What an AccuWeather Meteorologist does in a working day

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Welcome to The Work Day, a series that chronicles a single day in the professional lives of diverse women – from gallerists to stay-at-home parents to CEOs. In this episode, we hear from Raya Maday, an AccuWeather meteorologist who recorded a workday in March.

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Job title: AccuWeather, meteorologist responsible for storm warnings

Previous jobs: Prior to AccuWeather, I worked at WeatherFlow, where I was a senior customer service agent. I also worked as a weather tutor at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, in tandem with the customer service role.

Which led me to my current position: I have been passionate about meteorology since childhood. I grew up in New Smyrna Beach, Florida where my dad was a palm planter. I helped him cover the palm trees for the first winter frost, and whenever there was severe weather in the forecast, my dad and I would look for him. Around 2004-2005, a parade of hurricanes roared through our hometown, and my family and I spent a few evenings hunkered down in the innermost room of our house. This fear of not knowing what, when and how the weather would strike was terrifying. I set my eyes on meteorology for a base of weather knowledge, and my fear turned into fascination and obsession.

I went back to school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for operational meteorology and emergency management and started to gain experience through a few other small company meteorology jobs. However, it has always been my goal to end up with AccuWeather – a powerful and trusted brand that has been around for 60 years and is considered the leader in commercial weather.

I was so excited to finally get an internship at AccuWeather in 2016. I drove the 24 hour drive from my home in Florida for the internship – it was totally worth it! After graduating I was hired full time by AccuWeather.

I couldn’t ask for a better job and a better career path. The weather literally led me to my fiancé, Tom, who proposed during a tornado chase. Beyond my personal life, it is rewarding to help people, communities and businesses navigate the most difficult and volatile weather conditions we have seen in decades, and to also help save lives and livelihoods.

How I spend most of my day: Every day is unique, and that’s part of the reason my job is so rewarding. A day can unfold in different ways, the first as a shift coordinator. I spend the entire eight to nine hour shift as the primary decision maker, ensuring that the meteorologists who feed our forecast data, monitor severe weather or speak to our customers and the media have their duties expected and can make better use of their strengths.

On days when I’m not the primary decision maker, I’m either on the warning desk or predicting the next big storm at AccuWeather’s Severe Weather Center in Wichita. At this center, we prepare clients for blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and many other types of severe weather events in the United States, Canada and Mexico with the help of our Global Weather team. Center at State College, Pennsylvania, and other locations around the world. AccuWeather also monitors extreme weather conditions for all locations around the world.

My responsibilities in this role include providing companies with emergency weather briefings – for example, I once supported a Fortune 500 company with a tropical briefing for a landfalling hurricane, issued snowfall warnings and forecast extreme weather conditions.

Here’s a look at AccuWeather’s operations on a day with an outbreak of severe weather. It’s one of the busiest types of days we have. Luckily, I don’t normally work such a long day, but when the weather calls for it, I spring into action and do what is necessary to keep people safe.

7 a.m.: I wake up hoping my fiancé will be the first to get out of bed to make coffee and feed our two cats and a dog. Every morning I understand that I don’t have to switch to night shifts for the foreseeable future, which I had to do for the first four years of my job. The weather never sleeps!

7:30 a.m.: I finally get out of bed to find my fiancé drinking coffee for a day with ice (that’s how he prefers it), leaving me the choice of making drip coffee or the French press. Knowing what awaits me and how busy it will be when I walk into the office, I know a French press is in order and I pour myself two cups.

9:12 a.m.: I drive exactly eight minutes to work to start my 10 hour shift. Although the math may not add up, I prefer to arrive early to enjoy another cup of coffee (are we down to three cups now?). This morning, because it’s going to be an active day, I proactively walk in to make sure the day is going well and that I can carefully review the night shift coordinator’s notes.

10 a.m.: I go over my to-do list: train meteorologists, provide special forecasts, and be available to support the warning office.

11 a.m.: About every hour we have a new team of meteorologists coming for my advice on today’s tasks. It’s a huge responsibility when the weather becomes busier throughout the day, especially when meteorologists rely on me for their daily assignments and important input into key forecast decisions. I remember that I was appointed coordinator for reasons related to my expertise and my calm.

1:30 p.m.: We have one of many daily in-house meetings between expert forecasters from AccuWeather Severe Weather Center and AccuWeather’s Global Weather Center at State College. That’s when we align as colleagues on our approach to any severe weather that day, a process we call “consensus forecasting.” We are constantly collaborating – we have a 24/7 Zoom call between our office and State College operations. Our offices are also extremely collaborative, and they’re buzzing right now with people exchanging ideas with each other.

2 p.m.: It is time for lunch! Today it’s roasted chicken thighs with rosemary and lemon with homemade crisps. During the pandemic, my fiancé filled his time by trying a new recipe every day for dinner. And I spent that time satisfying my appetite.

4 p.m.: Today has quickly become busy – a slew of tornadoes are expected to hit Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida tonight. I make sure our forecasting team has all the tools and resources they need to provide our clients with accurate warning and preparedness information and to share it with our forecasters and journalists who produce content for our platforms digital. We all know how important it is to get the forecast right – lives and businesses are at stake.

6 p.m.: Busy would be an understatement. This is the time of day when I would shut down my computer and go home. Not today – the tornado outbreak has peaked. An unwritten part of my job is making sure the meteorologists on duty don’t burn out and need a quick break to recharge. I encourage them to take a snack break, go to dinner or simply look away from their screen for a few minutes. The benefit of being a high achiever is that I thrive in high pressure situations, and I try to use that ability to help others in the thick of it.

On a normal day when I can get out of work on time, I would go for high-intensity hot yoga, ride my bike on the river, or take a walk with my dog, Piper. Unfortunately, the weather has decided that this will not happen today.

8 p.m.: I’m pushing 11 now, but I’m still needed. Because of the personal relationships we have built with our customers, we call them by phone if they do not confirm an immediate tornado warning so they can make the best weather-related decisions. In addition to our forecasting work, we also help with customer and product support – connecting the dots between our customers’ needs and our technical capabilities.

8:30 p.m.: I leave work, catching my breath from the day of more than 11 hours. I’m very conscious of the role I’ve come to play in helping people, businesses and communities make the best weather impact decisions when seconds count and lives are at stake. I’m reminded how it is rewarding to work in an operational leadership role. I smile at myself in the elevator mirror and think, “You did it, you’ve had the hardest day of the year so far.”

8:38 p.m.: I’m finally home, exhausted but feeling accomplished. I fight the urge to fall asleep without dinner. Luckily, my fiancé made a homemade meal of quesadillas. It’s not as exotic as what he normally cooks, but his day has also been exhausting.

9 p.m.: We turn on “Gilmore Girls” and hope Rory never gets back together with Dean, even though it’s our third time watching the show, and we know the outcome. Sometimes it’s nice to see people living relatively steady and uneventful lives after a busy day.

10 p.m.: The fulfillment of the day and the exhaustion quickly turns into falling asleep on the sofa with our cats, Indie and Gale Force, and we go for the night, catching some major Z’s until we start again – tomorrow .

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