Chana Keating, Senior Modeler, Risk Management Solutions/Catastrophe Modeling

Chana Keating, Senior Modeler, Risk Management Solutions/Catastrophe Modeling

What is your educational background and what sparked your interest in atmospheric or related sciences?

I have my BS in Meteorology from NCSU and my MS in Meteorology from FSU. In school, math and science were always my favorite subjects, and Meteorology is the perfect blend of using math, science, and physics for real-world applications.

What was your first job in the field and how did you end up in the job you are in now? 

My first job after receiving my MS degree was with a start-up company called HWind Scientific, LLC, where I quality controlled wind observations from hurricanes from many different platforms, such as aircraft reconnaissance, satellite, surface stations, and buoys. The company was acquired by RMS, which is where I am now, and over the years I grew to lead our real-time operations team.

What opportunities did you pursue that you knew would be beneficial to securing a job in the profession? 

I attended and presented at professional conferences as a student and tried to make contacts and friends in the industry. Having mentors that can help guide you when you aren't sure how to get started is valuable, and networking at conferences is important for meeting different people and learning about different opportunities.

What other courses/skills beyond the required math and science courses do you think would be the most helpful to individuals wanting a career in your profession?   

Basic programming skills are a must. Python is popular, and there are a lot of free resources for learning Python, so you can learn it even if it isn't taught formally in class. Understanding how to visualize and work with various formats of geophysical data is important, especially netCDF files. Elective courses on remote sensing would also be beneficial for someone required to quality control data.

What is your typical day on the job like?

Since I lead a team, I meet frequently with team members to help brainstorm and guide next steps on individual projects. Ongoing projects may require implementing programming solutions, researching peer reviewed literature and methodologies, and preparing content to present to coworkers and clients. And during an active hurricane event, I usually work odd hours (sometimes nights and weekends) to observe and quality control wind observations in real-time and create products for clients in a timely manner. This also requires technical troubleshooting and working as part of team under strict time constraints.

What do you like most about your job? What is the most challenging thing about your job?

I most like working with a team to solve problems. During an active hurricane event, our whole team becomes hyper-focused on that specific event and it's unique features and impacts. I enjoy that we get to translate the scientific aspects of a hurricane to its societal impacts. The most challenging part of the job is weighing the ideas/projects that are most scientifically interesting against the ideas/projects that are most beneficial to our clients/company. Understanding and balancing client needs with the desire to perform typical research that might occur in an academic setting is important, but the answer is not always obvious.

Does your job allow for a good work/life balance? If not, why?

Yes, for the most part. My job has a "busy" season which limits my ability to take time off or vacations and requires me to keep an irregular schedule that includes nights and weekends. However, I am able to work from home during irregular hours, and outside of active hurricane events there is great flexibility to take care of things outside of work, such as health appointments, fitness, tasks at home, etc.

Over the course of your career what is the most exciting thing that has happened to you?    

The most exciting thing that has happened to me during my career has been the opportunity to travel to and work from our company's office in London. I have visited the office about once per year and have been able to stay over to do some sightseeing as well.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career?

I wish that I had been more open to moving to a new/different city early in my career. I think that would have led to further networking opportunities and meeting new and interesting people.

What are some "must haves" on a resume if a person wants to gain employment in your field?

Basic/intermediate programming skills, data visualization skills, expertise in tropical cyclone meteorology or other natural catastrophes, evidence of self-taught skills and/or side projects not simply related to coursework.