My name is Jilly, I am a PADI Course Director and here is my story. I am originally from Manchester, England but I have lived in Egypt for nearly half my life. From the moment I arrived here, it felt like coming home.
My story really begins about 20 years before I was born; my mum lived in Fayed, Ismailia as a little girl so I always had a fascination with Egypt as a child. In 1995, my mum returned to live in Sharm El Sheikh and got a job in a hotel here. In November 1998 after a busy year running my own bar, I was in desperate need of a holiday so I popped over to visit mum for a couple of weeks.
I love my mum to bits she is my best friend and an inspiration to me, but she is a sneaky one, she told me she had booked me onto the PADI Open Water course, to which I told her no I wasn’t interested, I wanted to sit on a beach and relax. She told me she had paid for it and “ tough luck young lady you are going to do it because I have bought it for your Christmas present” what do you say to that apart from “ Yes mum, Thank you Mum” and off I trundled to the dive centre.
I have always been a water babe but wouldn’t say I was a great fan of the sea, we had a speed boat as a kid so was always around water but I had this belief there was a giant octopus in the sea that would get me ( I had a big brother so I wonder where I got that kind of info from, probably the same place as the crocodiles at the side of my bed and the lion in the cupboard in the bathroom!) So did I fall in love with the ocean straight away, no not at all, but I did fall in love with my dive instructor, he spoke English with a French accent that made me go weak at the knees.
I still don’t think I particularly liked diving whilst doing my open water, I was scared of fish (big fish were fine, it was the little ones that moved fast that scared me), the dive tables were just confusing, I couldn’t get to grips with the compass ( honestly my buddy and I winged that one- I have never told my instructor that, hope he doesn’t read this!) but I got through it. Once I passed my mum admitted she had lied to me and that she had got the course for free because she worked at the hotel but knew if she told me she hadn’t paid for it I wouldn’t have gone, see I told you she was sneaky.
Something in the Open Water must have peaked my interest because 2 days later, having a French PADI Instructor as my new boyfriend I started my PADI Advanced course. This is when I fell in love with it all. I left Sharm after that holiday sold my bar and was back doing my PADI Rescue course on January 20th 1999. By the end of that year, I was a PADI Instructor – Thanks Mum.
At that time, as a female in a male orientated career and environment I had to work hard to prove myself, I think the women that came before me paved a way for me and I would like to think I did the same for women who came after me. I had to prove to the male Egyptian boat crews that I was strong enough to tie mooring lines as good as any of my male counterparts, that I would carry the tanks and equipment and in the water I was a good as anyone else, the crews watched me and spoke amongst themselves and I gained their respect. I often get asked by women how I have dealt with being female and working in Egypt, my answer is I work alongside the boat crews as a unit, I chat with the skippers when deciding dive sites, they know the sea much better than I ever will, I help the deckhands where I can, I don’t think it matters whether you are male or female it matters whether you have the respect for each other and are willing to work hard and I have proved that I do and I can. I strongly believe in being a role model to others and feel if you work hard others will follow your lead. I love diving in Egypt, the reefs are so beautiful and plentiful, everywhere I go around the world I look at it and think could I dive here every day and not get bored, so far only Sharm El Sheikh has captivated me enough to stay for 19 years.
I became a PADI Course Director after helping with many Instructor Development Courses, I had an exceptional boss of the dive centre I work at and he was the best Course Director who encouraged all his IDC Staff Instructors to continue up the PADI ladder. During one IDC, we had about 18 students, there were 3 Course Directors on that course with my boss being the lead Course Director, I was the only Staff Instructor and all the students kept asking me why I wasn’t a Course Director, they got me thinking. I just did not feel confident in myself to do it, so I went to my boss and he told me to believe in myself, he told me I was more than ready. With the push from him and the support of my boyfriend (not the French Instructor, I met a new one, of course he is an Instructor as well, us divers talk nothing but diving and fish who else would listen to us but other divers) I went to my PADI Course Director Course.
I will never forget the moment I realised I had passed that course, I looked in the mirror laughing and crying at the same time saying to myself, you are a PADI Course Director.
Ladies the moral of my story is that you may get pushed to do things outside of your comfort zone and sometimes you may not have the confidence in yourself to do them but believe in yourself, embrace the challenges as they may change your life – mine did. In the water it does not matter if you are male or female, the fish do not care, all that matters is that you love it.
My mum’s gift opened up a completely new world for me, it is a world that keeps giving every day and I have never looked back.