One class at West Deptford High School on Wednesday afternoon learned about the art of predicting weather, and how exactly one becomes a television meteorologist, straight from the source.
Chris Sowers, the weekend meteorologist for WPVI TV-6 in Philadelphia, and a native of nearby Glassboro, came to the high school to talk to a freshman science class taught by Joel Crane and to a number of teachers in the high school's science department. He spoke about his job, how he got to where he is today and how a typical meteorologist goes about his business in
predicting the weather.
Sowers, who said he had wanted to be a meteorologist since he was a little kid, explained to the class how he and other meteorologists predict the weather daily. He gave them a sneak peek at the various computer models and explained how he looks at different models and showed those models are used to build a forecast.
However, the bulk of Sowers' presentation dealt with how he got to WPVI today and in his story were lessons that could apply to someone in any profession.
He explained that there were three steps that got him to his position today. The first key was finishing his prerequisites. Sowers graduated from Kean University with a degree in meteorology, but had to stay at school an extra year because of one prerequisite that he didn't have.
The second tip he offered to the students was to do lots of internships. Sowers interned with News12 in the New York market as well as the National Weather Service in Mount Holly. Those internships helped him land a job at WPVI as a weather producer in 2000.
“When I went into the interview (with WPVI), I had all these internships,” Sowers said of his work in college.
Getting in front of the camera
The internships, along with his solid work with building graphics during the interview, landed him his first job with WPVI. However, after a few years, Sowers said that he was overqualified for his position and became bored with it. That's when he got help from former WPVI chief meteorologist Dave Roberts.
“Dave came in one morning and said to me, 'You know Chris, you're not a bad looking guy,'” Sowers said.
Roberts suggested to Sowers that he look into getting in front of the camera. Sowers told stories of how Roberts would work with him after the 6 p.m. news every night and had him practice speaking in front of the camera. Gradually, Sowers got better and better and sent out a reel to news stations across the country. He got a bunch of interest and was finally offered the chief meteorologist position for WNKY, a station in Bowling Green, KY.
This brought Sowers to his third tip, directed mainly to students in the television industry, where he said that you're going to have to leave home to progress in your career. Sowers said he knew that just starting out on camera, he needed to work his way up.
"You need to start out in the small markets,” he said. “Then, you could work your way up to the mid-size markets and then the big markets like Philadelphia, New York and Boston.”
Sowers worked in Bowling Green for about two and half years before moving on to Harrisburg and then Chicago.
Early in 2011, just after his contract had expired in Chicago, Sowers received a call from meteorologist Cecily Tynan at WPVI about an opening. He came back home to serve as the weekend meteorologist in May 2011.
Ultimately, Sowers told the class that, over the next few years leading up to college, they'll have the opportunity to chase their dream just as he had.
“You'll find out when you get older, passion-wise, what you want to do,” he said.