Be Diverse and Follow Opportunity

January 14, 2016 · 0 comments

by Kyle Brown, Valparaiso University, AMS Communications Intern

You’re no longer likely to be “just” a forecaster, broadcaster, or researcher over the course of your career in this field. That mobility—or, as some might say, instability—of working in the water, weather, and climate field was a key point from Wednesday’s AMS Presidential Town Hall meeting.

The Town Hall provided insight into career opportunities and career changes within atmospheric sciences. Panelists included Heidi Centola, manager of business development at Schneider Electric; Michael Farrar, director of the Meteorological Development Lab of the NWS; and Kevin Petty, chief science officer at Vaisala.

They stressed that some career shifts result from opportunities that present themselves through the most unlikely of sources. Other shifts come from within–the panelists recommended that midcareer professionals perform a “gut-check” to ensure that they are happy and being challenged at their jobs.

With this in mind, the panelists considered the question, “What are the trends and opportunities ahead in meteorology?” Petty suggested individuals should pursue skills in data analytics. Farrar commented on the time constraints NWS forecasters face with the multitude of incoming weather data. Forecasters now have to efficiently digest data and add value in a short amount of time. This can be achieved through strong communication skills.

Centola reminded the audience that all industries are impacted by the weather. Therefore, she recommended finding a niche for the use of one’s meteorological skills, such as in insurance or transportation. Specialization is a process that may happen in the least likely of times or ways. In fact, the panelists attested that they have been surprised with their career paths. None of them had been able to anticipate that they would be doing what they are doing today.

As a result, the unpredictable migration of careers makes it essential to broaden one’s interests and skillsets, even while developing specializations. Professionals need to keep their doors open to whatever opportunities may be knocking. Centola told the audience that she started out selling flood insurance after college and then became a salesperson for WSI. Now she finds herself in the energy sector. Petty added that students should know other disciplines, and students were advised to broaden their coursework. Farrar said he would like to see more partnerships and linkages between atmospheric scientists and others within various industries, which could also help broaden exposure.