National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
 
William "Bill" Parker

Location: Shreveport, LA
Office: 
Shreveport Weather Forecast Office
(WFO)
Job Title: Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM)


Educational Background:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Meteorology from Jackson State University

Describe the career path that led you to your current job with the National Weather Service.

  • I was always interested in hurricanes, but I didn’t know I wanted to be a Weatherman until taking a statistics class in high school, in which we discussed rain chance.
  • I chose to attend Jackson State University, because it was the only Historically Black College/University (HBCU) that had Meteorology at the time, and the only school I thought my family could afford.
  • I began my NWS career as an Intern in Shreveport in 1994. I became a General Forecaster in 1998, a Lead Forecaster in 2008, and was promoted to the WCM in 2012. Of the 122 WCMs, I am currently the only African American in this capacity.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • My job is very similar to a Public Information Officer, as I educate our partners on NWS products and services. I am responsible for planning and coordinating programs such as SKYWARN and other public weather awareness campaigns. As a member of the office’s management team, I provide guidance to the operational forecast staff in an effort to help improve weather services for the citizens we serve.

What was the most interesting, exciting, or impactful weather/water event you experienced while working for the NWS and why does it stand out?

  • Working at the Joint Field Office during Hurricane Gustav. Gustav was the first major hurricane to affect Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. All eyes were on Louisiana to see if we had learned from Katrina and Rita. As the only deployed meteorologist for the NWS on this event, I was responsible for providing Decision Support Services (DSS) to our state and federal partners. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career, as I was able to truly see our value to our customers and partners.

What made you decide to pursue a career with the NWS?

  • I focused on TV weather during my first three years of college and was introduced to operational weather forecasting as a student intern at the NWS office in New Orleans in 1993. At the end of the summer, the Meteorologist-in-Charge (MIC), Billy Crouch, asked me what were my plans after graduation. I told him I planned to become a TV weatherman since I had three years broadcast experience and only one year of experience in operations at the NWS. He asked, “do you have a TV job lined up?” I said, “no.” He then asked, “if I can promise you a job upon graduation, would you come work for the NWS?” I said, “YES Sir!”

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • The shift work! (Ha Ha!!!) Actually, I most like being a part of the true mission of helping to save lives and property, and genuinely working to build a Weather-Ready Nation.

What advice do you have for someone interested in a career with the NWS?

  • Visit a NWS office; there are many all over the country. Seek employment as a student. If that is not available, do not be afraid to volunteer. A meteorologist, who is one of my mentees, volunteered for seven years after his college graduation, before he was hired into the NWS.
  • It truly is an honor to work for the NWS, especially with so many graduating meteorologists, and very few jobs. I will leave you with one question, “How bad do you really want to work for the National Weather Service?”

What training or coursework would you recommend to someone interested in following your career path?

  • Take as many math and science classes as you can in high school to prepare you for the rigorous work in college.
  • Honestly, my career has not been all about taking the right formal coursework. It has been largely about following and taking guidance from the right people. Be willing to submit yourself under someone's leadership. That person does not have to be a meteorologist but it should be someone with vision, positive influence, and ethical character.