Clock in at 9am. Out the door at 5pm.
Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
For the majority of the working population, a structured schedule like this one bodes well. But for Divers Institute of Technology (DIT) graduate Millee Fritz, the story is different.
“It was over my mundane 9 – 5 job in my hometown of Eugene, Oregon, when I heard a radio advertisement for the Divers Institute of Technology,” she says.
Millee didn’t make the transition overnight. She gave her diving career plenty of thought, and she weighed it against other dive schools. In the end, DIT won her over.
“It took me about a year to muster up the courage to move to Seattle and start dive school.”
DIT’s Impact & Practical Experience
Millee adapted quickly to the rigorous schedule at DIT. She listened and experienced the essential hands-on training that instructors provide for each module. Out of the 7-month program, Salvage and Hydraulics left one of the biggest impressions on her:
“I got to gain experience with underwater chainsaws, jackhammers, and impacts.”
Millee carries other practical skills with her to this day, including coiling dive hoses and diving hat application. She says some training experiences are more difficult to simulate, including her time out in the ocean:
“Only offshore can prepare you for offshore.”
Building Professional Networks & A Little Romance
But Millee holds a special place for the friendships and network she gained at DIT. Sharing these experiences with other students gave her the confidence she needed to succeed in her career, and one connection stands out in particular: Kirby, now her fiancé.
“Crazy how things work out.”
A Hard Lesson for the Tender Rich: Budgeting
After graduating from DIT, Millee began her career path as a dive tender, the entry-level position that most American commercial divers take after training. She found jobs, and the money was great.
Until the jobs ran out.
“They always said budgeting was essential, but you don’t believe it until you’re eating beans and rice over the winter. So needless to say, I learned the hard way. Nowadays I don’t blow money like Charlie Sheen. I’m pretty frugal.”
Plunging Offshore for Oceaneering
After six years in the maritime industry, Millee has seen plenty of success. She now works as a commercial diver for a major offshore company called Oceaneering. Millee’s main responsibilities include monitoring and training other dive tenders and servicing offshore equipment and projects.
Life isn’t always easy for the Millee’s petite 5’2” frame, as some diving projects require a fair amount of force to complete. Other jobs are downright uncomfortable, but sometimes that’s a variable that can’t be controlled:
“The water is just fine unless the tenders mess up the hot water pump,” Millee jokes.
But she always makes it happen. “When your dive goes well, you walk out of the water feeling like a rockstar.”
Oil Rig Inspection: Millee’s Latest Gig
Millee’s last project focused on inspection and maintenance, a common part of most commercial divers’ responsibilities.
“Get in the water, get to job site, set the probe, watch it and exit without injury.”
Sounds simple enough. But divers work around massive structures: In this case, an offshore platform measuring 122 feet in diameter and stretching over 700 feet out of the water, the equivalent of a skyscraper.
These offshore platforms float, but they have a complex structure underneath the surface (subsea). This subsea structure includes risers – pipes that extend deep down to the ocean floor for production purposes.
To properly install the probe for magnetic particle inspection, Millee dove to a measured operating depth of 167 feet of seawater. The project team made use of hydraulics and a launch and recovery system placed with the help of an onsite crane.
A Woman in a Man’s World
As a 120 pound female in a blue collar industry, Millee doesn’t define her work as “ladylike.”
“It’s not easy out there. It’s dirty, loud, smelly…everything is heavy, but you don’t let that stop you.”
Though the majority of commercial divers are male, Millee was never deterred from starting a career. She’s had support along the way from other women:
“There was one female role model that I had when I was a tender at Tibron, now Ranger Offshore. Her name was Mandy; she was also a tender but had been around for a year or so. She worked hard, got dirty and got things done.”
Millee pulls her own weight, and she sees her responsibilities the same way as her male counterparts. By accomplishing her daily tasks, she becomes part of the larger team effort.
Where the Maritime Industry Leads
In an industry that’s anything but predictable, Millee plans for the future but is content to live one day at a time.
“It’s hard to say what will happen long term, for now I’m pretty happy diving; ‘living the dream’ as they say.”
For newbies and tenders, her advice is simple:
“Work hard and never give up.”
Written by Matt Smith, Creator of Water Welders