Diving right into a cool career
When Mike Pedersen ’05 graduated with a degree in recreation and park administration, he doubted that he would ever use some of the skills he learned such as writing bids, designing recreation facilities, or creating websites. After a short and unfulfilling stint working for Yellow Pages, however, Pedersen and his dad decided to take their passion for scuba and open a dive shop together. He has since used those skills and more and has never looked back.
Pedersen is owner and operator of both Dive Right in Scuba and Double Action Dive Charters. The two businesses, based in Plainfield, offers everything from introductory scuba classes and diving excursions to shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. He also offers his expertise to support local police and fire department scuba dive and swift water rescue teams.
Scuba diving became a passion for Pedersen after earning his PADI certification on a family vacation trip to Hawaii when he was just 10 years old. The outdoor recreation activity became something he and his dad continued to enjoy together over the years until his father’s untimely passing in 2016. Pedersen vowed to continue his father’s legacy of diving and fun through his businesses.
A typical day for Pedersen involves managing a wide range of employees such as those who work in the dive shop and run the online store. Others are boat captains and dive mates who operate excursions to shipwrecks in Lake Michigan and Lake Heron. His ultimate goal is to employ his staff even during the off-season. One creative way he has done this is through equipment repair, an area many competitors like to avoid.
The most satisfying part of Pedersen’s work is seeing guests have a great experience, especially on a dive trip. A busy weekend in the summer will have as many as 11 dive charters with up to 80 guests. Another rewarding aspect is when Pedersen and his team help police and firefighters with training or rescue searches. For seven years straight, Dive Right In Scuba has been recognized as a top performing facility by International Training, one of the largest diving certification agencies in the world.
Reflecting on his days at ISU, Pedersen can still remember the names of all of his professors. In fact, Professor Brent Beggs assigned Pedersen and his classmates to design a recreation facility. Pedersen wondered if he would ever use those skills until just recently when he began to ponder the idea of building a facility.
Pedersen urges recent recreation management alums to work hard, establish a strong work ethic, and find ways to separate yourself from the pack. He also urges alums not to be afraid to make mistakes and to never lose sight of having fun.