Ivy’s black belts lead to better business skills
Ivy Anderson wanted to learn yoga because she felt like she needed to learn to relax. She started going to classes at the Peace School in Chicago, which also offered martial arts classes. Several years later, she’s now working on her third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and loves how it combines with her yoga to impact her life. When she’s not doing that, Ivy is also an avid photographer. What started as taking pictures during long walks or vacations has turned into a blog and a book.
In this episode, Ivy and I talk about how much her yoga and martial arts has taught her to more present in the moment, have more patience, and be calmer and more likable. All of these are skills that make her a much better leader. Her photography allows her to better create an image for a client of the end goal and the firm’s process get there. Ivy is excited to be able to share these passions with others at work and takes the time to get to know others around her. She says, “Look for an organization that allows you to bring your whole self to work because that’s where you will be happier.”
Ivy Anderson is a Principal at Plante Moran, focusing on higher education technology and policy.
She graduated from Kettering University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Automated Manufacturing Techniques and later received her MBA, Finance and Information Systems from The Wharton School.
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Hello, this is John Garrett and welcome to Episode 147 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday, I interview a professional, who just like me is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work, which makes them stand out like a green apple in a pretty boring red apple world. I’m always so fascinated at how we usually try to stand out with our technical expertise or degrees and certifications, all those letters after our name. I’m here to shine a light each week on someone who understands that expertise isn’t always earned that way. It’s so not so narrowly defined. Because sometimes it’s experiences from our passions outside of work that actually make us better at our job.
Really quickly, I’m doing some research. It’s a super short one-minute anonymous survey about firm culture and how the green apple message might apply in your world. If you’ve got just 60 seconds, please head to greenapplepodcast.com. You can click that big green button there, answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous and I really appreciate the help for a book I’m releasing later this year. Thanks so much to everyone for subscribing to the show so you don’t miss any of the cool guests, like this week’s Ivy Anderson. She’s a Principal at the Plante Moran Chicago office focusing on Higher Education Technology and Policy. Ivy, I’m so excited to jump into this. But first, I wanted to say thank you for being with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
Ivy: Oh, yeah, John. This is great. I’m very excited about it. You’re absolutely welcome.
John: Oh, me too. I gave everybody a little bit of an introduction to you but maybe in your own words, it’s probably much better. What you’re up to now and a little bit of how you got there?
Ivy: Oh, okay. Sure. I worked for Plante Moran and we got a tax, audit and consulting and wealth management firm. I am a part of the consulting staff for focusing on higher education. I started out in engineering though so I was a walk away from consulting and/or accounting. I got my MBA and I transitioned to IT. After a few years of working in industry, I really moved in to consulting and decided I’d be a career consultant. Here I am now with Plante Moran.
John: That’s fantastic. Very cool. Very cool. What made you want to go into engineering?
Ivy: Well, I think I just had a mind for the math and the science that goes along with engineering. I had a very good counsellor in high school who told me, “Hey, guess what? If you get a job in engineering, you’ll always have a job. You’ll always make money.” Those are things I understood it even as a teenager.
John: I was good at math and science and I like to play with Legos when I was a kid and all that. Then I got to college and got a D in physics. I was like, “Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t be touching bridges. That probably won’t be a good idea.”
Ivy: Yeah. I had a couple of bad grades too. I’m just like, “Okay, you just got to buckle down and get to it, girlfriend.”
John: Right. Well, good for you. That’s awesome, really awesome. When you’re not consulting with the higher education side of things with Plante Moran, what hobby and passions and interests take up your time outside of work?
Ivy: Wait out. First of all, I’m an avid photographer. I come from a long line of people who take bad photographs. But over time, we’ve gotten a lot better at it. It really happened when I got a real camera — as some people say — and started taking pictures. After that I started walking around just taking pictures. I thought, “Oh, I’d be good in too many pictures. You’ve got to do something with them.” I started a blog and I have that.
Ivy: Yeah, that’s really fun. Then the other thing I do is martial arts. I’m into taekwondo. I’m a second-degree black belt, working on my third degree. Somewhere within the next year or so, I think I’d get my third degree black belt in taekwondo.
