Becca runs her way to better coworker connections
Becca Shane didn’t get into running until eight years ago but she hasn’t stopped since, running 38 races in that time. She run everything from 5k’s, to 10k’s, to half-marathons and even the 48.6 miles over four days “Disney Dopey Challenge” – twice!
In this episode, Becca and I talk about it’s human nature to want to create connections with others. This was especially true when she graduated college and moved to a new city. In order to create connections and make friends, Becca found that it was best to talk about anything except work. She says, “If you only talk about work, you’re going to be pretty boring.” In the corporate setting, Becca feels it’s more the individual’s responsibility to open up and share their non-work passions because the firm can’t force anyone to do this, especially since everyone has completely different interests.
Becca Shane is the Director of Finance at Hamilton Place Strategies. She’s a graduate of the 2017 AICPA Leadership Academy, as well as a Young Professional Advisory Council Member and a LEAD Task Force Member for the Virginia Society of CPAs.
She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration, majoring in both Accounting and Finance.
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Welcome to Episode 117 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday, I interview a professional known for a hobby or a passion, making them standout like a green apple in a red apple world. When I tell you to imagine an apple in your head, I’m sure for most of you, it’s red, right? Because in school, A is for apple. Remember that picture? It’s always red because that’s the stereotype. But the interesting thing is that all apples actually start out as green and then over time, they turn red, actually turning into the stereotype. And just like that, deep down inside all of us is this passion for something other than our jobs, and that’s what I love to shine a light on each week here on the Green Apple Podcast.
Thanks so much to everyone for subscribing and leaving ratings and comments on iTunes and all the other Android apps. It’s so encouraging to hear how much you enjoy what someone actually described as the least business-y podcast out there. Not even sure if that’s a word but I guess it is now.
I’m also doing some research. It’s super short. One-minute anonymous survey about firm culture and how maybe the Green Apple message might apply in your world. So if you’ve got just 60 seconds, please head over to greenapplepodcast.com, you can click on the big green button there and answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous and I really, really appreciate the help.
Okay, now it’s time to introduce you to this week’s guest, Becca Shane. She’s the director of finance at Hamilton Place Strategy and a graduate at the 2017 AICPA Leadership Academy. I can’t wait to jump right in, Becca. But first, I just wanted to say thanks so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Becca: Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate it. I’ve been waiting for this ever since I started following you on Twitter.
John: Oh, my gosh. Well, thank you so much. I gave everyone just a brief introduction but maybe in your own words, a little bit of where you’re at now in your accounting career and a little bit of how you got there.
Becca: Sure. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and moved straight down here to D.C. afterwards. I started at a small local firm doing non-profit audits. From there, found myself in the financial services industry because I was a finance and accounting major so I had interest in both topics and investing is kind of like an interesting passion. I always thought Warren Buffett was like the bee’s knees.
Let’s see. I graduated end of ‘04, started working in 2005. So in 2008, I was at a business development company and unfortunately, August 2008, kind of recession time so I was laid off and at that time, I was a financial analyst and so I decided well, this is a good time to go back and get that CPA.
John: Oh, wow. All right. That’s one way to do it, right?
Becca: Definitely. I thought about it and it was more stability just in my head, there was more stability in accounting. A couple of weeks after I got laid off, I was really lucky. I was one of the first ones to get rehired. I found myself at a private equity firm here in D.C. a really small local firm. It was an amazing experience. I couldn’t have landed in a better opportunity.
I learned a lot, grew a lot, tapped in to different things there. And then from there, bounced around between financial services and non-profit organizations given my early background in non-profit auditing and now I’m at something completely different which is really exciting. I’m at a firm and we are a communications firm but data-backed analytical communications. Basically, we do a lot of research and data behind public policy and try to communicate out to our clients’ constituents in the general public about issues that concern our clients.
And so what’s really interesting to me is the topics and the issues that we are researching are near and dear to my financial accounting heart. We do work around tax reform, other business policies that affect taxes, the economy, trade, net neutrality, all kinds of different issues across the spectrum, across industry. It’s really interesting to be in D.C. and finally, a little bit closer to public policy than I’ve ever been before.
John: Right, right. Yeah, and I mean you’re like behind the curtain. You get to see the wizard pulling all the levers.
Becca: I’m even before further behind the curtain because again, I don’t do this work. I’m just really excited about the work that our client-facing team does. I do the books really for them.
John: Oh, wow. Okay. Never mind then. All right. You’re the guy behind the guy behind the guy behind the guy that does the books.
Becca: Correct, right. And the financial analysis so it’s not just the books.
John: Yeah, yeah. I know. I’m teasing you.
