CLA Summit

The Certified LabVIEW Architect (CLA) Summit is an annual event organised by the CLA community and kindly supported (i.e. paid for) by the nice folks at National Instruments. This year the European CLA Summit was held in Vienna, Austria between 7 and 9 March. It is a chance for the CLA community to get together and not only discuss all things LabVIEW, but also talk about all the other things an “Architect” should be knowledgeable of. After all, the role of an architect is not limited to the design of the application, but to also ensure the infrastructure is there to allow efficient execution of the project. The software architect should put in place all the items that would not be found in the software specification, such as SCC, requirements planning, etc. Imagine if you moved into your brand new house, only to discover that nobody thought to connect the water to the mains supply.

Making a Contribution

The theme of this years CLA Summit was “Real life LabVIEW – Architects in the Real World” and as this was the 3rd CLA Summit I have attended I decided it was time to contribute something to the community and maybe volunteer to make a presentation.

In 2016 iNU Solutions had successfully placed an Add-on onto the LabVIEW Tools Network and also created an online eCommerce platform to sell the product. This process was found to be a little overly complicated and the information required was very — how shall I put it — widely distributed over the internet.

After receiving the confirmation of the topic I thought that this would be a very good fit and volunteered myself to present, which was kindly accepted by the organiser.

So, that was me presenting. Only one problem… I am terrified of standing up in front of crowds, speaking to crowds, being in crowds, anything to do with crowds really.

As is the norm when I have to do something that I do not want to do, I started to think about what excuse I could give that would result in me backing out but not losing face. Not going to the event was one option, but this is the No. 1 event for LabVIEW Architects in Europe so this was quickly ruled out. Telling the organiser that I no longer wanted to present, well by the time my panic had set in the agenda had been set and my name was on it. After a few days I came to the conclusion that basically I had no other option but to “strap on a pair” and present.

It’s ok I thought, it’s still 3 months away no need to worry.

It’s ok I thought, it’s still 2 months away no need to worry.

It’s ok I thought, it’s still a month away no need to worry.

It’s ok I thought, it’s still 2 weeks away no need to worry.

The CLA Summit

Monday 6 March at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

It became very real. Don’t panic I thought, the presentation is safely stored in my Apple iCloud, there was a copy on my phone, on my memory stick and I had also emailed a version to the organiser. So the presentation was safe. The topic was something I was very familiar with, so I decided that if all else fails I would just keep talking and talking. In at the deep end, sink or swim, the list goes on.

Tuesday 7 March, first day of the CLA Summit.

The organiser stands up and proudly announces that this year is the biggest summit ever, 170 of Europe’s greatest LabVIEW Architects (and a few Americans) are in attendance.

My blood pressure rockets and plummets, my heart rate soars and drops, all at exactly the same time. My nerves pack up their bags and leave me a quivering wreck, sat watching seasoned professionals present topics with a familiarity of talking to family members and with the ease of discussing something they know inside and out. The confidence of these people should have filtered through to me, if only I could just stop the screaming in my head!!

Wednesday 8 March, presentation day.

First up on the mornings agenda is Jeff Kodosky, the “Father of LabVIEW” and the cofounder of National Instruments. Oh good.

Second on the agenda, Stephen Loftus-Mercer, all round software genius and probably the most respected figure at the event (sorry Jeff if you’re reading this, but you’ve got to face facts). Not only that but he is Jeff’s right hand man, and from what I understand the brains behind most of the LabVIEW features for the past 10 years. Triffic!

15 minute break then I’m on.

Standing to the side of the stage waiting to be introduced something amazing happens, several people walk over and give me a gentle pat on the shoulder. “You’ll be ok” they all say. Some of them I know, others I have never seen before. One guy even gets up from his chair and walks the whole way around the hall to give me a few words of encouragement.

I am 36 years old and have only spent a maximum of 6 days with these people, yet many spotted my discomfort and took the time to speak. In all my professional career I have never felt so welcome, at home and “unjudged” as I did at that moment.

So now I’m up there, on stage. It turns out that 170 is quite a lot of people, especially when they are all staring straight at you!

No backing out now, just need to start talking. Get the first line out, make my first joke, hopefully get a laugh, carry on, don’t forget to breath, look at the audience not my shoes, try not to swear, I know this and I can do it! Then something else amazing happens, my heart rate drops, my fists unclench and I realise I am doing it, I am up there presenting at the CLA summit. Over 170 people are listening to me, laughing with me, some are even agreeing with me. Some of the most respected figures in the LabVIEW community, Stephen, Jeff, Steve, Fab, all listening to little old me. Surreal.

One hour into my 45 minute presentation (sorry about that Richard) and I’m finished, people are clapping, no-one has thrown anything, some are actually smiling. It’s over, and relax. “Did I manage to make it through without swearing?” I asked the guy who collected my microphone, “just the 4 times” was his reply. Maybe next time.

That lunch time I find myself sat next to the one and only Mr Kodosky, we are chatting about the impact of Twitter and FaceBook on society and how people communicate. The conversation moves on to music and I find myself recommending films and albums to Jeff, if there is such a word as “surrealer” then this is its definition.

That afternoon I am back on stage taking part in a panel discussion about maintaining and growing a LabVIEW related business. I was with 5 others and this was a far more calm affair, more like a conversation than a presentation.

A group of us go out for dinner that evening in Vienna, we have some great food and talk all evening about all kinds of stuff, Brexit, Trump, families, vacations, Apple v Samsung, the list is long and random.

Thursday 9 March, final day and travel home.

This mornings topics are more focussed on the future of LabVIEW and are all given by NI employees. This is the bit where we get to see where our beloved LabVIEW is heading, what the next big things will be and how it will impact our way of working.

The closing announcements are made, people are thanked, prizes are handed out and everyone is excused.

The 2017 European CLA Summit is officially over, I try and find out a location and timeframe for next years but no-one is giving anything away.

A group of us travel to the airport and have lunch, conversation turns to the presentations and to my great relief people enjoyed my effort.

On the flight back home I relaxed into my cramped chair, put on my headphones  (B&O H8, noise cancelling, Bluetooth, they are amazing!) and took comfort from the knowledge I had finally arrived in the LabVIEW community. This is, after all, part of one mans journey to seek approval!


Shortly after returning from Vienna I stumbled upon this great quote from the adventurer Bear Grylls:

“I’ve learned that the best way over our fears is right bang through the middle. It really is. The only way you don’t see the fear is when you’re right on it.” (Taken from the BBC News website on 22 March 2017)

After my experience and the rollercoaster of emotions I can wholly agree with this statement. Anyone who knows me will agree that presenting to groups is really not my thing, that may still be true but at least now it doesn’t fill me with fear. Either way, I have already thought of a topic for next year!

My one last remaining task is to thank NI for holding the event, Richard for allowing me to present, and for everyone who’s kind words and actions allowed me to conquer one of my biggest fears and come out the other end stronger, better and a little bit funnier!

My presentation can be found in the CLA Community here

If you have never been to the CLA Summit I would highly recommend going, it is one of my favourite events of the year and by far the most valuable to my personal growth and development as a LabVIEW Architect. The people there are friendly, welcoming and strangely sociable considering the type of event! I have left every summit having made new friends that I look forward to seeing again at the next one.

I look forward to seeing you next year, where ever that may be!

Pictures courtesy of Richard Thomas and Fabiola de le Cueva