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From Air to Sea: Mat Burich Goes From Aerospace Engineer to Marine Engineer

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Mat Burich, a graduate of Divers Institute of Technology, lives in Duluth, Minnesota. He grew up near the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota and has spent most of his life. His work is year round and he stays mostly in the north central region of the United States. However, this domesticated life is a stark contrast to the previous decade of Mat’s life.

ROV at Christmas

Highs and Lows of Aerospace Engineering

Mat graduated with a degree in Aerospace engineering from University of Minnesota in 2007.

Mat started off his career developing business jets for Cessna, an aircraft manufacturing company based out of Wichita, Kansas. He spent a year and half there when devastation struck.

At that time, there were about 12,000 employees working for Cessna. It was 2009. And the whole US was hit by the Great Recession.

In 6 months, the company laid of 6500 people. Mat made it through several rounds of layoffs, but he was eventually one of the many who found himself without a job.

From Disappointment to the Opportunity of a Lifetime

Cessna’s parent company, Textron, offered a leadership program for its young employees which would ensure employment for over two years. But it was a competitive program. Out of 2500 applicants, 18 were chosen for a face-to-face interview in Dallas. Mat was one of those 18.

Having made it so far in the application process, Mat was hopeful of his chances to be chosen for this position.

But once again, he was faced with disappointment.

Mat and his other co-workers on the trip, who were also let go from the company, were out of work and out of prospects. But they were all young and hopeful.

“It felt like a college graduation,” Mat said. “Everyone was asking each other what they were going to do.” One of his co-workers, Lindsey, told Mat she and some other co-workers Cessna were going to Portugal for 2 months. She invited Mat on the trip, but he only had 5 hours to decide.

He only had time to do a little research and talk to one other person. His response? Why not!?

A Fateful Encounter Abroad

Their two month trip turned into a 16 month trip around the world. The US economy was still in rough shape and there was still a lack of jobs.

“Every once in a while we’d send out feelers back home, but things weren’t getting any better,” he said. It was a despairing situation in the States and no end in site.

So the group chose to continue traveling. After all, life in many countries is a lot cheaper than in the US, so it made sense for them.

At one point, the group was in Thailand and Mat found a resort that offered an all-inclusive, advanced open water scuba certification in just 4 days, for next to nothing. It sounded like a great thing for Mat, who grew up around the lakes and always loved water. From that point on, he looked for any opportunity to jump in the water and use his new certification.

Finding New Direction In The Water

Finally, the travelers decided to return home and try their hand at finding jobs. Mat looked applied in several locations and landed a job at an engineering firm in Seattle where his sister was attending college.

But Mat was a different person, changed by his time abroad. He had discovered a new passion in scuba diving and no longer found aerospace appealing. He wanted a career change and he wanted to be in the water.

Flyers and commercials for a commercial diving school, DIT, caught his attention.  

Ocean Alliance Port Fourchon

“Growing up around the water, I always had an infatuation with the water,” Matt says. So commercial diving seemed like a perfect fit.  

He applied to DIT and was accepted. Mat left his former career hanging and lept into a new life underwater. DIT suited him well and he excelled in his courses. That year he was voted to be class President. Everything seemed to be going perfectly.

A Small Sting and Big Opportunities

It was February, 5 months into his training at DIT when Mat faced disappointment yet again. His classmates took him out for his birthday and during the course of the night, he broke his ankle.

This occurred during the scuba phase of his training. Fortunately for Mat, he was already scuba certified. While his training progress wasn’t affected, Mat’s morale was. He watched with frustration as his classmates practiced their scuba diving while he sat on shore.

Mat was quick to recover from his injury and quickly received an interview with Oceaneering International, a prominent subsea engineering company based in Houston, Texas.

The concept of marine engineering was a novel idea for Mat. “I always thought there had to be a way to combine engineering and working underwater,” said Mat. It was a job he had unknowingly been preparing himself for all along.

Oceaneering was impressed. After the interview, he was offered one of three positions: ROV pilot, commercial diver, or engineer. He chose ROV pilot.

Mat with a ROV

The company immediately sent him to Indonesia for ROV training. Following his training, Mat spent the next five years working between the Gulf of Mexico and French Guiana in South America.

Coming Full Circle

Although he enjoyed the thrill of traveling again, Mat was ready to settle down. Since the company allowed him to choose his home base, Mat decided to move to home to Minnesota.

First dive with AMI

After a short time, Mat heard about AMI Consulting Engineers, a local marine engineering and consulting firm. He had the perfect set of skills, experiences, degrees, and certifications for the job. They were eager to hire him.

Mat’s work at AMI includes structural, civil, and mechanical engineering jobs. He does commercial diving inspections of dock walls, bridges, and dams. He designs and manages projects. He is also involved in multiple studies, one with the University of Minnesota Duluth and another with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

South Manitou Bathymetric Survey

Mat’s experiences and training all seemed to be setting him up for his current career as a marine engineer, even when he didn’t know such a job existed.

From a disappointing end to his first job, to a year and half abroad that helped him rediscover his love of the water, to a fateful position in Seattle, Mat Burich has been all over the world and finally landed back on the Iron Range.

His journey has been long and thrilling, and through it all he has found something more than a job, he has found a passion.

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