If you live in Chicago, chances are you know Cheryl Scott as the pretty girl on NBC who keeps you updated on one of the city’s hottest topics: the weather.
But Scott is way more than just a “weather girl.” She’s an ivy league grad, a former Division 1 track star (her best long jump topped out around 19 feet), a science nerd, an enthusiastic dog mom, a hard worker and a humble success story. Here, we chat with the meteorologist about life on TV and off.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE YOU WANTED TO BE A METEOROLOGIST?
I actually became fascinated with the weather when I was little stemming from my favorite childhood movie, The Wizard Of Oz. The Tornado scene sparked my interest and all through grade school I was interested in summer and winter storms. I even wrote in my eighth year grade book, I plan to become a meteorologist. I’m very fortunate to be following my dreams and working as a meteorologist in Chicago!
WHAT DID YOU STUDY IN SCHOOL? DID YOU INTERN?
I was recruited to run track at Brown University so I jumped on the opportunity. They did not have a Meteorology program so I majored in Geological Sciences. I then furthered my studies and received my Meteorology degree in 2010 from Mississippi State University. While I was at Brown, I interned with the weather department at WCAU in Philadelphia.
DID RUNNING TRACK PREPARE YOU AT ALL FOR YOUR CAREER?
I was a sprinter while at Brown and ran the 400m, 4×400, 4×100, and long jump! With any sport, you learn a lot about hard work, discipline, and team work which are all essential qualities needed when headed into the work force. I definitely attribute my determination and strive for excellence from my younger years of working hard on and off the track. I compare every weather-cast to a mini race. Once the lights go on at the green screen, it’s go (race) time!
IT SEEMS LIKE METEOROLOGY WOULD BE A TOUGH FIELD TO BREAK INTO. AFTER COLLEGE, HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR FIRST JOB? HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?
Broadcast television is a tough business. I was fortunate enough to land an internship at WCAU in Philadelphia during college. Their weather department led me in the right direction and helped me make a resume tape/reel to send out to different stations around the country. After a few months, I got the opportunity to work at a station in Erie, PA and that’s when my on air career started (2007).
YOU SEEM LIKE SUCH A NATURAL ON TV. WAS THAT ALWAYS THE CASE?
Why thank you!! Being a natural did not come easy. (laugh) It was extremely difficult for me in the beginning doing weather on camera… LIVE! I had no journalism or broadcast background. I had to teach myself from scratch how to talk for television. With months of practice though, it became easier and thankfully, fun! I look back at when I first started and smile… realizing how much I had to learn and how far I’ve come. I’m fortunate!
DO YOU GET RECOGNIZED A LOT AROUND TOWN? WHAT WAS IT LIKE THE FIRST TIME THAT HAPPENED?
Chicago has been such a welcoming city, and I can’t think of a better city to work/live in, especially as a meteorologist. When people recognize me, it’s the greatest compliment. I appreciate all of my viewers and only hope that at the end of the day, they can continue to put their trust is me and enjoy my weather-casts.
WHAT’S A TYPICAL DAY ON THE JOB LIKE?
My schedule differs from most. I currently work double shift weekends and my work day starts on Saturday at 2:30 am. Yep! I work all day Saturday and Sunday with limited time to sleep. When I go into work, I first have to forecast. This takes a few hours of assessing the latest weather/model information. After comparing and contrasting, I will build my forecast. I then will build my weather graphics (what you see on air). Some may not know this, but most meteorologists, including myself, build our own graphics and we do not use a teleprompter. When we are on air, it is all ad lib. So we forecast, prep, then it’s air time! Typically, in a 30 minute newscast, weather will get 2:30. Then, we just continue to monitor and update the forecast as the days go by.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT YOUR JOB?
My favorite part about my job is that I get to be involved with the community in such a big way. My job goes beyond just telling the weather. It serves as a platform for so much more purpose. I recently joined the Board of The American Red Cross – Chicago Chapter, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of such a wonderful organization that helps so many in need especially in times of disaster. As a meteorologist, my job is to prepare and protect, and then be there for those who are impacted by weather and severe weather. It truly is a full circle job. Being there and communicating with my viewers is by far, the most rewarding part.
MOST CHALLENGING PART?
Forecasting can definitely always be a challenge…. but for me, the most difficult thing about my job is to see the damage caused by the wrath of mother nature. My heart goes out to all who have been impacted by severe weather.
WHAT ARE THE WORDS YOU LIVE BY?
“Follow Your Own Yellow Brick Road”… Life is full of twists and turns and many forks in the road, but I believe if you stay true to who you are and focus on the goals at hand, great things will come!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER YOUNG WOMEN THAT WANT TO PURSUE A CAREER PATH SIMILAR TO YOURS?
Follow your heart and passion! If you have the will, there is a way. Hard work and focus are so important for any career. Ask for help when needed. And get involved! (Internships are so important during college) Lastly, have fun!