Avanti Centrae is a former Silicon Valley IT executive turned thriller author. Before becoming a writer, she worked for ALCOA, Texas Instruments, Hughes Aircraft, IBM, and Hewlett Packard. You can find out more about her here, see her books here, and read her latest post here.
Have you ever thought about reinventing yourself? Changing careers? Working for yourself? Like many others who have changed careers later in life, I took on a new challenge several years ago, right before I hit fifty. In this post, I share my background, hurdles, successes so far, and a few tips and tricks.
I was born in Ohio and grew up in a two-story house with red shutters on a tree-lined street in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My favorite weekly activity was picking up new books from the silver bookmobile. I was adventurous from the start, enjoying a childhood filled with basketball, waterskiing, and snowmobiling. When I couldn’t play outside, I read everything in sight. Characters were my friends and authors my heroes. I vowed to someday grow up and write bestselling novels, but life got in the way for a long time.
My practical family encouraged me to graduate with a computer technology degree from Purdue University. I worked for two decades in the IT field, beginning as a programmer/analyst, before spending time as a database administrator, and a project manager. Eventually, I landed in management, spending the last six years of my career as a director for Hewlett Packard.
During the time I worked in the computer industry, I nurtured my writing skills by studying craft, story structure, and the publishing market. In 2014, after a health scare, I decided it was time to pursue the dream. I started by outlining my first book, VanOps: The Lost Power. That was the beginning of my second chapter.
While wrangling words into outline form, I had no idea whether I could write or not. I’d played around with poetry and screenwriting, but had never written a novel. To help develop my confidence and skillset, I leaned on world-class editors. They gave me a crash course in craft, and insisted I did have a talent for keeping readers turning pages.
A few years after I began writing VanOps: The Lost Power, it was picked up by an agent, then a publisher, and went on to win three awards after hitting bookstores in the fall of 2019. The sequel, Solstice Shadows, won two awards, including Best Global Thriller at the Chanticleer International Book Awards, and landed at #1 on category bestseller lists in America and Canada. The third book in the series is nearing completion, and a standalone or series started called Cleopatra’s Vendetta will be published in 2022. It recently took home a first-place blue ribbon at an awards ceremony as an unpublished manuscript. I was over the moon.
It’s not all awards and five-star reviews. Some days I still struggle with believing that my writing is decent. Just last month I noticed a negative review from someone who didn’t resonate with my style. Their words festered for a few days, limiting my interest in writing, until my latest manuscript won that award I mentioned earlier. That helped remind me that writing is a subjective art and not everyone is going to love my work. Over time, I’ve learned that it’s important to guard my thoughts as carefully as I guard my bank account password. Thoughts and beliefs about ourselves are more valuable than gold and can be the most lethal of toxins.
In terms of advice if you’re thinking of a career change: Don’t plunge into the pool right away. It took several years of writing and getting that book deal before I transitioned out of my IT work. While dipping my toes in the waters, I built a support team, and you’ll need one too. Also, because success may take longer than you wish, I recommend a monetary safety net that can cover your expenses until you become profitable. If entrepreneurship is calling, you may even need to take a part-time job to finance the marketing and PR activities for your dream until the new career takes flight. Lastly, learn from others who have gone before you; I’ve found most people enjoy giving crumbs of advice.
Fortunately, I have a wise mother who was fond of saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Mom’s refrain rang in my ears every time I fell off my bike, or answered a homework question incorrectly. As I grew older, that mantra gave me the courage to persevere and the pluck to start a writing career as my hair was turning gray. It’s provided a level of comfort that there is almost always a next time.
Readers can read the first six chapters of VanOps: The Lost Power for free by signing up for my newsletter at avanticentrae.com.