Updated: Sep 1, 2020
You know that old saying, "You never work a day in your life if you love what you do?" I can tell you it's absolutely true - in some regards. I've had a passion for weather and broadcast for over 20 years. I can't imagine myself doing anything different. I eat, breathe and live weather. I look forward to waking up and getting to work, which is a huge change from where I was just 5 years ago. You see, for several years before I "made it", I worked two jobs. I was a store manager for ShopRite, and the weekend/fill-in weather guy on NBC40.
ShopRite taught me a lot, I had some good times and I experienced things that positively shaped my life forever...BUT... I wasn't in love with what I did.
I gave it my all. 100% focus and determination. It's just who I am. If you're going to do something with all your heart, in my opinion it's not worth doing at all. I started as a cart pusher at 15. I was fortunate to move up the ranks and into management by the time I graduated high school. Given my home situation and lack of money, there was honestly a point I thought I was going to live that life forever. There's nothing wrong with it, it was stable, I was paid extremely well for my age and the advancement opportunities were incredible... BUT... I wasn't in live with what I did.
It was hard work. I've never shied away as long as I've been alive but it wasn't the kind of hard work I found rewarding.
I worked 10-hour days at the store, weekends and holidays. When I'd fill in for vacations at NBC40, there were times I was working 18-hour days, and it was a lot. If I was lucky enough to go on vacation, I would absolutely DREAD going back to work. Fast forward all these years? I sneak to post on facebook a couple times while I'm away, and by day 5 I'm itching to get back to work. I enjoy vacation but I actually start WANTING to get back to work.
When I visit schools one of the most popular questions I get from some kids is, "Is your job hard?" Well. That really depends on your personal definition. I'd say it's challenging. Most people don't know the half of what's involved - and that's ok. Especially the miserable keyboard warriors who think they are experts in everything, and can do your job better than you. Yeah, *those* people. Can't stand 'em.
Meteorology is a science. It's a complicated, in-exact science. You are literally trying to figure out what a chaotic 3-D fluid that is15k feet up in the atmosphere is going to do. There are SO many variables. Even with the advanced technology we have at our disposal, our accuracy will never be perfect. We make mistakes all the time. It happens. Just the other day I thought we'd see widespread severe thunderstorms, and there ended up being only a couple. You know what matters to me? People were PREPARED for the POTENTIAL. I'm thankful the severe weather situation didn't pan out - especially after this crazy year.
Each and every day I post 6 forecast videos and about 10-15 hourly updates as needed.
I wake up and do my 5am forecast, and then to clear my head and get me ready for the day, I run 4 miles.
I think it's important to find my "zen" before I really jump into work for the day. My route goes from my home to a bike path about half a mile away, all the way down to an old caboose that my town preserved. It's the perfect end point for a railfan after all.
Living a healthy lifestyle is extremely important to me. I don't drink or smoke. I have never done any type of drug and never will. I shy away from advil when I have a headache! I don't like chemicals.
I look at observations. I look at satellite, radar and upper air data. I look at older forecast model data to see if things verified. I look at new forecast model data to see what has changed. I spend 2/3 hours a day researching for the current period, and the next 3-5 days. Then I have to make graphics. The system I have now is a HUGE advancement over what I used "back in the day". At TV40 and then at my next station, SNJ Today, I used photoshop. It took HOURS to complete graphics. Now most days I can get multiple shows lined up in under an hour!
Sure - I control my own schedule but many days it's non-stop work. I have the luxury of pretty much doing what I want when I want, but there is a price to pay. I'm *always* connected. Social media was easier to manage a few years back, but now with over 55k followers, the questions fly in at all hours. I LOVE connecting with people and helping them plan their days & events, and I feel bad when I can't get back to them in a timely fashion. It's nearly impossible to answer everyone without dedicating a few hours a day to inbox messages. I do try to be accessible as possible though.
Many of my close friends would label be a workaholic. I can see that. Personal relationships have suffered over the years because when a big storm is coming through, 99% of my attention is on that and not much else. I've been trying to get better - it's a flaw and I recognize it. I am humbled that I have so many people who count on me for reliable information and I never want to let anyone down so that's why I feel the need to "be there" 24/7. I am extremely fortunate for my husband, Brandon, who understands what it takes to do my job. Six years together, he's seen me go through every major storm and hasn't ever complained.
I pour my heart and soul into what I do. I think it's important to give it your all if you want to be successful in your perspective field. It's important to have a passion and work hard. Every single intern I've ever had & every single new reporter I've mentored, have all ask the same thing, "How do I get as many followers as you?". It doesn't happen overnight. It's about establishing trust with the viewership, being engaging, and being as real as humanly possible. I didn't get into this for whatever perceived "fame" there may be. I got into it for the love of science and love of my community. I've had many opportunities to move on to different markets, but I know where I belong.
Throughout the year I try to engage in as many community initiatives as possible. Three years ago I brought back the Atlantic City Christmas parade, which was a big endeavor. My team and I work six months a year now putting that together. Not sure what this year will bring, with COVID-19 and all, but we are looking forward to a bigger and better 2021. I enjoy partnering with other community-driven people to help make a difference in other ways too. Just this past year I set up a foundation to help feed food insecure families for Thanksgiving and Christmas. With Smith Family ACE Hardware, we were able to feed over 100 families, and we'd like to double that for this season. I think it is incumbent upon me to use my platform to facilitate change.
At the end of the day it's not about how many likes or shares I get - that's nonsense. It's not about how "popular" I am. It's about the mom I helped plan her son's BBQ, the anxious bride who I helped relieve worries about rain on her wedding, and about the young kid who is terrified of thunderstorms that I talked out of hiding from under his bed. If I can help as many people are possible through what I do, I will have done a good job.