Becca: Really fun stuff too.
John: That’s awesome. Well, I mean it sounds like you’ve had such a varied career. I mean one question I love to ask everyone is just how did you get into wanting to do finance and accounting as a major?
Becca: In high school, I took accounting courses. I worked at a bank. I guess it was my senior year of high school so I got to do a little bit of that work release where I had a couple of extra periods so I would get to leave class early or school early to go put in some time at the bank and so I was check encoder which I’m not even sure if they do anymore.
John: That’s hilarious.
Becca: It might be done by a machine, right?
John: Right, right. That’s something to tell your grandkids one day.
Becca: It was interesting but it was a really cool experience, got exposed to being a professional early on. I’ve always been interested in athletics though. So freshman year, I was an athletic training major but halfway through freshman year, I decided to switch majors, switch schools and I applied to University of Pittsburgh’s business program and decided like I was really good at accounting, I think they make more money than athletic trainers. I should probably be a little bit more practical. I mean there’s always one athletic trainer for the Pittsburgh Steelers and I’m sure that they aren’t retiring anytime soon.
John: Which is the only job you would apply for. So that’s how that works, right?
Becca: Correct, correct.
John: There are several accountants for the Steelers though so that’s a good idea. I like the way you think there.
Becca: Right? Right, exactly. And so getting in to college, it was really exciting for me to go to a business program like Pitt. Pitt has a great program that’s more focused on real life so like a gentleman that taught one of my accounting courses was PWC and so I guess I forget the name I guess basically what’s that called, but they’re basically who are people and who are teaching and so it was a really cool exposure because you learn about people that had done all different types of work so we were exposed to a lot of really interesting people early on in our college experience.
John: That’s awesome. Yeah. I mean that’s such an indirect route there. I love the athletics and the athletic training because I think that dovetails nicely with your hobby, passion, what you love to do outside of work when you get a little bit of that free time because I mean on your Twitter, you’re always running somewhere. I’m exhausted just looking at your Twitter.
Becca: Yeah. I do enjoy a little bit of running.
John: Just a little bit.
Becca: And then some crazy stuff. I think the longest distance is the Disney Dopey Challenge which is 48.6 miles over four days.
John: What? Wow.
Becca: Yeah. It’s called the Dopey for a reason and I went back and did it a second time.
John: No way!
Becca: I was like man, this is just stupid. This isn’t dopey anymore. This is just dumb.
John: That’s hilarious. Yeah, that is far. That is far. And why the .6?
Becca: There’s a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon, and a marathon, and so all the distances have a point at the end. And at the end of the day, it just has up to the .6, so —
John: Got it. So it’s a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and a full marathon. Oh, my gosh. Do they start with the 5K or what’s the order?
Becca: Yeah. It progresses from the 5K to the marathon.
John: Yeah, because why would you start with the hard one first? That one makes sense. I thought Disney was family friendly. This is painful. No, but that is really cool though. I mean that you’re so dedicated to it. Have you always been a long-distance runner?
Becca: No. So funny story. In high school, I went out for track because a couple of people that I was friends with were like going out for track and it’s like okay, let’s do what our friends are doing but I was terrible. I was so terrible. I had stress fractures really early on and I was like okay, this whole running thing, this isn’t going to work.
I petitioned for a girl’s tennis team because we didn’t have a girl’s tennis team. I wasn’t good at that either. It was just like sports. Sports were not my thing, right? I was like I enjoy them, I enjoy being outside but it wasn’t really until about 2008-2009, my now husband, he’s really athletic. He played soccer, he runs, he does triathlon. He got me into it. And so big mistake on his part because since 2011, I’ve done upwards of 38 races.
John: Oh, my goodness. Wow, 38 races?
Becca: He regrets getting me involved in that a little bit just because I’m always like hey, can we go to this race? Can we go to that race? I want to go here but I’m going to run a half marathon while we’re there.
John: Right. Oh, like a vacation. Yeah, there we go. Does he run them with you then or is he on the side? Just like, “Yay!” and then goes back and sits on the couch?
Becca: He doesn’t even come run and stand on the sides all the time. He’s like, “You do too many.”
John: After 38, it’s like yeah, that’s true.
Becca: Early on, he definitely came by and he would even come on my trainings and like meet me half way on my training run and bring me supplies and stuff like that but he does a little bit of racing and so we kind of do — it’ll be even, right? So for as many races as I’ve attended, he attends for me, right? So it’s very fair. We believe in equality and fairness.
