Accidental Careers: Oceanography and Marine Engineering

A student at a vocational High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma asked me three questions today about my career choices as he ponders his’ in Marine Engineering

1. If you had to do anything over, related to your career or education, would you do anything differently?
2. What advice would you give to me as someone interested in pursuing a career path similar to yours?
3. How many coworkers or workers do you work with on average in your job position?

that I answered as follows

The author working at sea in 2003 or 2004. [Photo credit: Chris Linder, WHOI]

The author working at sea in 2003 or 2004. [Photo credit: Chris Linder, WHOI]

1. No.

2. Follow your passions; do what you enjoy doing; try new things; don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but learn from them; find people who share your passion and try to work with them.

3. It varies, let me add it up the people I had direct contact with the last 10 days; 2 scientists in Sweden plus 2 scientists in England, plus 2 scientists in Oregon, plus my 2 PhD students, plus 3 UDel colleagues all to prepare for two expeditions this summer to Greenland and Alaska; plus 3 UDel administrators, plus 1 undergraduate in a class, plus 5 professors on a budget committee to teach and help run the university, plus 1 person in California (fund-raising), plus 1 colleague in New York (writing papers), plus 2 engineers in Massachusetts (instrumentation), plus 1 sales manager in California (cable design), plus my wife for moral support, stress relief, and discussions … that adds up to about 26 people.

As your first question did not really count, I do add a personal comment on careers and career choices:

We all have only one past that we cannot change, but the future is always wide open with infinite new possibilities, new opportunities, and new people that all too often we cannot imagine or plan for ahead of time. For example, I grew up in a family in Germany where NOBODY on either my mom’s or my dad’s side of the family ever finished High School. As a result I had no idea what one does with High School (I wanted to become a paratrooper at 16, an anarchist at 18, a student at 20, a nurse at 21, etc.), what one does with a university degree, what one does after a PhD, etc. I always enjoyed reading, learning, and traveling, but it was unimaginable to me that this could lead to a job or career. Thirty years later I am still in awe and stunned by it. I did neither know nor touch computers until I left Germany for Britain at age 26. Now 90% of my work is writing and coding on a range of computers. Most things along my specific career path happened by chance and pluck, some bad, but mostly good. This is why item #2 above is so important. Passions and people also change over time, and so do we.

Thank you for the questions, Hunter.

4 responses to “Accidental Careers: Oceanography and Marine Engineering

  1. burkhard münchow

    Sitze gerade nach dem abend essen in der Küche und lese Chuck Norris Witze . Da kommt ganz frisch dein neuester Blog . Da hast du echt schöne Antworten gegeben . Das wollte ich dir kurz sagen. Alles liebe für dich Ahoi dein kleiner Bruder.

  2. Hunter Guretzki

    Professor Muenchow,
    Thank you for taking the time to address my questions and answer them. I appreciate you taking the time to tell me about your family in Germany and their history. I find it interesting that you had the opportunity to work with scientists from all over from Sweden and England.

  3. Prof. Pelto has moved his glacier change site to
    you may wish to update yout link.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.