John Nicola, Energy Analyst, SESCO Enterprises / Energy

John Nicola, Energy Analyst, SESCO Enterprises / Energy


Please include details about your educational background and what sparked your interest in atmospheric or related sciences.

The 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Season was one to remember. From Charley to Jeanne, the U.S. had quite the month of August and September that year. I was constantly glued to the Weather Channel coverage those two months. That is what spurred my interest in the weather. It might have been meant to be given I was born on the day Hurricane Andrew made landfall in FL.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Penn State was a no-brainer. I completed the Weather Risk Management track within the meteorology program. After a summer internship in the weather insurance field and a year in the energy field, I decided to go back and complete a master's degree in computational math. Improving my technical skills from statistics to coding was a big interest of mine.

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

Weather Application Support Analyst - Verisk. This position was more customer facing, but also give me an inside look at the products we were developing for insurance customers to verify the legitimacy of weather-related claims they were receiving. I'm in my current position partly due to the skill set I gained from my master's degree but also with the help of connections I made as an undergrad at Penn State. Never underestimate the benefit of the professional relationships you make during college.

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

Going back for a master's degree, as mentioned above, certainly helped. Taking part in various mentorship programs offered by AMS had a huge impact, though. I'm still a member of the Financial Wx/Climate Risk Management Committee, a committee I became a student member on seven years ago. Attending AMS and NWA also helped allow me to make connections. The atmospheric science community is a small, tight-knit one, so having connections is not only normal, but helpful.

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?

Programming, whether it be R or Python. Statistics and machine learning/modeling courses.

What is your typical day on the job like?

I work for an energy trading shop with the quantitative trading team. My morning is consumed with understanding the current state of the market and evaluating the trades our models are proposing for the next day. By late morning, I've submitted our team's trades and can begin to work on team projects for the rest of my day. These projects can range from gathering new data or creating new features for our models, implementing new models or trading strategies, and creating visualization dashboards for our model output or trade performance.

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

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.

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

My team is full of self-driven individuals. We are constantly pushing each other to be better for the good of the team. For me personally, I am happy with the work/life balance. This could be a result of getting used to it over time, but given that the energy markets never close, there are certainly 7 day work weeks (just the mornings on the weekends to submit trades).

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

My career is still only a few years old, but I'd have to say it's having gotten the opportunity to trade the energy markets.

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

I wish I better understood the importance and future application of my programming classes from undergrad.

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

Proficiency or exposure to Python and/or R coupled with a strong statistical/modeling background (whether that be from your studies or previous work experience). Finally, just a drive to learn. The energy markets aren't really something you're taught the ins and outs of during school.