Andrea Warren is one of Koh Tao’s newest PADI Course Directors and one of Crystal Dive’s Technical Diving Instructors. As an elite Instructor trainer, Andrea tells us about her journey to becoming one of scuba diving’s most influential leaders and role models.
Tell the readers a little about yourself
My first passion was dance and it was my life from the age of two and a half years old when I first started dancing. By the time I was 14 I knew I wanted to open my own dance studio and I knew I wanted to perform and teach.
My father was a firefighter and loved his job, he told me to find a job I loved and then I’d never need to work another day in my life.
As I was gaining my teaching certifications from the British Association of Dance I was also working at a dance studio. When I was 18 I took over the whole studio and business from the owner. It felt like I had achieved my dreams.
However, I started meeting people outside of dance who had travelled and seen so much of the world and the idea of travel, time away from dance began to intrigue me.
How and when did you arrive on Koh Tao?
After saving some money working in a restaurant I met a girl who made plans to travel to Australia and she asked me to come so I boarded a plane for only the second time in my life.
After traveling in Australia my heart just wasn’t in Canada any more. So after a year of working to save money again I booked a one way ticket to Bangkok with two close friends, the plan was a couple of months in Asia and then to go to New Zealand for a years working Visa. That was the plan.
I had completed a few try dives before and knew I wanted to get my PADI certification. So we arrived here in April 2012, over 6 years ago. We fell in love with the Island and scuba diving, I knew I loved the water and the courses were really fun, two weeks later we were all PADI Rescue divers.
We left Koh Tao after 2 weeks but the idea of becoming a PADI Divemaster was stuck in my head as it sounded so cool. I remember asking PADI instructors and Divemasters why they chose Koh Tao and the tropical island lifestyle.
We travelled across Asia and diving and had already booked tickets to New Zealand but we just couldn’t get on the plane, so we cancelled our tickets at the airport and booked tickets back to Koh Tao!
We both signed up for the Divemaster training and at the start we just had fun. I was working at a beach bar and enjoyed the lifestyle and partying. Then I started the second phase of the Divemaster training, I was assisting instructors on PADI courses and I just fell in love with it. It felt like an underwater ballet.
There were lots of similarities with teaching dance and I was already thinking seriously about my IDC. After my Divemaster training I started freelancing and was offered a job at a dive resort as a Divemaster leading fun dives and performing scuba reviews.
I enjoyed this but I discovered that I preferred the scuba reviews and the teaching side of the job. The time working as a Divemaster showed me I was ready to do my Instructor Development Course and become a PADI instructor.
What were your plans after becoming a PADI Instructor?
I really enjoyed my IDC and by that time my ambition had kicked in, even while training I started to think how cool it would be to train to become a PADI Course Director.
It was on my mind while my Course Director was teaching me that I could emulate the teaching style and it looked such an interesting and varied job. I don’t know if it was just blind confidence.
I wanted to work with people to help with their personal development and improve their ability to perform. I see the role of Course Director as a performance, working on the skill-set is a rehearsal, teaching open water is the performance, there really is an art to it.
Being a great diver isn’t the same as being a great teacher, you need to connect and perform with your students. You need to approach it with confidence and demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the subject.
Just like when teaching dance, you are on the stage and it’s the same with teaching diving you need to be confident.
I believe my confidence in teaching comes from my background in dance. Teaching someone to dive and then teaching someone to teach someone to dive is all about confidence.
How did you adapt to a new lifestyle on Koh Tao?
After the IDC I started freelancing to experience other dive shops. After a year working as a PADI instructor I went back to Canada to get a new passport and earn some extra money so I could start my PADI Staff Instructor qualification.
After returning to Koh Tao I was offered a job supervising a Divemaster program while I was studying for my Staff Instructor. I was also working with people who were taking their Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) certification. This was the first time I really started to feel in control, growing in confidence in my role and I felt certain I was in the right place.
I really enjoyed teaching and meeting so many different people but I was still learning a huge amount every day. I also had a wonderful female PADI Course Director who was a huge support.
I worked for two years as a Staff Instructor running a Divemaster program as I was working towards gaining the prerequisites to train to become a PADI Course Director. I also wanted to retain that feeling of confidence I now had in my diving and back that confidence up so I continued my education by learning Technical diving.
By pushing myself through continued learning and expanding my knowledge and experience as a diver I kept my confidence and my ambition alive. I still do that, I’m learning every day and I still have goals. I was now working towards my CDTC (PADI Course Director training course).
Perhaps one day I may work as a PADI representative but it’s a long-term goal. Those goals keep me on track and focused. I’m driven by that feeling of always doing better, which I learnt from dance.
Are women adequately represented in the scuba diving industry?
At my workplace now with divemaster trainees there are quite often more women and I have female students from the past now taking Staff Instructor, learning Tech diving and working in senior Master Instructor roles. I try to keep in touch and see ‘my girls’ who work in diving all around the world and that’s wonderful to see.
It’s fantastic to see so many of my students progressing not because they are women but because they are amazing. Just like them I want to prove myself and be really good at what I do and I’m getting there.
At Crystal Dive you see so many women in senior roles. It’s very encouraging and inspiring and that I can learn from people like Tina, Suki and Jenny who are so strong and experienced. Plus there are a lot of female instructors at Crystal Dive and it’s great to see.
Has Scuba Diving helped with building confidence?
I hope the people I’m teaching can feel the confidence I’ve gained on this journey. In scuba diving safety is our number one priority and as long as people are safe and aware then it is about having a good time. That’s great. We really want people to have fun in the safest possible way.
Since arriving at Crystal Dive I have grown so much. It’s a well organised and successful award winning dive centre with a great reputation and I quickly found out that it’s also a family. I joined as a PADI Course Director in October 2017 and I was a little nervous to begin with, but all the staff were very supportive and I feel accepted and more confident in my teaching.
As a new PADI Course Director I have entered a whole new stage in my diving career. To some it may seem as though I have reached the highest possible level, however I see it as the opposite. I have so much to learn and I know there is always room for improvement.
Having the opportunity to begin my journey as a PADI Course Director with Crystal Dive has been the best possible thing for my personal development.
What are your thoughts on Crystal Dive?
Not only am I working in one of the most popular Career Development Centers in the world, I’m able to develop myself alongside award winning Platinum Course Director Matt Bolton.
On my first IDC with Crystal Dive, Matt took me under his wing and showed me exactly what it took to be successful within the world of professional development.
Matt’s attitude toward the IDC was very refreshing and not like anything I had ever seen before. When it comes to enforcing principles within his candidates, Matt leads by example. He holds himself and the dive centre to the highest standards.
Being put in such a high position of responsibility and trust, it is our responsibility to install proper habits in our instructor candidate’s right from the beginning.
At Crystal Dive we have a strong emphasis on “Development,” when it comes to the IDC. Our main objective is not to prepare our students to pass the PADI IE, but to gain the knowledge and skills to flourish as an Open Water Scuba Instructor.
Matt opened my eyes to how things should be done when it comes to Instructor Development. I know the type of Course Director I want to be and I know that I will be given the full support to do so working with Matt at Crystal Dive.
I want to uphold the same level of integrity that Matt has shown throughout his inspiring career as a PADI Professional and I hope to one day be as knowledgeable and experienced within the industry.
Until then I know that I am exactly where I need to be to become the best instructor and Course Director I can possibly be.