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Humans of NCEI: Karen Flowers

Collage of images of NCEI employees with text "Humans of NCEI"
Karen Flowers wearing a t-shirt with the NOAA logo standing on a dock in front of boats and water


Here at NCEI, we aren’t just data—we are people. In our Humans of NCEI series, meet the awesome minds that manage one of the largest archives of atmospheric, coastal, geophysical, and oceanic research in the world. Get to know Karen Flowers, a Budget Analyst in the Finance and Acquisition Branch (FAB) of the Support Services Division (SSD).

What is your job title?

Budget Analyst for the Support Services Division (SSD) - Finance and Acquisition Branch (FAB).

What is your specific area of expertise?

Finance, intra-agency agreements, appropriations, legislative affairs, funding transfers, and Annual Operating Plans (AOPs) within the Finance and Acquisition Branch. 

What was your first job? How did it prepare you for your current position?

I was a temp employee for a shoe store chain located inside a mall. I counted and recorded shoe inventory. I had learned from this experience that if you overstock the inventory or overestimate sales, you risk losing money in costs from unsold merchandise. Who would have guessed my first job at the age of 15, counting shoes, would lead me to a career in finance and receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Finance has opened many doors and opportunities in my career and has carried me to my current position as a Budget Analyst contractor at NCEI.

How did you end up at NCEI?

I worked for URENCO USA, a uranium enrichment facility, in Eunice, New Mexico. My duties included reporting monthly variances of each department and providing budget plans and quarterly updates to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Vice President of Finance (VPF). I then received a promotion as a Records Management Coordinator/Technical Procedure Writer and Editor. I was responsible for training various departments on how to document nuclear records and instructed nuclear operators on how to write department procedures. I also edited and reviewed department procedures, as well as audited departmental records. I was in charge of the budget for Information Services, tracking monthly expenses and variances, and supported the Vice President of Technical Services for the quarterly budget preparation. This position taught me how to use 3-way communication and work directly with all levels of management, including the CEO and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  

In 2015, my position ended due to my spouse relocating to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I started looking at the local employment and applied online as a contractor for NCEI’s Procurement Specialist and I was offered the position. This was my first role with NOAA and I have grown from this experience since day one.

What does a usual workday look like for you?

My role as a Budget Analyst is working on intra-agency agreements, legislative affairs, budget formulation, performance management, and processing funding transfers.

What question are you asked most often when someone finds out what you do? How do you respond?

I think the number one comment I receive is, "I have heard of NOAA but I'm not sure what they really do".  This gives me the opportunity to share my NOAA knowledge and educate them on what NOAA is all about. 

What sort of training and education would one need for your job?

A Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and training in government financial processes, appropriations law, the legislative process, agreements policy, and NOAA financial systems.

What projects are you working on now? Are there any upcoming projects that you are excited about?

I am currently working on the Fiscal Year 2023 NCEI Annual Operating Plan (AOP) Milestones, timelines, and slide decks. 

As for upcoming projects, I and the NCEI Strategic Planner are in the planning stages of developing an NCEI Smartsheet for Annual Operating Plans (AOPs) to be used by NCEI’s Divisions. This will allow the Divisions to make their quarterly updates in a format that can be easily provided to NESDIS Headquarters. 

What is your favorite aspect of your job?

I love all aspects of my job, really! I love working with the NCEI Divisions in developing better ways to report their quarterly milestones. NCEI has vast knowledge through their employees and I am able to tap into the different Divisions for suggestions and guidance.

Who are you outside of your career?

I am a wife, mother, nonna, sister, and a friend. This November marks 39 years I have been married to my best friend. I have a beautiful daughter who is a Licensed Master Social Worker at Odessa Regional Medical Center in Texas and a handsome son who is a Second-Class Petty Officer for the United States Navy. I have three beautiful grandchildren and the fourth will be here in December! I also love going to estate sales and refurbishing furniture.


Two West Highland Terriers (Westies) named Ace and Levi.


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