Employee Spotlight: Max Dunkerley
Max Dunkerley, Software Engineer at Baron, recently sat down with us to discuss the Baron Weather API, his interest in weather, and some of the greatest rewards he experiences on the job.
How did you become interested in weather?
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by weather. I remember one time when a tropical storm eye passed right over my house. The winds outside my window went from violent to deathly calm in a matter of seconds. Seeing the changes happen so fast and seamlessly was a neat experience.
As a kid, I also loved playing in the snow. Watching and waiting for snow was one of my favorite things to do, because I knew it meant we could go sledding. A passion for weather has always been there for me.
Tell me about your education.
I actually started off on a pre-med track at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. I’ve always been interested in medicine, too. But it wasn’t long before I discovered that some biology classes just weren’t for me. So, I swapped to another love of mine—computers. I ended up graduating with a B.S. in Computer Science.
Later, I went back to school to get my master’s degree in Computer Science. I completed the degree with a 4.0 from Capital College in Laurel, Maryland.
What was your first position after you graduated from college?
My first job after graduating was a contracting position for Computing Technologies for the Logistics Support Activity for the Army. I started off at the help desk, answering support calls during 2nd shift. I moved up rather quickly to Java programming, and then to the Java Enterprise Group. When I moved to the System Administrator team, I started working with Linux servers and other systems and tools.
How has your position evolved at Baron?
I was hired into the API department with the main goal of making deployments of the API stack faster and more reliable. Once I achieved that goal, my position has evolved into a few different roles.
Now I focus on ensuring the large and complex API stack runs with minimal downtime. I also work on keeping hardware costs down, monitoring the hardware and software running, debugging issues, upgrading and securing the stack, performing product reviews, programming new features, utilizing new technology for the stack, and other day-to-day tasks.
Tell me more about the Baron Weather API.
The Baron Weather API is a tool to get our data into anything with an internet connection. It’s a simple REST API our customers call for data. For example, you can put storm vectors onto a map and display it on a phone, or maybe use road weather conditions to reroute users to non-icy roads. It’s also fast, scalable and highly dependable. There are so many different products that are available. They fit into many different markets, and they touch many different users. The possibilities are endless. I look forward to seeing what else our customers do with this data.
What is the greatest reward of your position?
The greatest reward is knowing that the servers I build and the software I help create works to save lives. Getting emails from thankful users makes the job even better. One of the most memorable messages was from a user who said our “Twisting Storm Approaching” warning on their phone gave them enough time to get their family into a storm shelter, ultimately saving their lives. Knowing that the hardware and software I touch on a daily basis helped deliver that message is priceless.
What is the greatest challenge you face on the job?
The greatest challenge I face is juggling priorities and time. There are many important tasks that enhance our API. Most days require me to carefully prioritize my workload.
What would you say to students who want to work in weather one day?
I’d say go for it! We offer internships at Baron for any students who want to see what meteorologists do on a daily basis at a private company. I’d also suggest that they consider a Computer Science degree, as well. Weather and computers are connected in many ways. In fact, some of the biggest super computers are built exclusively for weather.
What do you do outside the office?
The large majority of my time outside the office is dedicated to my kids. I love playing games with them—any kind of game. I believe in the saying, “a family that games together stays together.” I also enjoy bringing my athletic son to all of his soccer events, and helping the team out when I can. Getting to spend time with my daughter and her friends is also another favorite of mine.
Other than that, I enjoy reading, running races, playing sports, watching football and soccer, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.