Making a Splash: How Andrew Crabtree Pivoted from Commercial Diving to Project Management

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Before enrolling in The Technology Project Management Boot Camp at UNC-Chapel Hill, Minnesota native Andrew Crabtree worked as a commercial diver in Charleston, South Carolina. For ten years, he specialized in underwater construction, inspections, and maintenance; eventually becoming a supervisor. In that role, he coached divers during the execution of underwater construction tasks and on-surface operations, while ensuring the safety and well-being of every team member.

“I had gone to college for one year and studied computer technology network security,” Andrew said. “After two semesters of school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and went from bartending to commercial diving.” 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Andrew and his family moved to Durham, North Carolina. At that point, any diving Andrew could have done would have required immense travel. Not sure what to do next, Andrew began working at The Home Depot — and ultimately decided to go back to school.

From Facebook to class 

While scrolling through Facebook one day, Andrew’s wife stumbled upon an advertisement for the The Technology Project Management Boot Camp at UNC-Chapel Hill. Andrew wasn’t fully committed to the idea of a boot camp, but with a background in technology, he knew this was the perfect opportunity to move into a project management position. 

“I wanted to get back into technology,” Andrew said. “I had the experience of budgeting, scheduling, and working with resources to execute projects. Project management seemed like a natural fit.”

In his work as a commercial diving supervisor, Andrew assessed his team to ensure they were physically and mentally able to complete underwater tasks as assigned. This aligned perfectly with the work he was hoping to do as a project manager: removing obstacles so teams could deliver to their full potential. 

“Many of the responsibilities of a project manager aligned with what I’d done in my previous role as a supervisor,” he said. “It was the right opportunity at the right time.”

Diving into the curriculum

Since Andrew had spent years working out in the field, connecting to a computer each day was new to him. “I wasn’t used to sitting in front of a computer, or even talking to people through the computer,” Andrew said. “Everything I had done was face to face, and I was used to working with my hands.” 

At first, Andrew felt he was behind compared to his classmates. With his mechanical background, he didn’t have much experience working with emails and reports, and felt a bit intimidated. Despite this initial learning curve, Andrew’s instructor made it easy to transition into this new way of learning. 

“My instructor was amazing in breaking down the course material to each person’s individual learning mindset,” Andrew said. “I was able to follow along and catch on very quickly.” 

Transitioning to a new schedule 

Finding balance was also hard for Andrew. While attending classes, he worked the morning shift at The Home Depot, clocking in at 5 a.m. On his way home after a long day, he would pick his son up from daycare and then attend classes at night. 

“I couldn’t have made it work without my wife. She played a big role in taking care of our children when I couldn’t at night,” Andrew said. “She made sure I was able to work (undistracted), pay attention to the lectures, and get all of my work done.” 

Collaborating with classmates

Andrew’s favorite part of his boot camp experience was being able to collaborate with his classmates. “Everyone was constantly engaged,” he said. “When we were assigned group projects, we genuinely enjoyed working together.” 

The process of building websites for clients allowed Andrew to get a hands-on feel for what it’s like working in an actual project management environment. Together with classmates, he successfully launched several websites that showcased his newly sharpened tech skills. 

Plunging into a new role

Today, Andrew works as a project manager for the tech company Apex Systems, where he oversees small technology projects focused on repeatable tasks and activities. 

However, Andrew’s experience landing this role wasn’t all smooth sailing. After weeks spent searching for roles and not landing interviews, he reached out to his instructor for a referral, who recommended him for his current role. 

“I asked him, ‘Hey, is there anybody out there that could put in a good word for me?’” Andrew said. “He got the ball rolling for me.”

Andrew lives by this quote: “Never get too comfortable — you may miss out on great opportunities.” Looking back, he says these words directly apply to his boot camp experience. “You have to be able to grow in life, because if you’re constantly doing the same things, you won’t learn anything new,” he said, “so take that leap.”

Andrew is happy he took that leap and decided to further his education. He’s also happy his wife saw the advertisement for the boot camp on Facebook that fateful day. 

“I’m very thankful she came across that,” he said. “Who knows where I would be today without her.” 

Interested in kickstarting a tech career? Check out UNC-Chapel Hill Boot Camps in coding, data analytics, digital marketing, tech project management, and product management.

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