Why I started my PhD

A lot of people choose to work on a particular profession either because they can do it or believe they could do it very well from their past experience, or because they really love that kind of work and are eager to devote their energy and time into it. Then in my case, I am more of the first type of person (while for what I love to do is currently not that strong enough to make it a career). I am qualified with very good scores in college and I can learn and understand the whole software and programming stuff very quickly. On the other hand, I do have some enjoyable time when designing software and coding. Well, it’s hard to distinguish whether it’s the discipline itself or the achievement out of studying that gives me the joy.

There was a time in my second year that I was obsessed in reading the Programmer magazine. It is a Chinese magazine and talks a lot of new technologies, current situations and famous persons in China IT industry. It was at that time I was exposed to the words such as SOA, and most important of all, software architects. Well, you can imagine how hard it is to read those articles for a second year student who has just stepped into the world of programming and software for only one year. Despite of those obscure concepts in those articles, ‘architects’ catches my eyes all the time. I got to know that there are only a few real architects in China and it is very hard to become an architect.  I had a strong fascination on architects because of their great power and magical ability to map out the software without really coding as I understood at that time. Hence I then was determined to become an architect in the future.

But two years later, I am much clearer about how difficult it is to become an architect. And I know that the situations for programmers in Chinaare really not as what I expected, combined with the fierce competitions among peers and the fact that I still think my knowledge in this field is too little to guarantee a relatively smooth shortcut to become an architect. As a result, I chose to pursue further education which is essentially why I end up here as a PhD student. This is not a very strong motivation from an academic perspective and consequently to a large extent it brings me some challenges during my research.

While most of my courses in Jilin Universityfocus on the computer science part which are hard technologies and theories as opposed to the soft part of software engineering such as software analysis and design, development process, quality assurance etc. I can do programming very well but I don’t think I’d like to work with computers most of the time for jobs in the future. I prefer communications with people. And I believe I have good personal communication skills (at least among friends…). Therefore, requirements attracted my attention in my third year. Well, I have to mention that Norah and probably J.J. as well regard me as a shy girl, which to be honest really strikes me out. None of my friends or people who know me in China would think me any closer to ‘shy’. But as a matter of fact, when I look at how I behave here in UL, it seems yes, I really look shy… Why is this happening? Because of cultural difference? I don’t know yet. But no matter what circumstances I am, I really should just be the real me.

At the beginning, I was with great confidence that doing a PhD, though much tougher than and different from finishing undergraduate, should be just another challenge in study, definitely a thing within my capability to manage well. But looking back now when I am in my second year through PhD, I find that confidence is really naïve and out of no where. Though I still hold confidence that I am a capable person to finish my study, what I miss at the starting point is that I haven’t thoroughly thought about and understood what kind of challenges in and the real essence of PhD research. I started this PhD journey without a clear goal unlike the cases of most PhD students starting after years of industry experience who are often equipped with strong motivation, clear questions and goals in their mind. What I say here doesn’t mean that I never think about what my goals are. The fact is that my goals change very often and are not clear at all as I am not that determined about what I really want. So I wonder things around and hence there are even times that I lost goals. But now I think it’s time to make it clear and when it changes later, just make it clear again. As the benefit of a clear goal in mind is same as that of a beacon for a ship, I do need it to guide me now.

Thinking while walking

I am not a fan of walking until I tried with the idea of ‘thinking while walking’ which is introduced to me by Norah. Of course, this walking here I mean is walking alone, especially at sunset. One superiority of walking in Limerickis that I can enjoy a very beautiful and wide land view of the environment surrounding me, which really helps me open my minds somehow, and I have never experienced that when walking in my hometown. It might seem to be a very simple idea when think about ‘thinking while walking’. However, it is not until I really tried it that I consciously realize how helpful and powerful it could be, because the contemplation and introspection it perfectly facilitates pull me out of predicaments whenever I am depressed or at a loss about some things.
Introspection and contemplation seem to be barely a very simple and little thing that everyone can do no matter when and where. But I happened to be one person that always fails to consciously examine myself regularly just because I can’t find the right time and place. It doesn’t mean that I am very busy but that I can’t focus on what I am trying to do. For example, I do ‘thinking’ when I am lying in the bed at night before sleep, what usually happens is that I could recall and analyze a few things happened lately for the first few minutes but later soon I either fall asleep or wonder about some other things that magically come into my mind and then fall asleep. Though I do have done some thinking in that way but it’s too light to help with any problems at all. While in most other times of a day, I am either not alone or occupied with works or not far from any distractions, which all signify that it’s not the right time for thinking. That’s my situation and I’d like to believe that there are many people like me as well.
My early life experience doesn’t urge me to do much serious thinking. But as situations change now, I need to do that frequently. It’s good to find out walking is the suitable way for me. Walking slowly and alone is a very different circumstance that isolates myself from any distractions and provides a period of time to let myself immersed in my thoughts, combined with a visual enjoyment, body relaxation and calmness in my heart. Meanwhile, my brain could function so well that most problems could be sorted out in some way. Therefore, after such a walking, I always feel assured and motivated again usually with certain goals and plans in my mind. I think, I should do this ‘thinking while walking’ more frequently in the future.