Nerdy Cat Scuba Travels

A Cat Lovin' Engineer taking a career break by traveling, doing a divemaster internship, and diving around the world

Tag: Sabbatical

Takeaways from the Divemaster Program

divemaster celebration cakeWow. There are so many things that I want to say that I don’t know where to start.

First, the divemaster program was completely the opposite of what I expected. I imagined myself having tons of time for myself, doing yoga, discover iceland, everything except for Diving. (haha) Other PADI programs like advanced Open water, Deep Diver, and Rescue focus on your own development and improvement on diving.

The divemaster course is a big transition from being that vacationer diver to a full time diver that takes cares of others. Yes- you can still enjoy a dive and point out cute little crabs, but its not the main focus of the dive anymore. Instead, you are to focus on helping other divers, give them guidance, and if necessary, save their life. I guess I wasn’t prepared for that BIG transition.

During my three months in Iceland, I was able to dive for fun and dive for work. My fun dives brought back the relaxation and fun in diving. My work dives made me a better leader and stronger person.

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I’m done! Well Kinda…

divemaster collage iceland Yay! I’m done! Well kinda… I finished all my internship hours yesterday. These three months in Iceland have really flown by. There were definitely days where I missed America, but there were many more days hat I was really happy to be learning something new and be in a new environment.

For the last week- it’s been a real rush to finish my program. On July 4th- a fellow DMT and I took our final exams. The exam consisted of 120 questions. At lest half of the questions were easy things that were was or watched in the DVD and Divemaster manual. About 20 of the questions- I really just guessed on. I had read the manual but didn’t memorize these little details. The good part is that after the exam we went over each wrong answer, so now I know what I didn’t know.For example, if a diver comes out of the water with bright red lips, what does that? Carbon Monoxide poisoning!  ( I didn’t know that prior to the exam, but now I will never forget!)

Over the weekend we did our Divemaster workshops. The discover scuba pool session was pretty fun. Patrik was able to find a real student for us. (Thanks Deb!) We all then watched him conduct a DSD and then did our simulated sessions. This practice made it easy when we went to the open water. Continue reading

Divemaster or Engineer? Which Is it?

Wow time flies. I’m almost done with my scuba divemaster program.  I thought being a divemaster was this dream job of diving into a beautiful landscape each day and being on vacation.  Now I have a different perspective. While the “customer” is diving, the divemaster is staring at them. They are examining the surrounding environment and evaluating the safety of the customer. The customer is unaware of all the stress surrounding the dive.

Most days when I dive silfra I’m hardly aware of its beauty. I spend most of the time staring at the customer and hoping they don’t have a rapid ascent. I hope that they don’t get air trapped in their fins. I hope that their equipment functions properly. I feel like I’m just this worry bee that I will do everything correctly in case something goes wrong. I’ve been told by the instructors that this gets easier as time goes by. I’ll slowly start relaxing and have it as half work/half fun each day. Right now I think I’m about 90% worry, and 10% play time.

I don’t know if I seriously considered trading in my engineering job for one in the scuba field. One negative about the engineering field was that the average age of my coworkers was about 50. I always felt like I was the youngest there, and always trying to prove that I was smart enough to be there.  With scuba, I’m definitely one of the older peeps. But I don’t feel the age comparisons at all. In fact, I think the dive community here is great.  People generally get along well. At work, everyone is working together. Sure there are people that are slow- but its hardly a big issue.

For engineering, there was an employee review process that only rewarded the top 8% of the employees.  I grinded myself to exhaustion to be one of the “far exceeds expectations” type of employee. One year, I found that I an average of 67 hours a week.  At this scuba thing- I leave work and thats it. I don’t think about it, and I don’t stress about it. Its nice to live a “normal” life. I don’t think I’ve ever worked over 55 hours in one week. It’s nice being able to go home and whip up some dinner and watch some netflix. Who knew you could have so much free time after work??

Comparisons: 

Engineering pays better but the trade off is having no life.

Scuba pays less, but the trade off is that you are responsible for people’s lives.

Being a Tourist in Iceland: Dogsledding Day!

dogsledding Iceland

Finally! A reason to take some time off from the internship. My sister and her BF have come to Iceland to visit. I started planning all the fun activities as quickly as I could. One awesome thing about Iceland is that the touring companies give out discounts to other companies’ employees. If I like the tour, I can recommend it to our customers as another activity to do.

In case you are wondering what awesome adventures you can do in Iceland, here’s what I have planned for my Sis:

Day 1: Pick up from Airport. Relax. Walk around the city, go to the Summer Festival. Eat at Icelandic Fish and Chips.

Day 2: Dogsledding on Langjökull glacier. Then take the 4×4 route to Thingvellier National Park. Go to Fontana (the real icelandic geothermal spa!)

Day 3: Puffin Tour in the morning, Laxness Horse Riding in the afternoon

Day 4: Big breakfast in town. Escape Room. Fishmarket, then Drinking at Fredrickson for the boot liters.  Meet the rest of Dive.Is staff. Party!

