NORTH HAMPTON — Nicole Carrier traded in a high-profile job at IBM to make beer.
The change produced suds and smiles.
Carrier and Annette Lee co-founded Throwback Brewery in 2010, selling its first beer the following year. In July 2015, they moved their operation from a small warehouse space to a 12-acre farm and opened a restaurant.
Carrier, now 46, quit her IBM job less than two months later.
The North Hampton resident shares her fears and success in changing careers:
Q: Why did you decide to change careers?
A: I actually blame my co-founder, Annette. Her desire to leave her career as an environmental engineer is what led to us forming Throwback Brewery. When I decided to change careers it was primarily because my heart was no longer in my current job and career – it was with the company that I had started.
Q: What surprised you the most during the transition?
A: How much I didn’t miss my old job. Seriously, though, we were so busy trying to run a restaurant that I didn’t have the time or energy to think about the career that I left.
One other thing that ended up surprising me was how transferable my skills were. In my close to 20-year software career, I focused on marketing (telling stories, creating value propositions, messaging, pricing), strategy, evangelism, business planning, technology, and leading teams of people. I do the same exact thing now; it is just that now I get to use my skills on a set of products and a company that I love very much and am very passionate about.
Q: After you changed careers, how many times did you doubt yourself?
A: Just about every day for the first year! I had a very visible, high-profile job prior to changing careers, which resulted in me receiving an inordinate amount of praise and positive feedback about my performance. When you work for yourself, there is no one there to tell you that you are doing a good job, or that you are headed in the right direction, or that you are adding a lot of value to the company. Eventually, I just began to trust my gut, and believe in myself – the feedback from customers about how much they enjoyed our place definitely helped.
Q: What’s the best thing about changing careers?
A: Primarily, I love working for myself – being able to create a company and culture that I never want to leave. Being able to spend my time on what I am good at and what I enjoy most (marketing and strategy). Being in control of my time (i.e, being able to work out in the middle of the day if I want to.)
Q: How did you pay your bills during the transition (live on savings, get a part-time job)?
A: Our first four years in business, Throwback was very small, and I treated it like my “side hustle” – working most nights and all weekends on moving the business forward – all while working full time. By the time I left my job at IBM, we had expanded to the point where the business was able to cover my bills. However, in order for us to secure the large loans we got from the bank for the rehabilitation and transition of our barn into a restaurant and production space, I did have to use a large amount of my savings.
Q: What advice would you give people considering a career change?
A: Looking back, I think the hardest part of changing careers was the actual “just doing it” part. I’ve always been a bit risk averse. It’s kind of like a monkey swinging from branch to branch.
To get to the next branch, at some point you need to let go of the first branch to grab the second. I was afraid that by letting go of the first branch, I’d fall quickly to the ground. That micro-second of not holding on to anything is terrifying. But, you just have to do it. That is a rather long way of saying that my advice is to get your courage up and just do it. You can always go back to your comfort zone. But, if you are successful in the change, the rewards far outweigh the risks.
My second piece of advice is to make sure you fully understand the career you want to move into before doing so. Every week, I get emails or people talk to me about changing jobs and going into brewing. Upon talking to these folks, I get the sense that they don’t truly understand the day-to-day life of a brewer, the pay scale, or the physical requirements. So do your homework first. Network with people in your desired career field, ask a lot of questions, do an internship, if feasible, etc.