Why did you choose to study at Swansea University?
I chose to study at Swansea University because I wanted a degree course that offered a lot of flexibility, enabling me to pursue subject matter that I was interested in and would be beneficial to my career aspirations.
Tell us about your time at the University. What would you say is your defining memory of studying at Swansea?
My defining memory of studying at the University is the wholesome experience that I had, which really prepared me for the step into the world of work. The learning environment, the resources, the lecturing and the lecturers were all very good. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.
"I would say that the key to ongoing success is to stay relevant..."
What advice do you have for those who have recently graduated?
I would say that the key to ongoing success is to stay relevant – especially in your specialism – and keep up with the constantly changing world. Don’t just focus on what you’re doing now, but also look to the future and think about the direction in which things are travelling, and where you and your aspirations can fit into that.
How did you go from studying for a Geography degree at Swansea University, to working at Channel 4?
In the month that I graduated, June 2002, a Broadcast Assistant job was advertised by the Met Office, working at the BBC Weather Centre in London. I applied, interviewed and was successful in getting the job starting in October 2002.
As part of the role, I was given the chance to train to present weather on TV and radio, to provide holiday cover for the BBC’s regional weather presenters. I worked very hard, spending many days in the training studio and subsequently getting feedback in order to improve. It paid off, because I presented my first weather forecast on TV within just nine months – coincidentally on BBC Wales Today.
I spent much of the next three years travelling around the BBC’s nations and regions, as holiday cover for various weather presenters, before getting a promotion in 2006 to broadcast on national and international TV and radio.
In the summer of 2011, Channel 4 News announced that it was looking for its first ever weather presenter. I expressed an interest and after a few discussions and a screen test, I joined the programme in the late-autumn of that year.
What does your day normally consist of?
On a typical day, I get into the newsroom at around 11.30am and spend around an hour or two looking at the various weather computer models to see what the forecast is going to be. I also see if there are any big weather stories going on around the world, which can mean that I make an additional appearance on the main news programme.
I then spend some time on social media and often post a few things – videos, pictures or useful information – to see what people are most interested in on that particular day.
I then spend a few hours preparing weather graphics, using special software that is like a blend of PowerPoint and Google Earth. It effectively allows me to show a variety of weather information for anywhere on the planet for up to 10 days ahead.
I normally spend some more time on social media around 5pm, as this is one of the best times for audience engagement in the UK. It is also a time of day when people are about to travel, so offering weather advice for the commute is popular.
Next is a trip to make-up to ensure that I don’t look shiny in the strong TV studio lights, before going into the studio to present my TV forecast.
"...patience, persistence, hard work and a backup plan are essential qualities to have for a career like mine."
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of going into a career like yours?
The media landscape is constantly changing and difficult to get into – especially for weather broadcasting, of which there are relatively few jobs in the UK. Therefore, patience, persistence, hard work and a backup plan are essential qualities to have for a career like mine.
What is one thing about your job that may surprise people?
What most people don’t realise, is that weather presenters don’t read autocue. We ad-lib and present the weather from a story that we’ve built inside our heads. This also allows us to be flexible and talk for varying amounts of time at short-notice.
We also prepare the graphics and, in my case as a trained forecaster, I work out the forecast myself. It’s a largely one-person band from start to finish.
"...everyone should have the right to know whether what they are reading has been written with the intent to inform, act as clickbait, or even a mix of the two."
The weather is a constant topic in newspapers. How much would you say is fact, and how much is “clickbait”?
I think that the quality of weather content in newspapers is on a varying scale, with the worst being at the clickbait end and the best being at the factual end. What I try to do in my role – especially on social media – is to educate people what to be wary of when reading weather stories in newspapers.
I recently made a YouTube video on how to spot fake weather stories. It’s something that I’m passionate about and feel is an important conversation to be having. Weather affects us all and influences a lot of what we do, so everyone should have the right to know whether what they are reading has been written with the intent to inform, act as clickbait, or even a mix of the two.
Why did you choose to become a forecaster instead of another type of climatologist?
Although there’s an obvious close link between weather and climate, it’s always been the weather side of things that I’ve had the greatest passion for. People are always talking about the weather, so for me to be able to inform, educate and engage with everyone about it is a dream.