This is the top of the Ocean Voyager exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium…my new “office”
It’s a job I’ve been wanting for 2 years but my previous full-time position didn’t give me the time off I’d need to pursue it. The position: Dive Master in the Dive Immersion Program (DIP) at the Georgia Aquarium. In it, I’ll be helping lead groups of divers and snorkelers on guided tours of the big Ocean Voyager exhibit.
Most of you know I’ve been a volunteer diver at the aquarium for over 4 years and that diving is a passion of mine. I got my original certification back in 1983 while I was still in college but took a 17 year break from it until 2000 when I had more time and money. Since then, I’ve gotten several specialty certifications such as Underwater Photography, Wreck/Deep diving, NITROX, and a Rescue Diver.
When the aquarium was putting out the call for volunteers in the spring of 2005, I jumped at the chance. I was a non-diving volunteer since the pre-opening day in November 2005. Three months later, I joined the group of volunteer divers.
The Dive Immersion Program started in 2008. As a volunteer, I thought I’d get first shot at being part of the program, but positions in the new group were being filled from the outside. They also required a Dive Master/Instructor certification or higher, something I didn’t have. Besides, I knew the pay wasn’t anywhere near what I was used to and at the time, I wasn’t willing to completely give up software engineering. Then I was given a break from corporate software development last year when I got laid off in July.
In December, Karen and I decided I could didn’t have to go back into software and could retire if I wanted to. I decided to look into getting a job at the aquarium in the DIP but that meant having to get my Dive Master certification. I took the money ADP paid me for my unused vacation and got that certification, completing it in March. All the while I was taking the classes, I would talk to the manager of the DIP to let her know what I was doing and that I was interested in joining the staff.
Once I got my certification, I filled out an application for the position and bided my time. They had just filled 4 positions but told me that there is turnover and that it shouldn’t take too long for new positions to open up. Then, a few weeks later, I was talking to one of the DIP staff members who told me he and another person had just accepted a spot with the new dolphin exhibit and they would be leaving the DIP. I figured that this means they’d have 2 open slots so later that morning, I stopped by the DIP office to say hello and inquire about the news and was told they’d be filling those spots. Fate had stepped in to help me achieve my dreams!
The manager, Susan, wasn’t sure how quickly they’d be able to move on filling the positions but I was on the top of the list to contact when things would get moving. She suggested I fill out another application and submit it along with my resume and they would call with the next step. This was on May 14 during my normal volunteer dive shift. The next day, Karen and I flew to Hawaii to celebrate my birthday.
Continued in part 2….