John: That’s good. Well, god bless him. Good for him. He created a monster and now you’re just unstoppable. I mean I think it’s really great though. I guess one thing that’s interesting to me is how a lot of people think these hobbies and passions are just kind of throwaways or something to do that’s kind of fun. But do you feel like there’s any sort of a skillset that you’ve developed that translates to bring in to the office?
Becca: Mental toughness I’d say is huge, right? I’m not fast by any means. And so a lot of people go out and they’ll run a race and it takes them three to four hours. My longest marathon is, it’s very embarrassing, but it was almost 7 hours.
John: Oh, my goodness gracious.
Becca: Because you end up walking so if I didn’t train properly before the race which has happened before, these races are January so that’s not exactly a slow time for accountants.
John: Right, right or you don’t want to be outside either. It’s a little bit chilly.
Becca: Just a little chilly. But mental toughness like the fact that I’ve actually finished all of the races I think is big even though I may not have run the whole time and I still have goals set around running the distances at different speeds but I think mental toughness is huge. I think just perseverance and persistence and just being able to stick with something that long. It’s translated. I can say it’s translated.
John: Totally, yeah. I mean especially when you’re in the middle of busy season or a really big project and long hours. All of a sudden now, we got to stay longer. It’s like oh, well, I mean I’ve got another seven hours in the tank. I know what this is like.
Becca: Right, just give me a couple of protein bars and a goo and I’m good to go.
John: There you go. That’s funny. You’re sort of like just people are giving you cups of Gatorade, you’re just chugging them down like as you walk through the hallways.
Becca: I may just set that up. That would be awesome.
John: You’re welcome. That’s how this works. You come on the show then all of the sudden, your office is going to think you’re the crazy person.
Is this something that you talk about at work? The races that you’ve run or why you’re walking like you had a broken leg the next day.
Becca: You hit the nail on the head. When you come in on Monday morning and you’re limping around the office, people kind of ask like, “What’s wrong with you?” It’s like, “Oh, you know, I just ran a marathon. No big deal.”
John: Right, right. Okay. All right.
Becca: Yeah, I definitely talk about it at work. What’s funny is I can list about three or four people who knew about my running, hear about the craziness in my running and they’re like, “Becca, we’re not going to go your level but we’re going to run a 5K.”
John: Oh, nice.
Becca: Right. The funniest thing though is one of them, her husband runs. So we would talk about his races and then she did the Couch to 5K program and started running and now she’s building up to a ten-miler and then she told me she’s going to go a half. I was like see? It’s addictive.
John: Yeah, it’s addictive. So everyone listening, don’t do it. Don’t do it. No, I’m just kidding. But it certainly is a slippery slope there where you get in and then yeah, oh, I could do the next level. I could do the next level. It’s that personal challenge in building up and that’s really cool though that you’re encouraging others as well. Do you feel like people look at you like you’re less professional or less of an accountant because you have this thing outside of work?
Becca: No. I don’t think so and what’s interesting is when you talk about running, you then find five or six other people in your company or in your firm that run as well. Some of the places that I’ve worked have actually had little groups of people that go running together. This isn’t something that I necessarily do but I encourage it because I think it’s great if you guys are finding common ground outside of the day to day and you’re finding friendship in the people that you spend eight hours a day with.
John: Right, right. Yeah, for sure. And you’re also outside of the office so it’s a little more casual and you get to know that person on a more human level as opposed to the professional level so would you say that the relationships that you have with the people that you talk about running are different than the relationships with other people that you just work with?
Becca: I wouldn’t say different. I mean it’s definitely — I try to connect with everyone and not everyone meaning everyone at the firm but I do try to ask people how their weekend was, ask them something personal about themselves and try to commit them to memory.
Because I think I work with a lot more young people now, so a lot of new college grads, and not only them, I think I don’t really love the generalizations about generations but I think all people want to connect with people and I try to connect with people on something personal and try to talk about travel or running or music or anything that kind of comes to mind that I know is not just interesting to me but also interesting to that person too.
People dislike running. I mean people have your mentality about it like this is just — I’m convinced that I can get you to do a 5K. At some point, we’re going to meet in person and you’re going to do a 5K.
John: It’s because you’re going to have a baseball bat chasing me and then that’s why I will run the 5K. No, no. It’s fine.
Becca: I mean what are you going to do when the zombies come? You got to know how to run when they zombies come.
John: Right, exactly. That’s hilarious. Becca the zombie, and then I’ll be like, “Run! Everybody run now!”
Becca: I can definitely get that costume. I can definitely find a zombie costume.
John: All right, all right. What do we do in this weekend? 5K. Let’s do it. That would be so great just running through D.C. Me, and then you in a zombie costume behind me. And everyone would be like, yeah, this is normal.
