National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Ashlie Sears

Location: Herndon, VA
NWS Ops Center
Job Title: NWS Liaison Officer to FEMA N-IMAT East 1
Ashlie Sears
Ashlie Sears
Ashlie Sears

Educational Background:

  • B.S. in Meteorology, Minor in Oceanography - Texas A&M University
  • M.S. in Geosciences with concentrations in Physical Oceanography, Atmospheric Science, GIS - Texas A&M University

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

  • I began my career right out of college working for a private company that forecasted for energy companies around the world. After about a year, I was hired on by the NWS as a meteorologist intern at WFO Milwaukee/Sullivan. A year and a half later, I was promoted to a general forecaster at WFO NY, NY. I spent 3 years there and made a lateral move to WFO Sterling, fulfilling a life long dream of working in DC. Just under 2 years later, I was hired to fill this brand new position with the NWS.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • I am the NWS LNO to one of the national FEMA deployment teams, a brand new position in the NWS. My primary mission is to serve as their weather expert. I do this by building relationships and earning the trust of each team member. I also keep the team appraised of potential impactful weather hazards by collaborating with the ROCs and NOC, ensuring a consistent message between the NWS and FEMA. As a member of the team, I deploy with them for both weather and non weather related events.

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

  • Sandy! It was the first time I was deployed to provide on site DSS (Nassau County on Long Island). Before, during and after the storm, I was right by the leadership of the county (and even the NY State Governor) and saw first hand how the EM community utilizes our forecasts in their decision making process, decisions that eventually impacted millions of people. What I learned from this event helped me to develop a skill set that is now used in my current position.

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

  • Like so many in our community, I have wanted to be a met since I was 5 years old. My entire education was focused on developing skills that would help me to accomplish this goal, though my initial plan was to research weather on other planets. When I was in college, I realized that my interests laid more with the forecasting than research side of the field. I was drawn to the idea of a job that truly has an impact, helping to protect lives and property. And who does that better than the NWS!

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • All the opportunities we have. I have had the chance to produce day to day forecasts for major population areas, provide on site decision support services for events ranging from the Super Bowl to hurricanes and blizzards, to being involved with test beds and research that help better forecasting techniques. If it has to do with forecasting, the NWS covers it all.

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

  • When you are in college, reach out to the local NWS office and ask if there is anything you can do to become more familiar with the WFO/NWS like being a student volunteer. I can't stress networking enough! Be flexible and willing to begin your career anywhere; you may even find a location you fall in love with you never thought you would. Be prepared to work really hard and be persistent (many people don't make it in on their first try), but it will be so worth it in the end!

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

  • In addition to the required coursework (and make sure your degree covers all of these!), broaden your background to encompass activities or training that will help you stand out. Classes in computer science, GIS and emergency management would be most beneficial and utilized the most in this position. My first MIC joked with me that I was selected not because of grades/experience but because of all my leadership experience in college. Do what you can to stand out!