About Me

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Fishers, Indiana, United States
Brenda gained career expertise as a human resources leader at a global company before becoming an HR consultant. Her functional experience includes a variety of sales roles in the health care industry achieving success for over 30 years. She is currently in Consulting & Analytics Business Development for a health care firm. Her passion is participating in, writing about and observing the evolving workforce. For the first time in history four generations work together. It keeps things interesting. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are redefining retirement and what it means to age in the workforce. It is not just about money. Okay it plays a role! At 76.4 million members strong, Boomers are leveraging technology to continue their careers and the personal fulfillment working brings. Managing a late-stage career requires a strategy. There is no roadmap or one size fits all answer. This blog is about sharing, networking & finding your own right answer to working later, managing your career, redefining retirement, looking for work in your 50s & 60s and reinventing yourself.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Turning Your Passion into a Career

A dear friend of mine turned 65 Wednesday with 9,999 others who reach that milestone daily in America. He didn’t celebrate with a gold watch and there is no retirement party in his immediate future. He worked really hard all day at a job he loves and said there was no where else he would rather spend a birthday. His career has transformed since we met 22 years ago when we worked as medical sales representatives. Now he’s the owner of a successful boutique winery in the Temecula Valley east of San Diego that bears his family name.

Twenty years ago, it was a dream. During a break at a sales meeting, he was reading about vintners in Napa Valley that gave up their day jobs to follow their hearts into the wine business. “One day I would love to do something like that,” and sighed one of those sighs after you buy a lottery ticket when the jackpot is $200 million. One of these days. Ever the cheery, encouraging friend, I suggested he just go for it. “No, it’s just a dream of mine,” he replied and we were off to the next sales training workshop.

Years pass and things begin to fall into place without him seeing the big picture of what was happening. (It happens like that sometimes). My friend acquires some land to grow palm trees for sale on weekends as a side business to generate extra income. He and his family built a farmhouse on the property by hand. The commercial palm tree business was sizzling and sales of capital medical equipment was still booming in the 1990s.

Over time, as you know, work situations change and what we want out of our lives continually evolves too. Retiring about eight years ago, my friend stood at a professional crossroad. He just dedicated twenty-five years of his work life to one company. At 57 years old, finding a mid-career position in Corporate America providing fulfillment seemed unlikely, so he threw himself into volunteer work and earning a real estate license. Through those two endeavors, a lot of interesting (and helpful) people crossed his path. If you are in good health and have a passion, 57 years old seems too early to call it quits and live out our days watching reality television.

It helped that this friend also had an undergraduate degree in microbiology (read: mad scientist) and an MBA in Finance from a top notch business school (read: brilliant business mind). Of course, this true corporate fairy tale has a happy ending—or I never would have posted it.

Over time, the palm tree business’ season came & went. In the meantime, the Temecula Valley became known as a great place to grow wine grapes and wineries were moving in all around. “Amazingly” the right mentors, advisors and helpers showed up in his life and he listened, learned and most importantly acted. Now, Chapin Family Vineyards is not a dream; it is a reality. It is a blend of passion, science and the art of wine-making. Several years from the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon release in 2006 followed by a fruity Syrah, later a Zinfandel and Summit Meritage—the “dream” is being written about in Southern California media, served in upscale restaurants and wine club members are buying by the case. One reviewer gave the vineyard perhaps the ultimate compliment calling it, “an undiscovered gem, on the edge of something big.”

No matter our age or circumstances, if we’ll nurture our passion and stay open to the possibilities; a world of opportunity can still open for you. So Happy Belated 65th Birthday, Steve! Lift a glass for me.


  1. A very nice story, I get to Southern California several times a year to visit grandchildren and never heard of this wine region. I am going to visit next time I am in the area in January. All you ever hear about is Napa & Sonoma, which is also lovely.

  2. As life continues, our career aspirations do change. At 57, my event horizon differs from many of my colleagues here at Roche. Looking at retirement only short time in the future, my wife and I have started a new Winery here in Fishers, In. Yes, Fishers! I love my career here at Roche and enjoy what I do ,but realize it will not last forever and want to continue an active life afterward. We have always had a passion for wine and started making our own as amateurs in 2001. In 2004, we opened Grape Inspiration in Carmel, left it 2006 and now have opened Harmony Winery here in Fishers.We are a custom boutique winery where we produce 30 different fine wines from juice and pass on our passion to others by teaching them how to make their own wine in our winery This is our retirement and our second home. We work very hard at our careers and equally hard building our business for when that transition comes. We hope to continue to share our passion for wine for many years to come.
    Brenda, thank you for a wonderful story. I hope it enlightens others to seek out their passions and "Follow that Dream"

    Kevin and Tatyana Croak

  3. I worked with both Brenda and Steve back in the day. It is good to see that Steve is having success in a second career. I like the other couple from Roche also setting their sites on the future. My husband and I left medical lab sales about 10 years ago to invest in rental property and while it is has been tough the last few years, we have never looked back. You have to create a Plan "B".