I started here in 1981, a long time ago now!
My father was a keen sailor so the weather had a big effect on his trips. As a little boy, it was always a Friday night treat to be allowed to stay up late and listen to the shipping forecasts. Before long, I was taking them down using the special weather symbols – they seemed like a secret code at first! That’s where my interest in the weather began and joining the Met Office was a natural progression.
I’m currently a Senior Project Manager, but I started my career as a weather observer, back in the days before computerised technology. It was just me, often out in the rain, reading thermometers and other instruments and writing it all down in big manuals. Like what I did with my dad as a little boy but on a much, much bigger scale. And I really enjoyed it. From observing, I decided I wanted to venture into forecasting which the Met Office really supported. HR arranged a posting for me to study at a nearby university to get the necessary qualifications for our Initial Forecasting Course. And it wasn’t long before I was forecasting out in the field – I did a lot of work with the RAF, providing them with dedicated aviation forecasts that are crucial to their operations. It’s been an incredible few decades; I’ve experienced most areas of the Met Office’s work, even spending time writing software, presenting numerical weather data to forecasters. When I started, we were still associated with the Ministry of Defence. I’ve seen big changes and barriers broken down and, as time has progressed, I’ve really had the freedom to shape my career.
Around the year 2000, we were going through real changes and it got me thinking about how change was managed in the organisation – that led me down the project management route. Projects are designed to introduce change and improve processes and having worked with the Met Office for so long, this really interested me. My work’s extremely varied. As any project manager would tell you, there’s no such thing as a typical day. In the morning, I have a look at my deliverables and plan the day. We’re working on a project for the HR department at the moment, to upgrade our recruitment portal, so I might be out visiting stakeholders to see how they’re getting on with their tasks. It’s my responsibility to manage the full lifecycle so I’m there at every step of the way.
It’s quite like running a small business within a business. You could be leading administrators, programmers, business analysts and researchers all at the same time. You bring it all together, constantly thinking about the demands of the customer and the business, focusing on strategy and thinking about the effect that things could have on the end product. It all comes down to delivering projects on time and on budget without compromising on our world-class quality. It comes with a lot of responsibility as you often have to make critical decisions and have the final say. Our relocation from Bracknell to the Exeter headquarters was the biggest project I’ve worked on – and the one I’m most proud of. In fact, it was the largest IT move ever attempted outside of the USA. More than just technology, there were house moves, family relocations and lots of other things to consider. But we delivered it spot on time, without a single break in operations. It really was incredible.
Best thing about working here? For me, there are two. The ability to move around and progress is one. The Met Office has always invested heavily in developing their employees, whether that’s with qualifications, courses or exploring other areas of the business. And as time has gone on, we’ve become more and more collaborative. You can follow your interests easily and get involved in different aspects of our work. No one person alone can achieve our objectives and by working together across departments, we can get a lot more done. It’s also great for picking up new ways of working. I’ll spend some time with another department and you come back thinking, ‘would that work in my department?’ The very best thing about being at Met Office though, is knowing that you work for the best weather and climate service in the world. I’ve been here thirty-odd years and I’m still just as enthusiastic as I was on my first day. It’s such a supportive environment too. A couple of years ago I had an accident and had to have an arm amputated. The Met Office has gone above and beyond to make necessary adjustments for me, from sourcing specialist equipment like a one-handed keyboard to providing me with an orthopaedic chair which helps me work comfortably. But it’s never been in a pushy or nosey way – I’ve never been made to feel any different than any other employee which is exactly how I like it. I’m recognised for who I am and my contribution to the company, just like everyone else. But the support is always there when I need it. Even when I go on external courses, they’ll arrange for my orthopaedic chair to be there waiting for me and be back in the office ready for my return. We’re a huge, global organisation so those little things really do make a big difference.
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