Please include details about your educational background and what sparked your interest in atmospheric or related sciences.
I knew I wanted to be a meteorologist at least since I was four years old, when Hurricane Gloria took down the tree in our front lawn. I also attribute my interest in weather to growing up in Boston and watching the news every night on WBZ during dinner with my family. The weather was my favorite part. WBZ radio was on every morning in our kitchen and I loved hearing my town in the school closing list for a snow day. I eventually wrote letters and called the chief meteorologist—he invited me into the station for a tour. I knew that was the job I wanted to have someday!
What was your first job in the field and how did you end up in the job you are in now?
After college graduation, I landed my first job at WABI-TV5 in the small market of Bangor, Maine. I used this experience to grow professionally, and it helped me land my next job in Syracuse, NY. I continued this path to forecast different types of weather as my TV career then took me to Austin followed by Denver. By that point, I had experienced everything from blizzards to heat, severe weather and wildfires. But since it was a hurricane that sparked my interest in the first place, Florida seemed like the right fit when an opportunity in Orlando presented itself.
What opportunities did you pursue that you knew would be beneficial to securing a job in the profession?
I had two great undergraduate internships that helped me gain experience, and also start building my network. The summer after sophomore year, I interned at WFXT in my hometown of Boston. This confirmed that I wanted to do TV after graduation. The next summer, I lived in Washington, D.C., for an internship at USAToday. While this wasn't a TV internship, it was a valuable experience that helped build my writing skills - it also helped confirm that I didn't want a desk/cubicle job. Internships are useful to also help determine what you don't want to do, which is OK!
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?
Creative writing, speech communication and broadcast production were some of my favorite non-meteorology classes during undergrad. 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. Some schools now offer certificates in emergency management to earn in conjunction with a meteorology major.
What is your typical day on the job like?
Working in broadcasting means you rarely have the chance for a 9-5, Monday-Friday shift. Instead, I wake up at 1:30 a.m. (I'm crazy and I aim to fit some yoga in every morning before work). I'm at the station at 3 a.m. to forecast and prepare graphics for a show that starts at 5 a.m. I produce weather hits that air 6 times an hour, with continuous coverage during breaking weather. Once I am done with our morning show, I often have other projects to work on like hurricane preparedness stories, or social media content. This is also when I like to get out into the community for school visits. There are some benefits to the early hours, such as being able to enjoy the Florida sunshine during the afternoon hours while most people are at work! But my day ends earlier than most, since I try to be in bed by 5 p.m.
What do you like most about your job? What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Weather is a hobby that I turned into a profession. It is important to find something you love, then it never feels like work! It truly helps to love what you do when you have to wake up at 1:30 a.m. every day. I like how every day is different. There are some challenges that come with lengthy rounds of severe weather or hurricane coverage. It even includes sleeping at the station sometimes. However, the sunny days and warm winters make up for it!
Does your job allow for a good work/life balance? If not, why?
One of the downsides to working in television is that it is a 24/7/365 industry which means working weekends and holidays. I've had to miss many weddings and other celebrations because of work. It also can be challenging to completely "shut off" from work, and it is something I am trying to be better at. It is important to take some time away from your phone and computer, and get fresh air and exercise.
Over the course of your career what is the most exciting thing that has happened to you?
Storm chasing from Colorado to Minnesota and all the states in between with the late Tim Samaras and TWISTEX ranks among one of my most memorable experiences. It also was very exciting to be a guest on WxGeeks, since I had grown up watching The Weather Channel.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career?
I am very thankful about how my career has unfolded, and for all of the experiences and friendships that have come along with it. One regret I have is not studying abroad in college. It wasn't really an option when I was in undergrad, but I wish I had the chance to learn more about weather from an international perspective.
What are some “must haves’’ on a resume if a person wants to gain employment in your field?
Internships are essential, because those are opportunities to learn about the computer graphics systems before you land your first job. I also recommend taking advantage of student and early career opportunities with the AMS. It is a way to get connected and start building your network, which could lead to future career opportunities down the road. Joining your closest local chapter is another good place to start!