One CIMMS: Q&A with Andy Wood

Andy Wood

For the month of February the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at the University of Oklahoma is publishing a series of stories highlighting CIMMS’s past, present and future by highlighting its employees. CIMMS is diverse because of its employees — who represent a variety of entities and areas of research. One Q&A segment will be published each Monday and Thursday in February.

Andy Wood is a senior research associate with the National Weather Service Warning Decision Training Division. Wood has worked at CIMMS for 20 years. He develops and facilitates training for NWS warning operations and forecasters. In 2016 him and several of his colleagues from WDTD received the National Weather Association 2016 Larry R. Johnson Special Award. In 2015, he received the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Service by OU.

Q: How did you get into your field?
A: I’ve had an interest in weather since a young age. My dad and I interacted about science the way most other guys would talk sports, and weather was an area we both had interest. When I was in high school science class, we would watch these movies about different scientists and where they worked. One of the movies we watched was about National Center for Atmospheric Research and the work they did. After that, I realized working in meteorology was an attainable goal, so I decided to pursue it in college.

Q: What is it about your job that interests and/or engages you?
A: My work with CIMMS allows me to work closely with forecasters with the National Weather Service. That’s 2,000 forecasters located all around the United States who work to meet the same mission: to protect life and property. My work gets to help support them complete that mission by training them about various aspects of doing their job during significant weather. I get to help with a lot of great training initiatives that help forecasters do their job! However, even when I have to perform monotonous tasks — or do other work that may not be my favorite — knowing that my efforts on any given day help support that mission keeps me engaged.

Q: What is the most significant advancement in your field during your time at CIMMS?
A: Over the last 20 years, the biggest advancement in my little corner of CIMMS was the adoption of dual-polarization technology throughout the WSR-88D radar network. These data made the WSR-88D like a completely new radar. Dual-polarization radar technology has been available throughout the U.S. for about 5 years now, and I feel like we are still learning the capabilities that these data have to offer. Developing training on these new data has been both challenging and rewarding.

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you?

Wood, far left, watches participants in the NWS WDTD Radar & Applications Course in February 2014. (Photo by WDTD)

A: I’ve spent the last 20 years developing and supporting training that revolved primarily around severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. However, the topic in meteorology that still excites me the most is snow. I still get more intellectually excited about a big blizzard than I do about tornadoes. I guess that stems from growing up in the northeastern U.S. and initially being drawn to weather through big nor’easters.

Q: What advice would you provide young professionals or others in your field?
A: Math and science always came easy to me. Writing…not so much. Communication through writing, speaking, and other visual means — like displaying data, use of color — is an under appreciated aspect of meteorology. For those who haven’t invested their professional development in these areas, I would say start now. Also, don’t just simply read books, blogs, etc. — invest time in practicing what you learned.

Q: Where is your favorite place to be?

A: I really enjoy spending time with my family. So, wherever they are is usually where I want to be the most.

Q: What advice would I give my younger self?
A:Challenge yourself more. I wasted some opportunities for personal and professional growth when I was younger by playing it safe. Life involves taking chances, and even when you fail, you learn and grow.

Q: What does true leadership mean to you?
A:Leaders get people to look beyond themselves and buy into the plan that makes the team better. There are lots of ways to accomplish that task. However, I’m reminded of a quote that a former co-worker used to have taped to her monitor that really applies here. It said, “It’s amazing what can be done when no one worries about who gets credit for the accomplishment.” To me, that mentality is what leadership is all about.

Q: How do I define success?
A: Life and success are more than just me. So, in my job, I feel like I have succeeded when I have helped those I cross paths with do their job better. When I fail to do that, I try to learn why I failed. That way, I still feel successful in failure because I’ve learned from the situation and the experience can lead to future successes.

Q: Describe your typical day?
A: I spend most of my days in my office helping forecasters by troubleshooting issues that they bring to our attention. On any given day, I can interact with people about radar interpretation, other aspects of meteorology, or technical issues that come up with their training. Most of my interaction with them occurs via email, but I sometimes talk to them on the phone. One of the great things about my job is you never know who you are going to hear from on any given day.