Featured Graduate: Nick Mueller

In the diving world, experience is worth more than a hefty paycheck.

Nick, a graduate from Divers Institute of Technology (DIT), learned that lesson early on.

“I’ve been doing this [commercial diving] for about two years and have logged a little less than 100 dives,” Nick says. “Some divers I’ve talked to have been working for over a year and they say ‘Wow, I only had seven dives,’ or some small number like that.”

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Nick Mueller DIT Class 104-13

And his experience didn’t come by accident.

Maritime Business: Priority in Practice

During Nick’s training at DIT, he spoke often with Jeff Stiefel, one of his instructors. Jeff highly recommended one company he himself had previously worked for – U.S. Underwater Services.

“He said it’s one of the few, perfect-sized diving companies out there…they dive everybody. If you lack in any area in diving as a whole, they’re pretty quick to spot that,” Nick says. I feel like it was the right choice going with this company.”

U.S. Underwater Services is located in Texas, even though most diving companies are based out of Louisiana. Though Nick’s only been there a short while, he’s observed the types of divers they take on.

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One of Nick’s Job Sites

Unlike some businesses, they’re not afraid to hire commercial divers right out of dive school. They also look for those with DMT certification – a fundamental part of offshore dive teams. DIT offers this certification as part of their advanced training.

They also gives divers chances for advancement – if the divers seize their opportunity.

“It’s not all like, ‘you just stay here long enough and you’ll move up.’ The company provides you with the area or place to grow,” Nick says. “Guys that have worked here a few more years than me – they stick it out, prosper and grow.”

Hitting the Highlights: Nick’s Diving Projects

Nick remembers several memorable diving gigs he’s been a part of since graduating DIT.

Just recently, he was involved in a thruster changeout on a vessel.

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Thruster Changeout

Divers had to strap down the thrusters after the company found out they were not functioning properly.

“I was only involved with four of them, but there was six altogether.”

The second gig took place at the beginning of 2015. It involved tow bridle changeouts on semi- submersible rigs. It was a massive cable system used to tow the rig around.

“ [This job is] Non-destructive testing – that’s what we did, and DIT trains for that.”

Unlike some commercial diving jobs, this one actually had an environment where visibility was not just good, but beautiful. Nick remembers it clearly: Crystal, clear blue water with tropical fish swimming in every direction.

Commercial divers often remember the first gigs they were involved with out of dive school. Nick described his first project vividly:

“When I very first started, we had a job in Pascagoula, Mississippi; an anode retrofit on a rig, semi-submersible. Worked with a lot of guys, many welders. They were welding underwater.

“I was still pretty new and was exposed to a lot of first-time stuff on the job. We did some welding in school, but I didn’t weld on this project.”

Even though Nick didn’t end up performing underwater welding here, they still let him do some preparation for the underwater welders by cleaning welding areas with a wire brush. Another example of prioritized experience for newbie divers.

Industry Character & Loyalty

Nick’s a firm believer that it takes a certain type of person to last in the commercial diving industry. During his time with the company, he’s seen 18 divers come and go.

When Nick was hired, he remembers those first few months as incredibly challenging and a growing period in his commercial diving career. Like steel put through the fire, it hardened his resolve to continue.

He worked as a dive tender and performed many of the jobs other divers considered undesirable. But it’s a phase every commercial diver goes through, and sticking it through led him into a closer work relationship with his team.

“I enacted a schedule and met a lot of guys. It reminds me a lot of the military. It takes a lot to get to know others and trust each other. The input you have is more listened to but that takes time. You go from being the guy that doesn’t know anything except dive school to someone who’s been in all phases of work.”

Happily Employed: No Rain Dances Needed

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Nick as a Student at DIT During Deep Dives on the M/V Response

Nick is more than satisfied with his current diving experience, and he’s thankful for the job he landed.

He’s aware that some commercial divers aren’t so lucky.

“Sometimes we joke that all divers are doing the rain dance, because when that happens they’re going to find work soon,” he says.

Though divers may come into their career looking for loads of money or insane adventure, Nick finds passion in his everyday reality as an employed diver. Plus, it’s kept him in the industry for the long haul.

“I don’t know that I could walk away from diving; once you start doing it, you really just fall in love with it.”

Written for DIT by Matt Smith, Creator of Water Welders.