John: Wow, that is awesome. Holy cow. Both of those are incredible. You make the time for both. That’s really fantastic. Really fantastic. I love that a long line of bad photographers. That’s absolutely hilarious.
Ivy: Yeah, you should see some of those pictures. Let me just say tell you.
John: That’s awesome. Really awesome. The taekwondo is so fascinating too. How’d you get into the taekwondo?
Ivy: I started in taekwondo actually starting by taking yoga. I decided I needed to learn how to relax because people who were in consulting, we’re all Type B type personalities right. I was a pretty hardcore Type A — Type A Prime as I would call it — personality who didn’t know how to relax. I got into yoga because I wanted to learn how to relax. The place where I took yoga is a place called the Peace School, P-E-A-C-E. They also had a martial arts program. I had a chance to see people first do yoga and then do martial arts because it’s a combined class, like that.
John: Oh, okay. Okay.
Ivy: I started yoga first, then went to the martial arts. I had a nephew who was a teenager at the time. I still have this nephew, he’s just no longer teenager. I talked to him into doing martial arts with me.
Ivy: He was a hard fail. He was like, “No, I’m not having that. I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to get hurt.” All this stuff. “No, no, no. You’ve got to try it.” Anyway, after such a hard sell, I had to stick with it. I had to show them that, “Hey, I could start over on something I had no idea what I was doing. Learn from Ground Zero, feel very uncomfortable in that learning phase and still stick with it.” That was a lesson that I was showing him. I stuck with it. I’ve been doing it now for over 15 years.
Ivy: Wow. Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah. I guess the sell is, “If you don’t come with me, I’m just going to kick your butt one day.” That’s more embarrassing honestly.
Ivy: Well, I should have tried that one. No, no, no, no. I think mothers and aunts are kind of like, “We’ve got to cuddle them.” You don’t really. “Jackie Chan or any of the martial artists that are in movies or television, that’s the stuff we’re going to do. Nothing like it.” That’s the stuff like this.
John: Right. Yes. It’s a Bruce.
Ivy: Bruce Lee, right. Exactly.
John: Yeah, absolutely. No, that’s awesome. That’s really funny. The photography is cool too. Is that something that you got more into? When you’re naturally bad at it and come from a bad line, that’s interesting you talk with it enough to even create a blog.
Ivy: Okay. What happened is I have a sweetheart who is a director. He sees and thinks in pictures.
John: Oh, okay.
Ivy: He wouldn’t even have conversation with me about my photo. It was like, “No.” If I mentioned your photo,” he’d say, “Oh, no” and groan. It’s absolutely true though. It wasn’t until I got a real camera that he said, “Oh!” To this day, he says, “I really like the way you’ve gotten into photography.” Every time I tell him, “I’ve been a photographer all my life. Not always good, but…”
John: Right. Exactly. I guess it’s the difference between singing in the shower and being a professional singer.
John: Yeah. Now it’s like people want to look at your pictures and that’s fantastic.
John: That’s brutal, that’s brutal.
Ivy: I started the blog because I would take these long walks and I’d go places. Either in the city or go on vacations and I take pictures. I get all the pictures. I said, we’ve got to do something with them. You can’t just fill up your hard drive. That’s when I decided to start the blog. The whole theme is I pick what I call five star pictures, five star images. Anytime I go out, I’ll pick those that I think are the absolute best of the best that I’ve taken. Those are the ones I feature on the blog site and write about.
John: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. What’s the link in case people want to hit it up right now?
Ivy: E-Y-E-P-O-I-N-T-O-F-V-I-E-W dot com. It’s eyepointofview.com.
John: eye point of view. Nice. I love it. I love it. We also have a link at greenapplepodcasts.com in case people missed it. They could just go to greenapplepodcasts.com and the link will be there too. But I love it. Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s really fantastic. Between these two — I mean they’re so fascinating — do you feel either one of them has given you a unique skill set that you are bringing to work?
Ivy: Yeah, I think both of them. As I said the whole yoga thing and the combination of martial arts did calm me down quite a bit, make me a much more likable person. Still drive people but I don’t drive people like I used to. It’s given me the patience that it requires to do that. I think that’s very important. Understanding of people and being able to be present in the moment as opposed to thinking about all the things that could possibly happen.
