National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Douglas Hilderbrand

Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
Analyze, Forecast, and Support Office
Job Title: Preparedness and Resilience Program Lead
Douglas Hilderbrand
Douglas Hilderbrand

Educational Background:

  • Bucknell University (B.A. in Geology);
  • University of South Florida (M.S. in Geology);
  • North Carolina State University (M.S. in Meteorology)

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

  • My career path has been full of sharp turns. I always loved the weather but ended up at a small liberal arts college majoring in geology. After earning one master's degree, I attempted a second without having taken a single meteorology undergrad class. Fast forward to the National Weather Service. As competent a forecaster as I was, my true interest and skill was communicating the complexities of weather in easy to understand ways. This inevitably led me to NWS Headquarters.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • As the preparedness and resilience program lead, including managing the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador, StormReady, and Skywarn programs, my job centers around people and relationships. One of the tenets of Weather-Ready Nation is that NOAA and the NWS cannot do it alone. This ambitious strategic goal must be a unified effort within NOAA, and involve others across academia, government, and America's Weather Industry. The WRN Ambassadors program is a testament to this necessity.

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

  • Instead of one event I am going to give one year...2011. In early February, 2011, I accepted an opportunity to work as the weather and satellite policy adviser at NOAA headquarters. My first day was the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, where I was asked to draft a brief for the Secretary of Commerce. I was at the "tip of the arrow" during the southeast tornado outbreak in April, Joplin tornado in May, historical flooding on the Mississippi, Hurricane Irene, and even the DC earthquake.

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

  • As I was wrapping up my master's degree at NC State in the fall of 2001, I wanted to work "at the center of the weather universe." This desire led me to an entry level position at NCEP's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (now called the Weather Prediction Center). I was a surface analyst learning the trade as a forecaster surrounded by some of the best meteorologists in the world. I knew I was in the right place.

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • Everyday is different. Not only is the weather different everyday, but my daily activities are never the same. Sometimes I am building relationships with new partners, other times I am creating social media messaging that highlights the value of our mission. 

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

  • Don't assume you have to go through a traditional meteorology program. If you have interests beyond weather like business or finance, you can combine your love for weather and a secondary skill that makes you highly employable.

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

  • Beyond traditional meteorology courses, I strongly recommend courses that strengthen your writing and public speaking skills. Often overlooked, these skills can take you far. Look for opportunities to speak to a crowd.