Hugh Holmes – BSc (Hons) Navigation and Maritime Science graduate

Year of graduation: 2013

Current Employer: Met Office

Current Job Title: Operational Meteorologist

Current Location: MoD Boscombe Down

“The opportunities available at Plymouth are so diverse that there is something that will appeal to everyone.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

After graduating, I initially pursued a career in the yacht delivery industry whilst also volunteering to crew aboard charity sail training vessels. It was through working in these environments that I realised that I was enjoying the theoretical side of voyage planning more and more, much of which included anticipating weather conditions. After deciding that I wanted to pursue a career in meteorology, I self-studied additional science and maths courses in order to further my scientific knowledge. I was then able to join the Met Office, where I have been for over two years, working across the UK in a variety of locations both within civilian and military support roles.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

Although this degree is fairly specialised, studying Navigation and Maritime Science actually helped open my eyes to the opportunities available in a whole range of different careers related to the marine world. Also, the vast and varied experience of the lecturers on the course helped mould my interest in meteorology into a potential career.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

Yes! When I graduated I was convinced that I would be pursuing both a career and a life at sea, similar to the majority of my coursemates. However, my interest in the more scientific side of meteorology led me down the path that I’m on today and although I do miss the calling of the open sea occasionally, I’m convinced that I’ve made the right decision.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

The main difficulty revolves around communicating the likelihood of potentially hazardous weather conditions to military pilots who are themselves under pressure to complete operations. It is my responsibility to convey the risks associated with the weather; quick thinking and positive action is required on a daily basis to help bring in pilots safely and help them complete missions.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

Every day is exciting, as every day is different! If I had to choose, it would be the satisfaction of knowing that my forecasts have enabled the Queen to get home from several royal engagements, or knowing that my expertise has contributed to the successful trial of aircraft which are now in use on the Frontline. Otherwise, through working with STEM partners, it is always very rewarding to be able to teach meteorology to children, helping to inspire future generations to pursue careers in science.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

I would have made sure that I gave my full attention to all of the “extra” subjects that were part of my degree. At the time, it was easy to think, “I will never use this information ever again”, but you never know where you will end up, and there are plenty of times when I wished that I had listened more to the lecturers.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Don’t be put off by “compulsory” entry requirements. There are many ways which people can get into meteorology as it such a wide reaching area of study that affects everyone every single day. Most meteorology companies provide their own training packages, so if you are dedicated and serious about this career then it is open to most backgrounds, not just people who have meteorology degrees. However, professional meteorologists are in short supply, so you will need to prove that you are worth the investment and being able to stand out from the crowd can be a real selling point. Having first-hand experience of different weather scenarios and how they can affect yachtsmen certainly gave me a platform from which to forge my career.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

The course gave me access to a wealth of knowledge on the marine sector – not just from study materials and lectures, but also the lecturers themselves. The location of the university itself also allowed for interactive practical demonstrations of navigation methods on board the fleet of university vessels in Plymouth Sound. Also, the state-of-the-art simulators within the new Marine Building gave realistic examples of how the techniques we were learning would be used in a real world environment.

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

My favourite part of the course was that everyone was in the same boat (pun-intended), and all my course mates were so like-minded and passionate about sailing. It really did help that everyone was so keen and the group atmosphere certainly helped me study and gave me skills that I could use in the future. The course itself promotes the use of team working, as well as extensive public presentation skills which I now use as part of my daily working routine.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

Other than the course, being part of UPSU societies like MTG (Musical Theatre Group). This society gave me friends for life, whilst also addressing my need to blow off steam and take a break from studying.

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?

I regularly meet up with friends from university. I also met my partner in the Musical Theatre Group, a whopping six years ago! A couple of my lecturers stayed in touch too, and I received a number of congratulations messages upon getting my job in the Met Office.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Definitely. The opportunities available at Plymouth are so diverse that there is something that will appeal to everyone. The location of the University in the heart of a bustling city is great, and the city itself is synonymous with the marine industry. Specifically regarding the course, the new Marine Building has some amazing equipment and facilities that are unlikely to be found anywhere else in the country.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

Make the most of university life, because it will be over before you know it! I can’t believe that I started at Plymouth seven years ago. Don’t be afraid to try new things and meet as many people as possible: having connections can get you a little step up. You never know which companies people will end up working for.