Day 5: DIY Golden Circle Tour. Snorkeling at Silfra.  Geysir. Gulfoss. Followed by the best restaurant in town – Grill Market.

Day 6: bye bye 🙁

There’s so many things I wish I could take them to if they had more time. Hopefully they like what I’ve organized and love Iceland as much as I do.

When Engineering Skills Get Used on Scuba: Divemaster Candidate Information and Evaluation Form in Excel

divemaster Candidate information and evaluation form excel

Nerd alert!

So today I spent a little time in excel creating a file to track my divemaster candidate progress. I wanted a way to lay out a schedule per PADI instructions while also adding some details to the Dive.IS divemaster program.  They require a 3 month internship program which I have categorized as Dive.Is.   I think I will modify it a little more onceI get details on the practical assessments and pool sessions.  If there is anyone out there that is trying to track the same information – at least they won’t have to re-invent the wheel.

Divemaster Candidate Information and Evaluation Form template

Internship Details: So Dive.Is has a competitively priced Divemaster program for 99,000Kr ($850).  This cost includes a room and training. It does not cover the PADI Divemaster package (41,000Kr).  Why is this a good option? For one, the cost of a room for rent in Iceland is about 85,000Kr in the city center. So really you can come here for the summer and only pay a fraction of the cost of the rent. The trade-off is that you have to work a certain amount of hours to pay off the program.  Dive.Is benefits because you are working for them for “Free.” I benefit because I get to work at a Top notch dive center. This place is HIGH volume. Every day there are 10+ tours of snorkel and dive groups. Over 30 divemaster/instructors available for mentorship.  Here you will learn about all aspects of a dive center, not just diving. When I pinged some of these divers, they remarked that Dive.Is is one of the only dive centers that gives you 2 days off instead of 1. Isn’t that nuts?! I guess in the dive world, people only get 1 day off. I guess it’s not really “work” if you have fun everyday. I’m not sure if I could do this 6 days a week!

Questions to think about: 

  • What type of Divemaster program would work for you?
    • Internship with low-cost, or something faster?
    • Large dive shop or smaller?
    • Cold water? Or warm water?
    • How many days off a week do I need?
  • How do I want the divemaster program organized?
    • When should I do the pool sessions?
    • When should I do the demonstrations?

If I was feeling super nerdy, I would create a program roadmap showing completion progress. I’m not sure how deep I want to get into planning at this point.

Goodbye Engineering – Hello World

I’ve been working since I was about 14 years old. My first job was working for my friend’s mom at one of those Thai Food places at Festivals. During high school, I folded clothes and talked people into buying denim at the Gap.  When I got to college I worked a variety of jobs- internship at Raytheon, a grader, and teacher’s assistant (TA) for engineering classes.  Once I graduated with a B.S. Electrical Engineering, I got a real paying job in Engineering.

I got into this habit of working really hard, then taking a crazy vacation. Work Hard. Take a Break. Repeat. in 2014, I worked 7 months straight (7 days a week) with a total of 3 days off.  My team had an important job to do by a deadline; so everyone worked everyday until we delivered the product. I bonded with all my team mates, but I felt the disappearance of my personal life. What happened? When did life turn into only work? After three long years without a proper vacation, I took 7 weeks off of work to go to my friend’s wedding in Thailand and unwind.  It was great. I set goals and told myself I wouldn’t get into the same habit.

In 2015, I felt myself drifting into the same habit. I wanted to be different, but I couldn’t stop dedicating my life to my work. I needed to put the same amount of effort in my personal life as I have been at all my jobs.

Personal Leave of Absence – A Sabbatical

I don’t think any of my managers were happy to let me leave, but they all understood. I have been a “Far Exceeds Expectations” type of gal. But I told the truth and said I wanted a break and needed to pursue my personal life. I met someone while in Thailand back in 2014 and fell in love. I wanted a chance to see what life would be like without the pressures of work.

Logistics

It’s not easy to leave your life behind. I have a great apartment in Santa Monica. I have a rental townhouse in San Diego. I’ve been a cat mommy for 16 years. I have a car, I’m a hoarder.  The list goes on and on.

Here’s what I did…I spent a month de-hoarding and donating all my stuff to salvation army.  I vacuum sealed any clothes I would need the next year and boxed up other important documents and stuff that I didn’t want stolen. I filled my garage with boxes of anything personal from my apartment.  I called my landlord and told her I needed to leave but would like the chance to come back. Being the nice lady she is, she let me sublet my apartment. That saved me about $200 a month in storage costs.  Coincidentally a swimmer friend was looking for a place at the same time so he agreed to sign a sublease with me and my landlord.

Next I spent about 2 weeks searching for someone that would watch my cat, Jade.  My close friend in San Diego volunteered her spacious house for Jade. I spent the next two weekends at her house with Jade making sure the cat was ok with her temporary accommodations.

Everything was hard to do, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I could see the freedom of doing whatever I wanted. Jade would understand, mommy needed a break. My family would understand. Friends were excited for me. Let’s DO THIS.