Josh Darr, Head of North America Peril Advisory, Guy Carpenter

Josh Darr, Head of North America Peril Advisory, Guy Carpenter

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

At an early age I knew that I wanted to be a meteorologist as I would gaze at summer time cumulus clouds and be in awe (still am to this day!). As I ventured through high school in the 90s, I realized businesses had significant impacts, both good and bad, due to the weather. I went to Cornell for undergrad in Atmospheric Sciences, minoring in business and mathematics. Then I wanted to increase my technical and research skills and was fortunate to attend the University at Albany for grad school.

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

I landed an opportunity in the emerging field of applied meteorology in the insurance industry at a catastrophe modeling company called Risk Management Solutions, doing very little with meteorology but learning about the risk modeling and insurance industry. My first job was entry level data scrubbing, and quite frankly was a lot of grunt work where I felt under utilized given my graduate degree. However, I made the most of my first job and ultimately was afforded several opportunities to move up the ranks. Three years later, I was leading a global team of 25 analysts and was fortunate to gain leadership and management experience early in my career. Within RMS, I then transitioned to a product management and marketing role where I was able to leverage my meteorology and climate background, while moving my wife and I from NYC metro area to San Francisco. After 6 years at RMS, I left the insurance sector and obtained a dream job opportunity at Chesapeake Energy with two terrific colleagues (see next question for how that came about). After a terrific 6 year run at Chesapeake, our team was laid off in a corporate downsizing, and I went back into the insurance industry to consult on natural catastrophe risk to insurance companies. Six years later I am running a team of ten scientists and engineers providing those services to hundreds of insurance companies.

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

In my senior year of college, I took a spring break trip to Chicago from Ithaca, NY to shadow several meteorologists that were providing weather forecasting to the commodities industry at Citigroup. This trip was an incredibly eye opening experience to observe the business/weather/climate interface in action. I inquired about an internship and landed that opportunity, spending the summer between undergrad and grad school in Chicago. What an amazing experience! I also shadowed several other companies that had significant weather exposure during junior/senior year of college, which afforded me a low pressure opportunity to mock interview and learn more about companies impacted by weather. In addition to putting myself out there for a shadowing opportunities, I had a student subscription to the Wall Street Journal in college. Reading the WSJ everyday was a terrific education in understanding the real-world side of business and understanding more deeply how weather impacts commerce. The AMS mentorship program is a spectacular means to make connections in an industry that could ultimately afford an employment opportunity.

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?

If you were not able to be a meteorologist, what would you be? What other passion do you have? Seek out opportunities to grow that alternative passion through course work, club activities, and student memberships in professional societies. Learn as much as you can about that passion. Increasingly, being a meteorologist will need to be accompanied by specialization in another area, and bringing those two passions together for applications to real-world problems. For the applied insurance industry, coursework in statistics, actuarial science, geographic information systems, programming, and communications are all valuable. Additional skills in marketing and problem solving go a long way to making every day the best it possibly can be.

What is your typical day on the job like?

Pre-COVID, my typical day/week featured extensive travel to other offices, clients, conferences and industry events. Thus, there was not really ever a typical day, but more of a juggling act of anything that came my way: client projects, internal training, personnel mentoring and management, product development, research, trying not to miss a flight. While any day could feature a number of different items, a common thread would be effective communication and a collegial attitude to dive in and help others be successful in their endeavors.

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

I sit at the leading edge of translating science into business outcomes for an industry that is increasingly impacted by extreme weather events and a changing climate. It is exhilarating to have an opportunity to make a difference in corporate outcomes that is ultimately protecting the stability of families and companies across our country. The most challenging thing about my job is the perpetual juggling act and finding ways to accomplish what is necessary today while keeping eyes on the strategic opportunities down the road.

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

Tough question as work/life balance is in the eyes of your own personal ambition relative to the satisfaction you derive from your career. I tend to work very hard and long hours in my work life, but it has afforded me more opportunities that I could ever have imagined. To outsiders, I frequently receive feedback that I need a better work/life balance. However, I have been able to provide my family a very comfortable life and instill a strong work ethic in my daughters that is increasingly evident. In turn, when I am not working, I do everything possible to be fully present in my personal and family endeavors to maximize my time I have with them. I see the hard work ethic and long hours I put in earlier in my career as an exercise in "paying it forward" which has started to afford me more flexibility as I move deeper into my career. Like most things in life, a work/life balance is a tradeoff of risk/reward for you personally and your family. I would ultimately say I have a reasonable work/life balance, but I can see how others would disagree with me!

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

Landing my job at Chesapeake Energy with two of my best colleagues was incredibly exciting. The success and value we created in those years was truly incredible. More recently, I am quite humbled to be in a position to manage so many talented people. It is truly exciting to help them navigate their careers to become their best possible professional selves and watch them grow more deeply into valuable professionals in their industry.

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

I was happy to gain opportunities to grow my network and see different applications in meteorology to the business world. This has taken me from New York, to New Jersey, California, and Illinois in my career. While I wouldn't trade those experiences to live in different places, it did take me, my wife and children away from our extended family who live in the Mid-Atlantic. I wish we were closer to our extended family, but I would not have had the breadth and richness of experiences in my career had I limited our geography. For some, it is not possible to be so flexible, but it also can limit opportunities to advance in your career. I'm glad I have been flexible, but the sacrifice was being farther away than desired from extended family.

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

No spelling errors or typos! Examples of applying yourself outside your core area of comfort and willing to expand horizons. Computer programming and/or data science. Ability to communicate effectively. Internship or volunteer experience.