One of the most exciting things that has happened to me was coming to NOAA to work on applied science to advance our forecasts of too much and too little water. Working as a public servant is a big responsibility but is extremely gratifying and, let's face it, NOAA's mission of science, service, and stewardship is pretty cool.
New problems present an opportunity to apply my knowledge and experience to form a new solution. I like to look at problems in different ways to find the best approach to fix an issue or extend the system to meet a new requirement. Working with a great team toward a solution that will benefit the NWS forecasters and allow them to do their jobs properly and efficiently is very satisfying.
I love that weather is such a huge player in the energy markets. To be able to do something as fun and challenging as predicting prices across an entire energy grid, while still being able to involve my first passion—weather—on a daily basis is a dream come true.
What makes atmospheric science so compelling is there is so much more to figure out. I love the challenge of trying to make sense of the puzzle without having all the pieces... and then communicating what we do know to improve business and society.
I can tell you that being a degreed meteorologist and competent developer is a dynamite combination. Given how our field is coming to grips with the probabilistic nature of all forecasts, I also wish I were better versed in statistics than I am.
I recently went back to school for a masters degree in emergency management. The curriculum focused on the societal impacts of weather. I really enjoyed classes on cross-sector collaboration and hazards planning, to help me understand more about how weather information is used by other professionals like planners, emergency managers, and government officials.
For academia, especially at a four-year institution, you must have a passion for teaching and desire to connect with students. I always look for faculty who have demonstrated exceptional performance in the classroom as well as in their research.
The most special, and rare, thrills of my job are having a truly collaborative experience with another colleague(s). The synergy of several minds working together from different perspectives, but oriented towards the same goal is an incredibly exhilarating experience from which the best scientific discoveries originate.
The world doesn't need more traditional meteorologists, but rather, needs meteorologists who also have expertise in other disciplines to more effectively connect weather impacts to society. The wonderful thing about the weather is that it impacts everyone and everything, so career options are truly limitless.
During graduate school, I worked hard to share my code, data, and anything else with the field. That led to collaborations that built my network and helped me land a postdoc position.
When discussions about tours of the National Weather Center began when we moved into the facility, I knew this opportunity would not only improve my communication and public-speaking skills, but that it would also allow me to build relationships with people inside and outside the NWC. We would never know when we were interviewing for a job because of some of the unique visitors that would tour the facility, so I was able to market myself and build my brand over 13+ years of tours.
In our science, you really need to be able to demonstrate that you have good people skills. Inevitably, there are tense situations on the job and its essential to maintain a cool and logical perspective on the many challenges at hand. Your resume should have a way to reflect this characteristic within you and your letters of recommendation should highlight these desirable traits.
The ability (skill) to clearly and effectively distill complicated scientific concepts in a manner that the typical business professional can comprehend is vital. It is also important to identify how the science connects to the business. Know your customer's wants/needs. How could they benefit from the information you are providing them?
The best aspect of my job is the continual learning process. Every day spent programming is an opportunity to learn new tips, tricks, and techniques, and I keep a repository of code and subroutines that can be applied to future programs. Although it can be daunting I also try to keep up with the latest developments in computer science including artificial intelligence and machine learning.
I would encourage individuals wanting a career in meteorology to develop their leadership and social interaction skills. A clear majority of meteorologists are introverted by nature, yet a majority of what we do within the National Weather Service requires us to interact with people on the phone, brief emergency managers in person, conduct media interviews and/or manage teams in a stressful environment.
Another useful skill that I did not realize until recently was convening and organizing sessions at large scientific conferences. It is good for students who plan to go into research to gain experience in organizing meetings related to topics of interest.
Social media helps me reach those who do not seek out traditional media news sources. I would encourage all students to find opportunities for science communication and to reach out and try it. This is becoming more important all the time.
Experience, whether paid or unpaid. Take internships or many job shadow opportunities so you know what is expected in the work. Commitment in jobs. If you bounce between jobs every couple months, that sends red flags. You need to spend a year or two at the same place to establish trust and connection with viewers and to begin to understand local variations in weather.
Emergency management or any disaster preparedness course you can take would be very beneficial! The NWS has great ties with this community, so having some background knowledge of this subject will go a long way and make you more marketable.
My first job after the masters was with North American Weather Consultants working on air pollution monitoring and prediction, and also some work on weather modification. This was an exciting job doing field research: driving 4X4 trucks, riding in helicopters, serving in right seat on research flights—about 1/3 of my work was outdoors and I loved it.