Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What skills are needed for a job in machine vision?

In an effort to help job seekers, in “Machine vision – where the jobs are” I mentioned the two fields where I see recruitment activity taking place, and labeled them (perhaps unkindly,) as those who do and those that think. As a follow-on, I thought it might be useful to summarize what background and skills you need to get a job in those fields.

Let’s start with the thinkers – those who carry out research in machine vision. Companies like Cognex, Microsoft and Google seem to be hiring people for vision research but I think most of the opportunities are in universities. Landing one of these jobs will almost certainly require a PhD in machine vision, image processing, or a closely related field. On the plus side though, this is the way for vision people outside of the US to get a visa to work here.

I’m going to spend more time on the skills needed to “do” machine vision, because this is the area I know better. So here’s a list, in approximate priority order, of what I look for when I’m hiring new team members. (And no, I have no open positions right now. Sorry.)

This is what I like to see on a resume:
  • An excellent grasp of machine vision physics (lighting, optics, how a camera works – that kind of thing.) An interest in photography is a real plus because it means you really know depth of field, aperture settings and so on.
  • Strong problem solving skills, and I do mean solving rather than calling up a vendor and asking for a solution. You must be able to define the challenge and conceive and evaluate multiple solutions. Great tenacity and attention to detail will really help you out.
  • A good hands-on, action orientation. While thinking is good, I like to see people getting out in the workshop and trying ideas out. Don’t just talk about it, do it!
  • A variety of machine vision experience. This will sound harsh but if you’ve only used smart cameras from one vendor I think your experience is pretty limited. You should be familiar with multiple vision products, and preferably you’ll know PC vision too.
  • Good interpersonal skills. Good engineers tend not to be people people but if you work for me you’ll be expected to sell ideas as well as educate users in the details of machine vision. You’ll need to be able to look people in the eye and smile as you explain in non-technical terms why they must expect a proportion of false rejects.

You might notice that I’ve left out specific programming skills, controls and motion control expertise and electrical knowledge. It’s not that these are important – they are – but they’re meaningless without the points I’ve bulleted above. Okay, not meaningless, but they won’t get you a well paid machine vision job.

One last point, and this is aimed at those outside the US looking for a company to sponsor their visa application: it’s not going to happen. Sorry but no integration house is going to invest the money it takes to set someone up in the US. They’d rather pay top dollar for some home grown talent. So if you’re looking for machine vision to be your ticket to the land of the free, well aim for one of those ‘thinker” jobs I described above.

1 comment:

Alejandro Galindo said...

Great article, is the next going to be about the technical side? it would be really great, I've been wondering this for a long time.