Speaking little English, Ji-Wu Jia came to the United States with his wife and son in 1989 from Beijing, China, a society that is much more open to the world now than years ago. Home to the 2008 Olympics, Beijing is also where Jia received a bachelor’s degree in computer programming from Beijing College of Economics. He later obtained a master’s degree in Management Information Systems from the University of Baltimore. Since 2007 Jia has been a doctoral student majoring in computer science at Bowie State University, taking classes during the evening and, working as a PeopleSoft lead developer in the Division of Information Technology (DIT) during the day.
He says the knowledge he has gained as a doctoral student in the computer science program has helped him to improve his job skills in computer programming. “I can make programs more efficient, faster and reduce redundancy. For example, I was able to reduce the running time of a (particular) finance report from one hour to two minutes.” Jia enrolled in the doctoral program to advance his knowledge in computer science so he is pleased this is already happening.
Understanding Jia’s motivation for pursuing a doctorate helps to explain why this quiet and seemingly unassuming man’s eyes light up as he talks about his work. He speaks slowly and methodically as he explains that his job involves customizing a software system called PeopleSoft which the University uses to provide web-based access to its business functions. His work revolves around requests generated from his supervisor, co-workers or staff who work outside of his division. He relates the process to a circle because it always starts at the request and always ends once production is complete. Jia sees each request as a problem to solve. Sometimes the requests begin with a meeting to discuss the specifics such as the data and format. He says that he may take a day, one week or two weeks to complete the request. “Some problems are harder to solve,” he says. Once Jia thinks he has found a solution to the problem, he tests the results and takes them to the user to make sure he has met his or her request. When the requestor is satisfied with the results, the circle is complete.
Jia makes clear he likes to solve computer programming problems so he sees himself doing the same thing 10 years from now but with a doctorate in computer science to boost his credentials.