SSI, Mares and an interesting end to the year.

Can anybody explain to me where the last 4 months have gone as I cant! One minute I am teaching courses in 30 degrees water looking forward to the world cup football to begin and the next thing I know Christmas decorations are up and we need to use the heater at night time!

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The second part of the year for me has been quite exciting. I guess one of the things that stands out the most for me is to receive an email from technical instructor Paul Toomer requesting a meeting somewhere on the out skirts of London. As it happens I happened to be heading to UK and so agreed to meet him. All I knew was he wanted to try and sell me his new product some thing called “SSI TXR”. In all honesty I was not so excited about this, why would I be, its just another training agency looking to increase its numbers and how can they achieve that by trying to recruit Tekstreme who is one of the largest technical training companies in Egypt. Makes sense really! What I was not prepared for was to be shown the new materials that he had written. Now you may think what is so special about another technical diving manual? Well, it seems as though these people in SSI have recognised the digital era that we are in and designed manuals specifically for viewing on tablets, Ipads etc . My husband has taught me, and is continuing to teach me about the wonderful world of digital technology and so of course it immediately got my attention. The layout was clear, the text informative but not overbearing and the structure of the manual was progressive and an easy read. But lets face it, there is more to a training agency than just the manual, now for the important stuff… the courses.

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There are not so many different ways that technical courses can be done, ultimately you start off shallow and you end up deep. You start of with one tank and further down the line you end up with 6 tanks! What was a key factor for me was how can we as the instructor teach the course. This was what was enlightening. We “as the instructors” were actually allowed / given the opportunity to use our judgment and experience to enhance the teaching process. Ultimately there are a set of standards that the agency wants us to adhere to, but within those we had the scope to vary training depending on conditions and the level of students. Paul was very passionate about this range of technical courses and it was nice to spend time with a fellow instructor who is actively looking to continue to improve our industry.

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Moving forward a couple of months in the year was when we heard some strange news. SSI were being brought by Mares. This immediately concerned me. Since the meeting in London I had spent a lot of time with the guys from SSI helping to organise staff crossovers, creating SSI events to increase awareness of SSI recreational and technical courses, helping them out on the SSI stand at the dive show for a few examples. A lot of time and effort had gone into this partnership and then they simply sold themselves out! You can’t help but think that it is just for the money and now SSI wont care! No sooner had these rumours began that Karim Salah who is responsible for SSI recreational training in Egypt spoke to me to reassure that my concerns were not needed and that this move was going to a positive feature. This move by Mares and SSI is probably the most innovative and unique partnership in the diving industry. Towards the latter part of the year SSI and Mares announced that they would host meetings / events around Egypt to bring everybody up to speed. Once again I was dubious but attended the meeting to hear things as they say “from the horses mouth!”.

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Robert Stoss opened the meeting. Robert is one of the founders of SSI along with Guido Waetzig and admirably has a level of energy and passion that makes you want to listen and spend more time around him. For sure this guy is not done with the diving industry yet! By far the opposite, he is driving the digital revolution of training forward, helping us as the service provider be able to provide to our customers with greater ease. Secondly, we were introduced to Dusan Runjajic. Dusan, or Dusko as he is more well known is one of the top dogs within Mares and is a man with equal to, if not even more drive than Robert about his products and the new venture. An engineer by trade he has truly made his mark with Mares. Mares has become a worldwide leader in the manufacturing and distribution of state of the art diving equipment. The constant investment in innovation, patient research in the field of manufacturing materials and processes, combined with the expertise of the staff and professional approach gives Mares its leading position. Mares actually makes up part of the larger “Head” group. “Head” Company is a leading global manufacturer and marketer of branded sporting goods serving the skiing, tennis, swimming and diving markets.

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Dusko then outlined for us the relationship between Head, Mares and SSI. Now, normally through presentations like this I tend to switch off after a period of time, as you tend to hear the same things over and over about how good their product is above everybody elses. But this was not the case, I found myself 2 hours later still eagerly listening. These guys from Mares have actually designed a range of equipment for the dive centres to make our lives easier! The presentation was good and the recreational equipment is great but what about my greatest passion, tech diving, tech equipment?!

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I had some time in between this event in Egypt and the DEMA dive show in America to have a think about a few things. The passion, drive and energy from all these people that I had met at SSI and Mares was astounding and I only knew that I wanted to be more involved. It was a breath of fresh air to find in todays diving industry a group of people with similar future ideas not only about business (which of course is fundamental) but about moving the industry forward in unique ways. The product line by Mares currently does not have a well known reputation in the technical diving world but what I can say is that I personally and Tekstreme will be helping in whatever way we can to test new products and aid the development of Mares technical diving equipment. We will be continually teaching SSI technical courses to show case the new products as they emerge and to increase awareness of the brand in the technical arena.

All I can say is watch this space…..

Many thanks to Guido, Robert, Dusko, Adam, Karim, and Tarek for all of what they have done for us in 2014 and we really look forward to 2015.

Note 1 – Paul Toomer is no longer with SSI. His role in SSI has been taken over by Adam Wood who is a gifted and professional technical instructor and who has already shown his commitment and will continue to drive SSI TXR where Paul left off.

Note 2 – Part of my blog with the description of Head and Mares has come directly from their presentation! I don’t claim that these are my words 🙂

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