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 Katy Luquire, a data scientist.
What is your job title?
Data Scientist and Release Train Engineer.
What is your specific area of expertise?
My educational background was originally Chemistry and Environmental Science, but throughout my career my area of expertise shifted to management of people, projects, and data.
What was your first job? How did it prepare you for your current position?
My first job was as a restaurant host, and it would get busy! I'm a firm believer that if you can successfully work in a high-volume restaurant, you can do almost anything. What I took most from that job was remaining calm under pressure and effectively triaging work during the mayhem of a rush when everything was piling up. Those qualities are useful in every job.
How did you end up at NCEI?
A colleague from a former job at a clinical laboratory recommended a metadata position at NCEI to me.
What does a usual workday look like for you?
I bounce between two core roles. First, I operate one of our archival systems, Common Ingest. I am also the Release Train Engineer for one of our Agile Release Trains (ART). Essentially I run a team-of-teams that plans and prioritizes work. That involves cross-divisional coordination, balancing competing interests, and trying to “keep the train on the tracks.”
What question are you asked most often when someone finds out what you do? How do you respond?
The best question I continue to get is from my uncle. Every time we have snow in the forecast, he asks me to put in a good word with "the weather people" so we can have a snow day. It's cute. Otherwise, I'm generally asked if I spend all my time convincing people that climate change is real.
What sort of training and education would one need for your job?
A mix of computer science and physical sciences, but I couldn't say anything more specific than that. So much of what you do in any job is specific to the position and can't be taught in a classroom. To me, the point is to have the concepts clear enough so that you can apply them in new situations or identify how to teach yourself anything you may need to learn.
What inspired you to pursue a career in your field?
Although I am relatively new to NCEI, I always thought I'd work for NOAA. I grew up in Asheville and was interested in sciences, so it was a perfect fit. After my career shifted from science to management, a retraining in data science led me back into a science career.
What projects are you working on now? Are there any upcoming projects that you are excited about?
Right now my biggest project is expanding the amount of teams in our ART to include teams centered around migrating our systems to the Cloud. It is a complex task but it is rewarding to see in real time how our organization communicates, plans, and innovates more effectively due to these projects and my work in them.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I enjoy that both my roles feel valuable to the organization. I love being a Release Train Engineer because I feel like I play a key role in moving our organization forward that will hopefully have lasting positive impact. I also like being a Common Ingest operator because archiving data is at the core of our mission, and I'm proud to be responsible for that.
What challenges have you had to deal with in your career?
I spent the majority of my career managing taproom operations of a micro-cidery here in Asheville. Like many others in service-oriented industries, I found myself unemployed and wanting a career change when the pandemic hit. It is wild how earth-shattering it can be to lose your job, even in the context of a global emergency. But if it weren't for COVID, I probably wouldn't have retrained into data science to learn more skills that helped me eventually end up at NCEI.
Who are you outside of your career?
I like to spend my time with my friends, family, and 2-year-old niece. I have two dogs, a cat, and four chickens, and yes it is way too many animals. I also enjoy walking, gardening, riding my bike, pilates, and crossword puzzles.
Last book you read?
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.