Aspiring meteorologist Jordan Ford likes to say that the great thing about the weather is that it always changes.
“There’s always something new to look at,” said the Faculty of Science alumnus. “From a storm in Japan to a wind event on the west coast of Newfoundland, I’ve always been fascinated by it.”
However, despite his obsession, after graduating from O’Donel High School in Mount Pearl, Mr. Ford followed his friends into engineering. He completed a few courses in the program before deciding it wasn’t for him.
“My parents always encouraged me to follow my passion and the rest would find its way,” he said. “So, I started talking to meteorologists on Twitter.”
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will be familiar with his contacts: weather experts Rodney Barney, Dale Foote, Derm Kearney, Brian Walsh, Kelly Butt, Ryan Snodden and Eddie Sheerr.
Mr. Ford chatted with most of them via the platform for years, ever since they suggested he purchase his first weather station as a young teenager.
“They were just as happy to answer the questions I had about how they got where they were and what process they followed in terms of education.”
Mr. Ford soon realized one of the most popular routes started with a Memorial University bachelor of science degree, with a major in physics.
In switched from engineering to physics in his second year, but still struggled to stay on track.
“From learning how to study to balancing the workload, it took me until my third year to really start getting my grades to where I wanted them to be,” he said.
Going the extra mile
Dr. Rick Goulding, the physics academic program officer, and Dr. Kris Poduska, a physics professor and department head, encouraged him and helped him structure his courses to allow him to complete his degree and prepare him for what he hoped would be the next stage of his educational journey – the diploma in meteorology program at Dalhousie University.
“The physics and math professors at Memorial really went that extra mile for me,” said Mr. Ford. “In my first semester, Dr. Danny Dyer gave me a well-earned C in Math 1000. But he told me if I worked hard, I would be okay.
“He said he’d seen it thousands of times, that students could flip the switch from high school and become decent students,” he continued. “That encouraged me. I went on to complete a minor in math and fell in love with it. If he had said, ‘Math is not for you,’ I don’t think I would have done that.”
“Being able to do that also helped me reach out to people in the industry.”
Mr. Ford encourages students to reach out to their professors, not just for help when needed, but also for advice – even if the prospect is daunting.
“I think those interactions are what saved me. Being able to do that also helped me reach out to people in the industry and I found they are also more than willing to interact with students.”
Eventually Mr. Foote and Mr. Barney became his supervisors when Mr. Ford interned at the Gander weather office through the Federal Student Work Experience Program, or FSWEP.
The program gives students the opportunity to gain experience and earn industry competitive wages working for the federal government, something he encourages more students to investigate.
“I did that for the last four summers and it was a great experience,” he said. “Dale and Rodney came up through the same programs and could answer all my questions, right down to course specifics. I’m very grateful to them. They helped me tremendously.”
Mr. Foote says that one of the benefits of being a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada is the opportunity to work on different projects and initiatives during his career.
“The most gratifying aspect of my job is working with FSWEP to introduce hard-working, deserving Memorial students like Jordan to the benefits of working in the public service,” he said.
“Enhancing public safety through our forecasts and warnings brings a sense of job satisfaction that is hard to duplicate and we are grateful to share that with young graduates looking for a rewarding career.”
Following his passion
In September, Mr. Ford began Dalhousie’s year-long intensive diploma of meteorology at home via distance.
It caters to operational- or industry-driven meteorology.
“I don’t want to brag, but I received five As last term. While I don’t know for sure what comes next, I’m optimistic, thanks to the support of my parents, my girlfriend and my friends, as well as the professors at Memorial and the meteorologists, who all encouraged me to follow my passion.”