Becca: D.C. is actually the best place to run so the next time you are in D.C., you’ve got to let me know. Central park up in New York is great but running the monuments on D.C., and it’s a quick little loop so you can run from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol and hit all the monuments in between and two and a half, three miles, give or take. Three miles if I make it longer and out in a couple of hills but we could do a nice little flat round around the monuments.
John: Right, right. You’re awfully kind, you’re awfully kind. It sounds like you’re an enabler. That’s what this sounds like to be honest with you. The first one’s free and then after that, it’s all hills, John.
Becca: You do think that D.C.’s flat but we definitely have a few hills that are killer.
John: Right, yeah. No, I can believe it and it’ll be end of the wind as well because why not? Why not, right?
Becca: Yeah. There’s a little area where there’s a golf course and it’s really popular for biking and running. It’s called East Potomac Park and it feels like no matter which direction you’re going when you’re running around that little horseshoe, the wind is against you. It’s just pushing you back.
John: Yeah. That’s funny. One thing that is always interesting to me and you mentioned like the running groups that yeah, some places you’ve worked at and whatever is just how much is it on an organization to create that culture where it’s okay to share and not talk about work all the time? Or how much is it on the individual to kind of create that little circle amongst themselves or to buy in?
Becca: I think it’s on the individuals because everyone’s going to have different interests. I’ve been at organizations and they’ve done a bit to encourage it. So early on in my career, we had kickball teams. Most recently, I played on a volleyball team like a sand volleyball team because there’s courts over there by the Lincoln Memorial. It’s great to have that encouragement.
In my current firm, there’s actually a softball team but I could not hit or catch if my life depended on it. So I think it’s on the individuals to find something that they enjoy and find enough people to join in on it but once you found that thing, I think it’s great for the firms or the companies to encourage it.
John: Yeah, no. That’s exactly it. Yeah, because I mean I think if there’s too much structure, if the firms or the companies create too much of a framework, then it’s too rigid and people would feel like oh, well, I don’t play softball or I don’t run or whatever it is. But certainly, yeah. I think that’s an excellent idea you had of just let the individuals kind of get it started and then the firm or the company supports that.
Becca: Right. You don’t want it to be an obligation. You don’t want it to be more work.
John: Right, right. Oh, my gosh. Yes, that’s so perfect. I mean I’m curious since you started running in 2008 after you had started your career, was there something before the running that you would talk about at work or were you more just focused on the job?
Becca: No. I mean I definitely talk to a lot about a lot of different things. In my first job, I feel like most people in D.C. area, at least in my experience really find a great group of friends in their first professional job and my friends enjoyed a couple of things which I connected to them on, World Cup Soccer and also travelling. A couple of the girls that I met whenever I worked with, I would go to New York with. We did a couple of trips down to different areas in Virginia and the other beaches.
So yeah, there’s always been something. World Cup was pretty interesting and pretty fun to connect with people who were from some of the other countries like Latin American countries and over in Europe and so it was like oh, fun. There’s this like their national team against our national team. It was a lot of fun.
John: Yeah, yeah. No, that is neat. What made you want to just — because a lot of people. I even remember me early on, it was kind of wow, I’m actually making real money here. I better work, work, work. What made you want to say hey, I got a human side to me too and not be afraid to share like that and create those connections?
Becca: Well, I moved to D.C. not really knowing anyone who was here at the time so I had to make new connections. I was home sick for a good part of the first six months of my career, maybe like four or five months before things started to get busy and so I would go back home to Pittsburgh and hang out with my friends on the weekends but it’s not sustainable to drive 6, 7 hours every weekend.
So you have to find connections and find ways to talk to people and find things that aren’t just work related because if you only talk about work, you’re going to be pretty boring.
John: Right, right. That sums up this whole podcast right there. If you’re only talking about work, you’re pretty boring because that’s exactly right, plus no one wants to be around that person. It’s like oh, good. Somebody that knows everything, awesome.
Yeah and so I guess do you have any words of encouragement to people that are listening, that are maybe on the fence of, “Hey, I’ve got this hobby but I don’t think anyone cares?”
Becca: Well, I mean I think going back to it, it’s important to ask people what they’re interested in and then find something that clicks with you because more than likely, someone isn’t going to be a runner or a volleyball player or whatever the case may be but they have something else that they do on occasion that you do an occasion too.
I think it’s really about just putting out there that these are your interests, these are your interests at work and outside of work because I think we all have things that pique our interest at work too so I do coffees a lot at work now and because the folks that I work with now are so different than me and come from such different backgrounds and different schools.
