Becoming a Course Director
On a cold, dark, rainy October night in the dive centre, I finally hit send on the email that could change my life – my Course Director application. It had taken me months to compile (business plan for myself and OTD, Diving CV, Project Aware portfolio, credits from IDCs I had staffed, webinars and forums attended, letters of recommendation from existing CDs, summary of certifications and last but not least, evidence of passing the theory and standards exams at a recent IE to the much higher pass mark required for a CD!). Nothing was guaranteed, my application now went into a pot with all the others from Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) to be assessed and ranked. This EMEA pot was then stirred into the Asia Pacific pot and the Americas pot, so that overall global rankings were given to each applicant. This process was done throughout what felt like a very long winter – until on 10th January we were all poised by phones to see if we had made the final cut and the top 45, to be offered a place. I literally dropped my phone when I found out I had. This was especially embarrassing since I was helping with a school trip at my daughter’s school that day and was sitting in the library with some other mums chatting away before being called to collect out charges for the day, when my phone fell from my hand and crashed onto the floor whilst I sat aghast, mouth wide open and unable to speak. They were really quite worried about me!
The next month was a whirlwind of preparation (to leave my family for 3 weeks, and to leave my other baby, Ocean Turtle for 3 weeks) both in terms of logistics and self-study – yep even at CD level the same structure applies – presentations / self-study and knowledge reviews before the course starts.
I flew on my birthday – the shortest birthday ever given the time zone – and missed the connecting flight due to a delay leaving Heathrow. At Hong Kong I was bumped to a flight to Kuala Lumpur, then onwards to Kota Kinabalu, finally arriving 8 hours later than planned, but thankfully bumping into Rich Somerset and Terry Johnson from PADI EMEA who scraped me off the airport floor and delivered me to the utterly luxurious hotel in Kota Kinabalu.
I had one day to acclimatise and get over the journey and jet lag. The idyllic surroundings certainly helped this process, and by close of play I was set up and raring to go – portable printer (oh yes, it’s a thing!) plugged in, laptop, iPad, iPhone laid out, thousands of slates and notes carefully arranged in my room.
Walking into the conference room on day one I was greeted by a tall, smiling guy from PADI who said “you must be Kerrie” – this scared the beejaysus out of me, but he promised me all he had heard had been good, and showed me to my seat. It turned out this was Eric Albinsson from PADI Americas, a lovely, giving person. We had all been allocated into teams of 7 or 8 people, and I was given Blue team. My team was the most globally diverse – Malta, Indonesia, Germany and Korea – and we had a translator that the Korean guys had hired to help them out. The overall diversity in the room was astounding – 45 candidates from 25 countries, but only 7 women, a statistic that I am hell bent on correcting.
Blue Team in the pool after one of the confined water sessions.
The CDTC followed a recognisable structure to the IDC – there were confined water and open water presentations, classroom presentations (of all levels, instructor to students, CD to candidates and everything inbetween) and a team marketing project. The difference was, to be successful the scores needed to be higher (understandably) and the role play was more of a challenge to get our heads around – someone playing DM, someone as Instructor, someone as Staff Instructor, someone as CD, and then the PADI examiner. Many a time the question “who am I?” was raised, and not in a philosophical way! The super-intensive 9 days were roughly split into two parts. The first half, all of our assessments and assignments (and there were many of them!) were practice runs for the real event.
Blue Team after an Open Water session.
The second half of the course, the mood changed palpably, the stress levels sky rocketed, and the make or break presentations came thick and fast. Some days two, other days three or more. I had expected it to be an intensive and difficult experience but nothing could have prepared me for the extraordinary experience. The highs were higher than I’d ever experienced outside my personal life (wedding, kids) and the lows were absolutely gut-wrenchingly deep. My support network back home were completely incredible throughout, but especially when I needed them most. On returning to my room at almost midnight one night, exhausted, frustrated, angry and close to tears (long story) there was a huge bunch of gorgeous tropical flowers waiting for me with a motivating note saying “We’re all thinking of you back home. We know you’re going to smash this”. I completely broke down, for a good half hour, but when I picked myself back up, showered away all the negative feelings and emotions, I felt stronger than I ever had, and I knew, indeed, that I was going to smash this. And I did.
On the last day, following the last presentations, we were called one by one into a small board room to be told our fate by our regional Head of Instructor Development. I walked into the room and Terry stood up and said “come ‘ere” and gave me a massive hug. I hoped it was a good hug, and I didn’t have to wait long until he told me that I was now a Course Director and ……….. I have no idea what else he said as my soul left my body momentarily and was floating around god knows where trying to take in the enormity of it all, and planning whether to start with a cheeky gin or a glass of bubbly! (for the record, gin won).
Exhibit A -Eric Albinsson, Alan Jan, Linda Van Velsan, Terry Johnson, Roger Sun, Thomas Knedlik.
That night PADI and Tourism Malaysia laid on an extravaganza for us. It started with a cocktail reception where I finally managed to persuade the entire PADI team to participate in the Ocean Turtle Lunge (exhibit A) and was followed by a gala dinner, with live entertainment provided by the incredible Sabah dancers. The PADI team had prepared some emotional video montages (more emotional still since that first gin was now about 7 hours ago and we were still going strong) and then we were called up on stage one by one to be given our certificates, badges and as a huge surprise, our certification cards. Then we headed off into Kota Kinabalu for the night in a great bar by the waterfront and slowly let it sink in.
I actually don’t have the words to fully do justice to the experience, nor to where I now find myself and the incredibly privileged position I have to help other PADI Pros on their journeys. All I can say in an absolutely enormous thank you to those who encouraged me, stood by me, picked me up, reality-slapped me, drove me, and believed in me. I could not have done it without you, and my gratitude to you is unending, truly.