Employee Spotlight: Christy Bechtel
It only takes a moment with Christy Bechtel to understand she’s is truly passionate about her job. A self-proclaimed “weather geek,” Bechtel can’t remember a time she didn’t know she wanted to practice meteorology. She began her career at Baron in the Technical Services department, where she aided in training and installations of Baron weather display systems. In 2013, Bechtel became the Director of Business Development on the company’s digital side where she works with aviation companies to integrate Baron’s weather data into their flight planning software. Additionally, she helps broadcast entities incorporate Baron’s weather API into their mobile apps and websites.
In a recent conversation, Bechtel discussed her interest in weather, her most memorable day on the job at Baron and the unique challenges she’s faced during her career.
How did you become interested in weather?
I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t know meteorology was what I was going to do. When I was in 2nd grade, the teacher asked the class to draw something that we found beautiful—I drew purple clouds. After one of the other students told me clouds couldn’t be purple, the teacher corrected him. I always knew this is what I wanted to do.
Also, my brother was in the 1989 tornado in Huntsville that led to the formation of Baron as a company. He was driving down Airport Road and happened to look back in his rearview mirror to see the funnel. After managing to make it to a gas station, he ended up with only a few cuts and bruises. Our family was lucky. That experience magnified my interest in helping people understand the weather.
How did your education shape your career in weather?
I graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2005 with a B.A. in Meteorology. At first I thought I wanted to go somewhere else; I always said, “you can’t chase tornadoes in the snow.” But, I visited the campus and I knew it was where I needed to be. What’s interesting is that I never had any desire to be a broadcast meteorologist. I don’t really like public speaking, so I knew that wasn’t the route I wanted to take. Actually, I had an internship at a local TV affiliate. They talked me into creating a reel…I still haven’t watched it.
How did you hear about Baron?
Because I was interested in the weather at an early age, I grew up watching the local news. I knew who Bob Baron was, so he was a familiar face when I graduated college. He created a company that’s focused on keeping people safe and informed during weather events. I strongly believed in what he was doing and wanted to be a part of it.
Can you tell me more about how you develop unique solutions for Aviation clients? Media?
The #1 goal of Baron is to promote weather awareness and public safety. We have a number of aviation-centric products that aviation companies can incorporate into their software to help make their customer’s flight plans safer. Some of our newest products like Forecast Flight Rules, Forecast Echo Tops, and Forecast Lightning are helping pilots make better decisions to keep themselves and their families safer.
As for our media partners, I work with them to integrate our valuable weather data into their applications and services. This includes Baron alerting solutions, making it possible for stations to reach the most people with their message and ensure it has an impact. Stations’ viewers can always be informed about the weather, no matter where they are. I’m also really excited about our new custom alerting features we have in development.
Do you have a “most memorable” day at Baron?
That would have to be the April 27th tornadoes in 2011. I didn’t sleep for 48 hours because I was so wound up from the event. I was filling in that night for someone on 3rd shift and tried to go home afterwards to sleep, but the power went out at my house so I came back into work early. I don’t think there was much rest for anyone on that day.
The second most memorable day was when a tornado hit Five Points in Huntsville. I went out with other employees on the roof to see the funnel; power was flashing on and off in the city. There is a great picture of us standing there with the tornado in the background. You see, I can handle tornadoes. It’s the lighting that terrifies me.
What is your favorite part about your job?
I love that I still get to use my meteorology degree. Like I said, I never wanted to be on TV. In my position, I have also had the opportunity to travel to many interesting places that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Romania isn’t a place I would choose to vacation, but I got to assist with a training and installation there, and it was a great experience.
What is the greatest challenge you face in your job?
My first 8 years at Baron were spent in technical services, and that came with a unique set of challenges. Sometimes, you would get calls at 5 p.m. from someone with a technical problem. With only 2 or 3 minutes to get them up and running again, it can be a challenge to manage the stress. You have to get it done—no excuses.
What would you say to someone who is considering a career in meteorology?
There are a lot of interesting opportunities for anyone who is working toward a career in meteorology. The new advancements in technology are something to get excited about. In the past 10 years alone we have a lot of new technologies that help us better understand and appreciate the weather. Development of new, more accurate weather capability is only going to accelerate, so there will continue to be exciting opportunities for meteorologists.
What do you like to do outside the office?
My dad and I are die-hard Penn State fans, so I am always watching to cheer them on. I am also a huge fan of my 10-year-old dog, Stewie. Sadly, I love reality television; however, my current must-watch show is “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”
For more information about Christy Bechtel and her area of business at Baron, visit http://www.baronweather.com/industries/aviation/.