Alisa Preston – Success Study

Leading the growth of a marine services company’s underwater technology services

Client: Alisa Preston simultaneously juggled two careers: manager and engineer at a Canadian electric utility and COO and co-owner of a family-owned, adventure tourism diving business.

Industry: Marine Services

Challenge: As a result of family circumstances, Alisa felt compelled to resign from her salaried job and her family-owned diving business and start fresh elsewhere, but she wasn’t sure how to get started.

Process: Finding her dream job felt like finding a unicorn, so Alisa leveraged her network to set up dozens of informational interviews with various entities to explore her options.

Landing: One company that offered guidance to Alisa grew enamored with her ideas and invited her to pitch, and ultimately to run, a new program for them as director of marine technology.

Study: For several years Alisa Preston maintained two demanding, full-time jobs. Her “day job,” where she worked as a high-level engineer and manager at a Canadian utility company, provided her a paycheck. Her “fun job,” at which she was chief operating officer for a family-owned diving business, was an acclaimed, educational, diving expedition business that fulfilled her personal and professional passions. Alisa ended both jobs, however, when a family emergency arose that threatened the diving business.

“I was burning myself out. My “day job” didn’t excite me and my entrepreneurial business, which could have been a success, was stymied by family circumstances,” said Alisa.

Still passionate about operating a diving business, Alisa partnered with a colleague to explore starting a brand new one.

“The concept wasn’t just dive travel, it was integrated with education, science, conservation, environmentalism, and tourism,” said Alisa. “We planned trips to Fiji, Cuba, and Kenya…it had the potential to be amazing. Unfortunately, we could not have launched the business at a worse time. The pandemic hit and we had to postpone all our trips until it was safe.

Alisa found herself at a crossroads. She wanted a fresh start and was focusing on opportunities in the United States but didn’t know where to start. She had a wealth of experience in so many unique fields and wanted to find a job that allowed her to combine all her expertise into one position that was also intellectually challenging, but she didn’t know what it would be. After her challenging year, she also wrestled with serious self-doubts about her ability to take a professional leap successfully.

“It seemed like a fantasy. I wanted to pursue a job in a different country that I didn’t think even existed,” said Alisa.

In late 2019, on the recommendation of a good friend, Alisa began working with The Barrett Group. It was exactly the catalyst she needed to start an exciting next chapter of her career.

“Finding a position that aligned perfectly with me felt like a pipedream, but the people at The Barrett Group seemed to recognize the unique package of skills I have,” said Alisa. “I realized that sometimes you have to invest in something to move forward. That’s true in education, so why not in your professional life?”

With her Clarity coach, Stacy, Alisa considered her long-term vision, evaluated her value proposition, and explored her options. She learned that, in addition to using her engineering, diving, robotics, science, tech and research backgrounds, she wanted to be in the Pacific Northwest near the ocean.

Next, with Lori, her career consultant, Alisa learned to rework her LinkedIn profile, leverage her network and social media, and tailor her resume in different ways.

“Applications were the hard part because of the complexity of my resume. I leaned heavily on Lori initially, but eventually I became more independent in my job search.”

Alisa appreciated all that she learned from Lori.

“Signing on with The Barrett Group didn’t mean letting someone else find me a job. It meant acquiring the tools to do the work myself,” said Alisa. “Sure, it’s nice to have someone else do the work, but I think we all know that the easy path is not usually the best path.”

When Alisa launched her job search, she initially got a huge response from recruiters, but the pandemic soon hit its peak and things went quiet. Ironically, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“I was really nervous, and I probably would have jumped at the first job offer I got instead of waiting for the best job for me,” said Alisa. “Lori encouraged me to hold off and fine tune my search,” said Alisa.

Alisa narrowed her focus and resolved to find to a job that would marry all her talents. If not, she would pursue a PhD that would do the same and then start a company to realize her dream job. Using what she called “the TBG approach,” Alisa reached out to companies that seemed out of her league to get guidance on industry trends and how to design a practicable PhD program.

It was the perfect strategy.

“I had over 30 informational interviews with a number of companies,” said Alisa. “What started as a request for guidance on an educational program at one of those companies, a commercial diving and salvage company based in Seattle, became the initial steps in creating the job that I now have.”

“They gave me a blank slate and asked me to make a proposal out of high-level ideas and needs they had that incorporated technology into diving. I was invited to present it to senior executives at the parent company and, ultimately, to design the job I’ve been hired into.”

Alisa is thrilled with her new career.

“The job I have now includes everything I wanted – every aspect! The diversity of what they do is top-notch, and their integrity aligns with mine. I found the unicorn!” said Alisa.

For Alisa, the most valuable part of the TBG program was learning to believe in herself and seeing the value that she brought to the table.

“The incredible support of Stacy, my Clarity coach, and Lori, my career consultant, really helped me. They made me realize that my dreams were possible,” said Alisa. “There wasn’t a single meeting that I didn’t walk away from feeling uplifted. This wasn’t just career coaching; it was so much more.”
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