Employee Spotlight: Chris Carr
Baron prides itself on finding and hiring passionate people who care about the company’s mission. Chris Carr, Director of Business Development in Baron’s Enterprise group, focuses on providing customers in the automotive and agriculture industries unique solutions to make their business more profitable and safer for everyone involved. Whether it’s traveling the country to speak at trade shows, or sitting at home reading articles about the industry in his free time, Chris works hard to ensure everyone is protected by critical weather intelligence.
In a recent conversation, Chris spoke about his education, challenges he faces on the job, and the future of the telematics industry.
How did you hear about Baron?
That’s a really funny story. I graduated from college with a degree in meteorology and a minor in math. I immediately started my job search and found out that it wasn’t as easy as it looks. I actually ended up working as a shipping manager for a printing company. My job was to get the materials that we produced out to our customers—it required a lot of stacking boxes, sweating and hard work.
During my time there I already knew about Baron, because I had sat through a presentation about the company at an AMS Conference. I was excited when one of our customers at the printing company said he knew someone who worked at Baron. Two weeks later, he came back and told me that the company was hiring and I needed to submit my resume. For six months I bugged the support manager, Glyn Pool, and eventually got the job. I guess you could say my persistence paid off.
What was your education like? Where did you get your degree?
I graduated from the University of South Alabama. I chose the school because they have a really good Operational Meteorology program. It was very focused on the science behind the weather—something I am very interested in. When I completed my education, my options were to go to graduate school, work for the National Weather Service, or enter the private sector.
The program did a lot to prepare us for future work as forecasters—a lot of hands-on application. You have to learn the foundational science behind weather and understand the atmosphere, but once you have that mastered it all comes down to application. My last year at USA, we spent 3 days of the week in a classroom being taught new skills and preparing our own weather briefings. They required us to speak for 15 minutes in front of the professor and provide a forecast for a certain location.
I also participated in a radar meteorology class. In fact, our textbook was the US WSR-88D NEXRAD radar manual that was sent to all National Weather Service meteorologist during training. When I graduated, I had an understanding of weather and radar that still benefits me in my position today.
How has your career evolved during your time at Baron?
Initially, my job was to provide technical support for broadcast customers, mostly on the west coast because my day began when they were preparing for their 10 p.m. news. Around 3 a.m., I would get calls from stations prepping for their morning news. I wanted to learn as much as I could, so during my down time in customer support I was always asking for extra projects. It helped me get a good grasp of all Baron products and what we offer.
After three years in that position, I moved into a product management role and worked with our XMWX Satellite Weather partners, like Garmin and Honeywell, to implement new features and changes to the XMWX data stream. I made sure the changes didn’t break their systems and helped them market the new products as well.
Now I am the Director of Business Development in the Enterprise group. My focus is on automotive and precision agriculture sectors. I am constantly trying to uncover as much business in these areas as possible by letting them know how Baron can help them succeed. It’s been a lot of learning on my end because growing technology makes these markets evolve quickly. But, there is a lot of opportunity. Statistics show that adverse weather causes 1.3 million vehicular accidents each year and 500 million hours in delays. Our products were designed to help companies mitigate these situations. As far as agriculture goes, every decision is directly related to weather. Missing planting by one week can cost a farmer 35 bushels per acre.
What is the greatest challenge that you face in your current position?
The number one reason people tune into the news is to check local weather. In broadcast, weather is something that they focus on because there is a need and financial incentive to invest in high-quality weather data. With industries like automotive and agriculture companies that are changing so quickly, they have a direct need for weather, but they view it as a checkmark. Getting into the door and communicating a clear value proposition so they can understand the ROI our services produce is a challenge for these industries. That’s why our focus isn’t just on the weather, it’s wrapped up into driver safety and efficiency. We offer an intelligent and actionable product that makes for a better overall driving experience.
Where do you see the future of telematics headed?
The telematics market is an emerging one. In 2014, only 12 percent of cars were connected, but it’s estimated that in 2024, 100 percent will be connected. It’s easy to see that this is a fast moving industry with tremendous growth opportunity. The goal is to make cars smarter and eventually have a fully autonomous vehicle. Baron’s role right now is to get our products into the car to alert the driver of dangerous driving conditions. The next phase is to focus on providing hyper-local contextual weather that makes the vehicle smarter, allowing it to react to the weather around it.
Things are changing so fast in these industries. How do you stay up to date on the changes?
I research all the time. Whether I am at work or relaxing at home, I am always reading articles. There are several good publications out there that keep me informed, like Telematics News or GPS News. I am also a fan of LinkedIn. My connections circulate many articles that I wouldn’t see otherwise. I also stay connected with Google alerts.
How did you become interested in weather?
My interest goes back to a very young age when I was growing up in Cullman, Alabama. I was fascinated by the sheer force of weather events and the impact it had on people lives. I loved watching the news and seeing radar data and street-level mapping in action. However, one event really sticks out in my mind. On April 8, 1998, an F5 tornado devastated Oak Grove, Alabama. My family’s church went to the site and helped with recovery. Just seeing the impact the tornado had on that community solidified that this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life.
What has been your most memorable day on the job so far?
Three weeks prior to the April 27th, 2011 tornado outbreak, I was at the Sun n’ Fun Airshow in Lakeland, Florida. The second day of the show we were under a slight risk of severe weather. Once we prepped the booth for the day, we began evaluating the potential for it. We noticed two storms in the Gulf of Mexico that looked pretty violent—they were triggering our Shear SCITs. For those who don’t know, we have technology that can identify rotation in storms that indicate possible tornadoes. So there we were, 3 hours before we even saw a raindrop in Florida, tracking the storm. The last radar image we saw before losing power was a Baron Shear SCIT pointing directly over our location, the airport. At that moment, hail the size of golf balls pelted the roof and the wind started roaring outside. There was a moment where people were getting concerned.
After the event, we walked outside to find about 15 aircraft turned upside down. Some were pushed 300 yards from where they were, some with crushed cockpits. It was a scary and memorable day for me.
What would you say to students who want to be meteorologists?
Your passion will take you a long way. My advice would be to learn about meteorology and make sure to get a programming background as well. You increase your value if you also have a good technical programming background.
What do you like to do outside of the office?
I have a beautiful family. I have two girls, and my oldest one will be playing basketball next year. So, we are outside a lot. I also volunteer at my church in the children’s ministry. I like to read, mainly articles, but I also like historical non-fiction. As far as TV goes, my wife is a big reality TV nut—I kind of get sucked in. I can guarantee one thing, on any Saturday from late August to December, you can find me watching college football. Roll Tide!