I really just connect with them on the work that they’re doing so if someone’s working on tax reform, I’m like hey, let’s talk about tax reform. I’d love to give you some input on what it sounds like from my perspective because I have this CPA lens that I look at everything with. So even getting them talking about their work, if I find that I can connect with people based on what they do and I think if you can establish a connection with someone based on something that that person does, it usually solidifies a connection that you wouldn’t necessarily get in other ways
John: Right, right. No, that’s so eloquently put. It’s meeting them where they’re at. Yeah, that’s so cool and going for coffee, getting out of the office, just a quick little thing just to connect like that is such an easy way for everyone listening to just go do that today or tomorrow. So that’s awesome.
Well, you referred to it earlier of me doing a 5K with you so before I do that though, I have to make sure that we can — I mean because that’s going to take a while for me to do so I don’t know how much it’s supposed to be but it sounds like hours.
Becca: We can walk. I have a lot of friends that walk so it will take even longer if we walk but yeah, it’ll take a little while but there’s no judgment, right? There’s no judgment.
John: What if we take an Uber? How about if we take an Uber? Can we just do that and then call it a day?
Becca: We can do a segue. I will do a segue but no Ubers, or a bicycle.
John: I would totally do a segue. I’ve never done that before so no, no. I’m kidding. I would run it with you but it sounds like a while so I have to make sure that we can hang out together so I have my 17 rapid fire questions to make sure that we make it to the end because more than likely, what will happen is I get punched in the face and then you run past me like that’s what would happen. “This guy’s really obnoxious.”
So here we go. My 17 rapid fire questions. I’m going to fire this up. You’re going to nail it. I could feel it. So this is going to be good. I’ll start you out easy, start you out easy, what’s your favorite color?
John: Purple? All right. How about a least favorite color?
John: Orange, interesting. How about do you have a favorite Disney character?
Becca: I’m a big fan of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell.
John: Oh, wow. All right. Interesting. How about do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Becca: I do like Ryan Reynolds.
John: Oh, okay. All right, all right. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Becca: Early bird, for sure.
John: Early bird, for sure. How about pens or pencils?
John: Pens, nice. Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Becca: A little of both.
John: A little of both, wow. You’re putting words into the Sudoku puzzle. That is impressive. Would you say you’re more of a PC or a Mac?
Becca: I like both, so Mac for personal and PC because I am in excel most of the eight to ten hours at work.
John: Right, right. No, that makes sense. That makes total sense. Would you say you’re more Star Wars or Star Trek?
Becca: I like them both. I can’t really put a preference to either but I like both.
John: Wow. All right, all right. Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor?
John: Banana, wow! Yeah, that is a unique one. How about do you have a favorite movie of all time?
Becca: Van Wilder or the Big Lebowski.
John: Okay, all right. Wow. We are learning a lot about Becca here today. How about would you say are you more heels or flats?
Becca: It really depends on where I’m going and what I’m doing.
John: Yeah, yeah. How about just running shoes? Can we get away with that?
Becca: I wish. I wish.
John: Totally, totally. When it comes to financials, would you say you’re more — do you prefer the balance sheet or the income statement?
Becca: Income statement.
John: Okay. Do you have a favorite adult beverage?
Becca: Not really, no. Nothing really pops out.
John: Okay. How about do you have favorite number?
John: 7, and why is that?
Becca: I don’t know. It’s like a lucky number 7.
John: All right. Three more, three more. Do you have a favorite animal? Any animal.
Becca: Oh, I’m really into hippopotamuses right now.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so good. Two more, two more. Favorite toppings on a pizza. Load it up.
Becca: Banana peppers, peperoni, and mushrooms.
John: Okay, all right. And the last one. The favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Becca: I mean I guess the big giant box of race medals and race bibs.
Becca: I plan donating some of them to Medals4Mettle which basically takes medals from half marathons and above and gives them to people who are fighting illnesses.
John: Oh, wow. That’s cool.
Becca: Yeah. It’s a really cool program so I have to finish looking into that but this is kind of me holding myself accountable.
John: Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s fantastic. Very, very cool. Well, this has been so fun, Becca, and so great for you to share this and just a lot of the easy takeaways for everyone so thank you so much for being with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Becca: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
John: Wow! That was so great. I loved how Becca said if you only talk about work, you’re going to be pretty boring. Sure, I mean there’s time and a place to talk about technical stuff but no one wants to be around that person that only talks about it all day long. So don’t be that person.
Now, if you’d like to see some pictures of Becca in action and connect with her on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about firm culture. Thanks again for subscribing and for sharing this with your friends, so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, which is to go out and be a green apple.