Jonathan Kies

photo of Jonathan Kies

  • BA in Psychology (1992)
  • MS (1994) and PhD (1997) Industrial Systems & Engineering at Virginia Tech
  • Senior Director, User Experience at Qualcomm in San Diego, CA
  • Member of Department of Psychology's Alumni Advisory Board
  • attended Department of Psychology Open House (September 6, 2019)

My Profession

"I work at Qualcomm in San Diego, CA as Senior Director, User Experience, where I strive to optimize human functionality by the means of experience and technology. I help to lead the research and engineering for some of the most elevated innovations that exist today.

"One of the many interesting things I've worked on at Qualcomm was engineering the driverless car, otherwise termed as 'autonomy striving.' Qualcomm works to create an experience wherein the car essentially drives itself without the help of a human.

"There is always a need to think ahead and look at things through a logical perspective. For example, I've been wondering how we can pick up the small cues we make on the road, like a simple wave to let someone know they can go if someone is waiting at a crosswalk."

My Miami Experiences

"Miami University was able to provide me with an experience that allowed me to evaluate my strengths and interests in order to find a major that best suited me. Working in a psychology lab at Miami was a wonderful opportunity to gain some hands-on experience. It also gave me a sense of pride that I was contributing to something that was bigger than my classwork.

"I only wish I would have played more intramural sports and participated in outdoors clubs! I feel like these would have been a great way to know more people doing things that I enjoy."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"I didn't really know what I wanted to do when I came here. All I knew was that I liked to read, but once I was introduced to human factors, I knew that was what I really liked.

"In addition to working in a lab, Miami's liberal arts curriculum was not only able to provide me with an exploration in psychology and the study of human factors, but it also gave me experience in other fields that helped me along the way. I first began taking classes associated with literature, but soon found that my calling was in the ability to evaluate human experiences in a way that maximizes the efficiency of society.

"Once I declared a major in psychology, I was then able to see where I wanted to take my career. After Miami, I attended Virginia Tech and now hold both a PhD and MS in Industrial Systems & Engineering. Miami's strong statistics program, along with the study habits and quality education I received, played a large role in my success as a graduate student."

Advice to Students

"If you are comfortable with statistics and running experiments, you might be well-suited to a career in data science and potentially even artificial intelligence and machine learning, although you may need some additional post-graduate work in those areas. Lots of companies also need people who know how to collect feedback on a customer experience and translate those insights into solutions that will improve the business. Psychology majors can be well-positioned to be successful in these kinds of jobs.

"I'd also like to stress the importance of being able to provide ideas from consumer feedback in order to elevate a business. This can be accomplished by taking a very analytical approach to the field of psychology and applying it to the fast-paced world in which we live today. With innovation, the field of psychology becomes an essential tool to help improve the functionality of society.

"I encourage students to explore everything psychology has to offer, which can be anything from analyzing data science to working in the field of artificial intelligence. I also encourage students to try new things outside the classroom."

[September 2019]