National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Jay Liang

Location: Norman, OK
Storm Prediction Center (SPC)
Job Title: Information Technology (IT) Specialist

Educational Background:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of Oklahoma
  • Master’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of Oklahoma

Describe the career path that led you to your current job with the National Weather Service.

  • I had a series of computer-related jobs at the University of Oklahoma. I started out as a Software Analyst then became a Senior Systems Administrator and later became a Technical Project Manager where I managed the Supercomputing Center. In 1997, I started working at SPC as a Technical Project Manager, supporting its 24x7 mission. In 2003, I became a federal employee as an IT Specialist.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • My primary duty is to support SPC’s 24x7 critical mission which is to use “innovative science and technology to deliver timely and accurate watch and forecast products/information dealing with tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, lightning, wildfires, and winter weather for the United States to protect lives and property”. This includes closely working with the SPC Science Support Branch (SSB) talented and dedicated professionals to manage IT system life cycles, IT security, web services, Geographical Information System (GIS) services, etc. My job involves a wide spectrum of computer-related work, ranging from managing IT infrastructure to support SPC 24x7 operations, Hazardous Weather Testbed (HWT) research to operations (R2O) activities, software/web development/testing/maintenance to IT security and looking to the future for emerging technologies that can help SPC and NWS to better serve the general public.

What was the most interesting, exciting, or impactful weather/water event you experienced while working for the NWS and why does it stand out?

  • From my perspective, the week prior to the November 17, 2013 outbreak was quite notable. A few days prior to the outbreak, we were working on migrating to a new operational file server and we ran into some technical issues which impacted SPC operations for several hours. With all hands on deck, the SPC SSB colleagues worked closely to fix the issue and the SPC was able to successfully handle the outbreak event.

What made you decide to pursue a career with the NWS?

  • I, like many NWS employees, believe the NWS Mission which is to “Provide weather, water, and climate data, forecasts and warnings for the protection of life and property and enhancement of the national economy”, was the driving force to pursue a career with the NWS. The NWS employees are willing to go the extra mile to accomplish its mission - a truly public service oriented Government agency.   

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • Not that many jobs have immediate impact to the general public day in and day out. Being a part of a dedicated, high-performing, professional organization with a life-saving mission is on top of my list. As a computer scientist, I love solving problems, so this job is extra rewarding.

What advice do you have for someone interested in a career with the NWS?

  • I think the first thing to do is to understand and believe in the NWS mission. There are many career paths one can take within the NWS, from scientific to technical to administrative. All of them contribute to the success of the NWS mission to serve the public good. If you are interested in a NWS career, I recommend engaging with your local forecast offices and interacting with NWS employees at professional conferences and seminars. Get engaged and start early.

What training or coursework would you recommend to someone interested in following your career path?

  • A strong STEM education background is very important in a science and technology-based organization, such as the NWS. However, the ability to effectively communicate and work with professionals in other disciplines can help one's career tremendously, as well as help to build a stronger organization.