People of Georgian: Marine student trades in acting, marketing for ship life

Sept. 28 is World Maritime Day. We spoke to Paul Dyck, a student in Georgian’s Marine Engineering Technology program, about his career journey from drama to ship engines. Fittingly, the interview was conducted virtually while Paul was on a work experience on a ship in the middle of the ocean.

People of Georgian: Meet Paul Dyck

It’s a really cool feeling when you’re on a ship out on the ocean or big lake and you can’t see any land at all.

It’s like a wild piece of nature. It’s pretty awe-inspiring. I don’t think it could ever get old. I finish my working day on the ship and there’s a beautiful sunset. There’s a beautiful sunrise every day.

A person sits on the deck of a ship overlooking the ocean.

There’s also all sorts of weather you get to see. Like recently, I was sitting on the deck as lights were down and watching a lightning storm happen in the distance across the clouds.

Usually you can see a few lights of other ships out there, but it was pitch black, the stars were bright, the moon was out, the lightning was going, I could hear the water. It’s really cool to see something that a lot of people don’t get to see.

A ship sails across an ocean at nighttime.

In between moments of work – when you’re sweating it out below deck, and you’re covered in grease and dirt and grime, and you’re tired and stressed – you can pop out on deck for a little bit to look across the water and feel the breeze.

It’s really cool to be on this massive hunk of steel that’s powering through the water with just a propeller and this whole crew is making it work.

A person stands on the deck of a ship with the ocean in the background.
A person stands below deck on a ship in a room full of mechanical equipment.

From acting, to marketing, to marine

My journey to get to this point in my life has included three very different postsecondary programs.

First, I studied drama at university, and I worked as an actor and musician for many years. I toured the country, did a lot of different theatre and short film stuff, but I wanted a more stable career.

So, I left that behind and studied advertising and marketing. I worked in event marketing, doing live event marketing pop-ups across the country before I settled into a more traditional advertising job in downtown Toronto.

But an office job wasn’t really for me, so I decided to go back to school again. I wanted to make sure it was something that would stick this time, so I thought about a trade.

A large ship sails across a blue ocean.

‘Every day is different and that appealed to me’

I come from a family of tradespeople and I love the water, and that’s when I found Marine Engineering Technology at Georgian.

As far as trades go, it has a bit of everything – you do plumbing, electrical, welding, diesel engine work… all sorts of stuff. Every day is different and that appealed to me.

There’s a huge need for people in the industry right now, with a massive percentage of the workforce retiring in the next five years. There’s not a marine engineer in Canada right now who’s not working if they don’t want to be.

‘You only get one life, and I want to live mine to the fullest’

Through all my career changes, I just tried every step of the way to be honest with myself and do a lot of soul searching. I always asked myself, “What’s making you happy? What’s filling your cup? What’s feeding your soul?”

I recognize this also comes with a certain level of privilege to have the financial backing to switch careers, go back to school and have people around you who support you.

But I didn’t want to get caught in a situation where I had been doing one career for so long I felt like I had to keep doing it, even if I wasn’t happy. There are so many people out there who live their whole lives working jobs they hate.

You only get one life, and I want to live mine to the fullest and be as happy as I can be doing what I do.

Paul Dyck, a student in Georgian’s Marine Engineering Technology program at Owen Sound Campus. Follow his marine adventures on Instagram and TikTok @PaulAboard.

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