Employee Spotlight: Dan Gallagher
Dan Gallagher, Data Services Meteorologist at Baron, loves to solve problems in the weather industry by researching and working on ground-breaking innovations.
Dan sat down in a recent interview to discuss his education, challenges on the job, and advice for anyone pursuing a career in weather.
How did you become interested in weather?
Well, it started at a young age. I’m a big sports fan, and I’d always set my alarm to go off for sports segments on the local news. Weather would be featured right before sports, so I guess you could say my love of sports is responsible for my obsession with weather. It got me interested to the point that I saw myself in a weather-related career.
Tell me about your education.
I went to Saint Louis University where I earned my B.S. and M.S. degree in meteorology. I got to work on some pretty cool things while I was there. The focus for my Master’s Degree was on research—specifically tropical cyclone-spawned tornadoes, and that project required me to know a lot about several different areas of meteorology—tropical, severe weather, tornado genesis, radar analysis, numerical weather prediction—you name it. The most stressful part was a comprehensive written exam at the end of my first year in grad school. After the written test, you were basically put in front of firing squad with all of the professors from the department asking you questions about all areas of weather. It was stressful, but it gave me the confidence that’s required to become a successful meteorologist. Ultimately, the skills I learned in grad school steered me toward my position at Baron.
What was your first position after you graduated from college?
My first position was a brief one—only three months long—at Aquila in Kansas City. They were in the weather derivatives business. After that, I found a job in St. Louis, Missouri at a company called Surface Systems Incorporated (SSI). I worked there four years as a forecaster. SSI had an equipment side and a forecasting side of business, but eventually they sold the forecasting operations to another company way up north. I am originally from Cleveland and my wife is from St. Louis; after we knew my position at SSI would end, we both agreed that we had no interest in moving to somewhere colder than where we already were. That’s when I began searching for new opportunities and ran across an open position at Baron.
They were looking for a very specific skill set that I matched perfectly. They wanted someone with road weather experience and the ability to program software, as well. Shortly after I moved to Baron, others from SSI followed. I like to think I led the way.
How has your position evolved at Baron?
When I began my career at Baron they didn’t have a Data Services department. I was actually wrapped into the Software Development group. The first project they had me work on was the XM NavWeather product, because my specialty was road weather. As the company grew and expanded, I had several opportunities to work on projects outside of that industry. I now serve as a Data Services Meteorologist and my focus is on research and development for the company and its products.
What is the greatest reward of your position?
I get an opportunity to work on revolutionary weather products that no one else has developed before. It’s rewarding to create new solutions to weather-related issues. The adrenaline rush you get is something only weather nerds would understand. Lately, we have been working on developing new dual-pol products. I’ve also been doing a lot of work in aviation weather to support our Enterprise department.
What is the greatest challenge that you face on the job?
Because there are so many things I could work on, focus and priorities can change quickly. The sheer volume of options is incredible. When dual-pol radar first came out it opened a whole new array of potential projects. It’s a challenge, but also a great opportunity for me. A lot of meteorologists work in one geolocation and only focus on the weather in that area; Baron covers the world. It’s a challenge to have a high enough level of expertise and knowledge to develop everything we take on. But it’s a lot of fun because it mixes things up and keeps our knowledge well-rounded.
Do you have a day on the job you remember the most?
I can’t think of one particular “memorable day”. The most gratifying days are when you prove that something you worked on for a long time really works. One time, I was in the car driving down to AMS Annual with Bob Dreisewerd and we set the car console to display XM NavWeather data as we ran into a big band of snow in central Mississippi. We verified road conditions as we made our trip and it was really great to see all the technology in action.
It’s also great when we hear directly from our customers that something is working well. Earlier this year, I spoke at the NWA Conference about Baron’s Shear Rate product. Many people came up to me afterward and commented on how successful the product was and how easily they were able to explain situations to their viewers. This is the stuff that makes my job memorable.
What would you say to students who are wanting to work in weather one day?
I spend a lot of time mentoring students, actually, between coordinating our internship program with UAH, heading up the judging of all student submissions to the National Weather Association Annual meeting, and many other opportunities. I always tell students who are interested in a career in atmospheric science to study weather along with something else. Otherwise, your resume will not be versatile enough—it’s a competitive industry. Join local AMS or NWA chapters. Get involved and show your passion for science. If you live close to a National Weather Service or private company like Baron, reach out and try to intern. It doesn’t matter if it’s paid or not, it only matters that you get to develop your skills. There are free online educational opportunities too.
What do you do outside of the office?
I am a big sports fan, particularly of my native Cleveland sports team. I love baseball. I’ve been to a handful of major league and minor league baseball parks throughout the country. I’m also very involved in the local and national weather communities, serving as Chairperson of the Weather Analysis and Forecast Committee, and as Vice President of the local chapter of the AMS and NWA.
Charity work is very important to me. I’m active in a local group of an international organization that helps the needy and those in poverty in the community. I’ve been doing that for seven years now this November. We go into the community and help people who need food, medicine, or assistance with paying a bill. We are out there as problem solvers—it’s what I love to do. The charity is called the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. It always feels good to help people in need.