For some, the goal is to work in pest control forever; for others, the industry becomes a stepping-stone in the pursuit of a different dream. The latter is true of Lourdes Carvalho, who — after working for 17 years as a service technician for Fredericksburg, Va.-based PermaTreat Pest Control — decided to pursue her dream of becoming an author.
“Pest control provided a great living for me and my family,” Carvalho said. “But you’ve also got to have a plan B because a lot of us can’t keep up with that rigorous labor. So, for your plan B, I say dream it up. Go for the big time. Never give up.”
Carvalho, now a published author, began working for PermaTreat in May 2002 after graduating from high school and initially working as a childcare provider. “I wanted to work for people and solve problems for people. Pest control seemed to be an opportunity to do that,” she said.
Life has not always been easy for Carvalho, whose struggles include being a teenage mother and winning a battle with cancer. Despite these personal obstacles, while working at PermaTreat her compassion and desire to serve others has never wavered. Such character was evident to Jack Broome, president emeritus of PermaTreat, when he first met Carvalho. “I was in management for 45 years. I was in the pest industry for 36 years, and the luckiest day for me was when Amanda (his administrative assistant) called me and insisted that I come back to interview (Lourdes), because employees like her don’t come around every day,” Broome said. “She was a special one.”
Throughout her 17 years at PermaTreat, Carvalho was offered multiple promotions into sales and management, but turned them all down because she loved working in the field, she said. She worked on the same route all 17 years. “I became very attached to my people,” Carvalho said. “They became more like family to me.”
At the time Carvalho was hired, it was uncommon to see women in pest control, which made her an inspiration to many. “I was appreciated greatly by my female customers. I had several of them say, ‘Wow, this is a man’s career. I never thought that maybe I could even do something like that.’”
Unfortunately, Carvalho had to take a leave of absence from the field after being diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in 2015. After her diagnosis and recovery, Carvalho had lost a lot of strength and realized that she needed to make a change. So, in June 2019 she decided to “jump without a parachute and try to pursue the dream of becoming an author,” she said.
Now a five-year cancer survivor, Carvalho published her first book, “The Year of Guinness,” at age 46, and currently is working on the sequel. The book is the first in a trilogy that will be completed by 2021, she said. The book is a true story of Carvalho’s life at age 18. “It is definitely a story of struggle and survival,” Carvalho said. “My life was not easy, but (the book) shows that you can overcome.”
One of the books Carvalho plans to write is about her time in the pest control industry and her nickname “the ladybug,” which was given to her by a 7-year-old girl. The book will focus on Carvalho’s relationships with roughly four customers, one of whom is a cancer survivor, and the ways in which such relationships and stories have stuck with her. “The book I intend to write will show you how we as technicians develop long-term relationships with people in the field,” she said.
Carvalho hopes her book and her story will inspire others both inside and outside of the pest control industry, to follow their dreams. “It took me 46 years to publish my first book. I’ve known since I was eight that I was a writer, and my advice is never give up,” she said.
Carvalho’s book, “The Year of Guinness,” can be ordered from numerous booksellers, including Amazon. — Erin Ross