LabWare LIMS Interview Questions

I was looking at my blog statistics for two days ago and discovered that someone found my blog by using the search term “labware lims interview questions” and wanted to address this more specifically. Let’s discuss the types of questions you’ll ask. First of all, by using the term “interview” we’re talking about interviewing people to bring onto your project. You could, of course, just contact me, Gloria Metrick, a LabWare LIMS expert, and make it easy on yourself.   🙂  But supposing you don’t want to take my word for it or have other reasons to interview other people, here are some thoughts on how to get started on this task.

General Questions

Since the LabWare LIMS is considered a COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) with “configuration” but is not boxed software (such as buying MS Office, for example), some of your questions must relate to this. Falling in this category are its competitors, SQL*LIMS, many of Thermo’s products, StarLIMS, and even products such as PE LabWorks. Of course, there are a multitude of products that fall into this category, for various industries, and meant for different installations. And then, outside of LIMS, various ELN products follow this model, as do some of the other types of software.

With regard to people like the Project Manager, while it’s ideal that this person has experience with managing a project with this software, but they should, at least, have experience with laboratory informatics software installations of this size.

As for the others, you need to find people that specifically know the software. Additionally, for those people that will work with this category of COTS software, here are some points to consider:

  • They should have worked on exceptions-based projects, before. That is to say, you’re neither building software from-scratch nor are you installing boxed software. There are many skills specific to this type of project.
  • One specific skill is that people who configure/script/customize/program these systems need strong software development skills on top of a strong knowledge of the actual software.

Those of us that implement these systems, true to our type of people all over the world on all types of systems for all types of uses – we don’t like to document things. For us, the fun part is getting the system working. We will make many excuses. Here are a few:

  • This is all self-documenting, so no-one needs to write this down.
  • Even though this looks like programming code, it’s just configuring, so no-one needs to write it down.
  • Well, okay, it really might need to be written down, but don’t use the expensive resources to do this – you’re wasting that person’s time and your money by doing this – push all documentation off onto the cheaper people.

When we say this to you, I give you permission to laugh out loud and right in our face. As for the last excuse, well, that might apply to some of the test scripts, because you actually can find some ways to leverage your use of cheaper resources if you plan this and train them well, but the system documentation is actually more cheaply done by the resources that do the work. Sometimes, in protest, they do a sloppy job and it ends up costing you more. Be ready for this. Make it clear to them you won’t put up with this. Be clear that mistakes and misunderstandings are one thing, but if it looks like they’re just being difficult that it comes our of their pocket not yours and make this agreement ahead of time.

Specific Questions

On top of these skills, you want people who know the software you’re going go purchase or are enhancing. Business Analysts, people doing data loading, programmers, testers (including validation testing), script writers – these people should all have experience with the product involved. Script writers, testers and data loaders must have some familiarity with the system and good learning abilities in order to learn any parts of the system they haven’t used before, but those people configuring/scripting/customizing/programming the system need a deeper knowledge.

So, you’ll need to find out what you’ll specifically need from these people. If you’re working specifically with the LabWare LIMS, as an example, you want people that worked with the areas of the system that you’re implementing. Some areas, such as Stability, Dissolution, Instrument Interfacing – these are all big pieces to implement. You want to prioritize that, if you need one of these areas implemented, that it’s probably a higher priority than getting someone with experience in some of the areas that are smaller. Also, by knowing one area of the system, a person often does know other areas, too. For example, to work with LabWare’s Stability module, a person also has to understand Lot Manager. Well, I’ll say this, instead – anyone who doesn’t understand LabWare’s Lot Manager has no business working with the LabWare Stability Manager, for one.

But you get the idea. If you’re working with StarLIMS, there will be specific areas you’ll be interested in, Thermo’s Watson will drive-out different questions, etc…

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

8 Replies to “LabWare LIMS Interview Questions”

    1. The LIMS Administrator needs to be able to manage the day-to-day LIMS operation. It is common that the LIMS Administrator will be able to add new users, maintain the bug list, work with the software vendor when bugs are reported and fixed, that sort of thing. If the system needs some database maintenance or IT activities, the LIMS Administrator often works with the database people on these issues. This is the person who makes sure the system is running and usable, every day. In some companies, this person might also have to write code, such as LIMS Basic, be able to configure and program new sample login templates or analyses, or sometimes even develop and write entirely new programs in the system.

      In most cases, the LIMS Admin is required to have both a strong knowledge of the LIMS and its configuration, as well as an understanding of how to manage bugs with the software vendor, and also some idea how the system is maintained at the database side, so that they can understand when to call in the database people for backup restoration or other similar tasks. If they are required to develop and program new modules, they need programming experience, too, and need a deep understanding of the entire system.

      The role of the LIMS Admin varies, though. In some companies, the groups will add their own users, for example. Sometimes, the company will not have the LIMS Admin do any programming, but will save that for someone else to do. For example, the LIMS Admin sometimes saves programming tasks as they come up, or just saves the larger programming tasks that come up, either because that person doesn’t have time to work on them or because that is not their role. Sometimes, I am called in by companies to go through these tasks and add them to LabWare or SampleManager LIMS systems, and I’m sure the vendors get some of these calls, too, to add these items, after-the-fact. What I am saying is that some LIMS Admins will program a lot, some will program just the smallest items (like Sample Login Template field pulls), others will never touch any code (such as LIMS Basic, VGL or C#).

      The bottom line is, as I stated, this person needs to make sure the system is running and usable, every day, and this will vary slightly by the company they are working at. I do know there are services companies that provide LIMS Admins as a service, where they are probably on retainer, but I do not know exactly what skills these people have. I would suspect they probably have a wide variety of skills so that they can work for just about any customer that calls them, whether the needs are more along the lines of maintaining user IDs or as complex as writing brand new code for the system. But, this topic is a little different than that of asking what an ordinary LIMS Admin does. However, I thought I’d include that, in case there’s anyone out there reading this wondering about it, since it’s somewhat related.

    1. The LIMS Consultant basically fills-in where needed. There are different ways in which customers need an extra hand. If a customer wants to buy a LIMS or ELN, if they have never dealt with this type of software, or have never made such a large purchase, they might not have the in-house knowledge on how to get started on this. A customer who has already purchased a system might not have anyone that knows the system they’ve purchased who can implement it. Sometimes, a customer doesn’t even have a person they would train to take on this role. In that case, the customer often hires a consultant to come in and do the implementation of the system.

      In some cases, the role of the consultant is merely to advise the project. If a customer wants to buy a system or to implement it, doesn’t have experience in it, but has plenty of staff, they might have a consultant available to give guidance. In that case, the consultant might attend meetings, read documents, answer questions on how to best proceed, that sort of thing.

      You can look at the consultant either as an extra pair of hands or as someone who uses their expertise to guide the project or some portion of the project. There are many different types of consultants out there and customers have a wide variety of needs.

      No consultant or consulting company can offer everything, either. For example, someone was outlining some work they would like me to do and they mentioned compliance. As it happens, while I do work with systems that must be compliant, I do not do any compliance consulting and I did say so. So, while I’ve worked almost every part of a project, from product selection to business analysis to implementation, there are still things I do not do – where I don’t have experience and don’t feel I could do it justice. That is true not just of my small company, but even the largest consulting companies don’t necessarily offer absolutely every service.

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