John: Yeah, oh, that’s totally true, totally true. Then photography?
Ivy: Yeah. I think what they say “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” I think any consultant knows if you want to have a memorable impression with your client you give them an image that they can use to either characterize a problem, characterize the solution, characterize the process. Those are the things that will stick with an individual and within the organization. Because I think about things in terms of what’s the image that we’re trying to portray here, what can best show solution or this process, then I think that makes a big difference on the deliverables that we have. Not all texts, it’ll be some images in there as well that will capture people’s attention.
John: Yeah, I love that. That’s so fantastic, so fantastic. Nowhere in any of your education or MBA program did anyone tell you to go into photography because that would make you a better consultant, which is fantastic, right? But I love that. It’s something that you “got into” but you’re able to use it to be better and to benefit all the clients there at Plante Moran. That’s really fantastic.
Ivy: Oh, thank you.
John: Really fantastic. Do either of these things something that you talk about at work?
Ivy: I do talk about them actually both of them. I have a cabinet in my office. One that has a picture of me getting my black belt and then the other one is a book of photographs I’ve published from a Balloon Fiesta, the one that they have in New Mexico every year.
John: Oh, right. Yeah, yeah.
Ivy: I have that in my office, great talking points.
John: Yeah, yeah. Because then when people come in, they’re like, “What’s this all about?” You’re like, “Well and here’s the story.” Yeah, that’s fascinating. Do you feel this leads to a different relationship with those people that come in and ask those things or you have those conversations with, versus everyone else in the office?
Ivy: Yeah, it does. I think one of the things that sharing some of those hobbies does is it gives you the ability to bring your whole self to work. I think there have been a number of polls that say people who really do have their whole selves at work, stick with the organization. They feel more part of the organization if they can bring their whole selves to the office.
Ivy: That’s exactly it helps us have deeper relationships as a result of those conversations. I’ll get a chance to talk with them about their hobbies as well.
John: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Because that reciprocity is so real. Whenever someone asks, you’re just inclined to ask right back after you answer. It’s the people that you can tell that they’re genuinely interested. Why do you think that that matters so much?
Ivy: I think the one thing I have learned over time in consulting is that people buy from people. If you can have a relationship with individuals where they feel that they know you, you know them, that makes a sounder basis for current business opportunities in the future. Assuming you have relationships with people that you have never worked with and then maybe one day maybe they’ll either make a recommendation to you to someone else or maybe they will come to you for the services of your organization. That makes a huge difference in their ability to feel that they know you and you know them.
John: Yeah, absolutely. Because it works both on the clients and the co-workers within your office. I know how you alluded to earlier that as a manager you would drive people a little bit harder and things like that. Did you have hobbies and passions, maybe the martial arts before that you would talk about or was it this change with the yoga and things like that that allowed you to open up more? Just curious what the difference was there in that shift in mindset for you?
Ivy: Yeah, it was definitely the change with the yoga and the martial arts. Because I didn’t talk about it before. I think consulting is a “work hard, play hard” job as well. There’s lots of time where you’re working and you’re pushing towards a deadline. I think what happened is because I will become what I call “present in the moment”, that means I’m dealing with you, I’m dealing with you right now. You’re the only one I’m dealing with. I’m not thinking about what could potentially go wrong on this particular project. Because one of the things that happen is you get a whole lot of stress to your project by bringing in all these other factors that are not present at that particular time.
Ivy: I think the yoga and the martial arts really teaches you how to do that. How to stop, how to slow down, how to take a deep breath and how to focus on what’s in front of you, what’s right there, that person that’s right there. I think as a result, I actually started taking time to get to know people better. That was one thing.
John: Yeah. No, that’s fantastic.
Ivy: They felt that they got to know me better instead of just thinking, “Well, Ivy’s a consummate professional” which is what many people would say. But that doesn’t say anything about who Ivy is a person other than her persona and how she might deal with you.
John: Right. No, that’s deep. That’s exactly it right there. Because I mean everyone’s a consummate professional. But do you remember that? It’s the relationship with that someone you want to go to visit them in their office or say hi to them or get to know them?
John: That relationship isn’t that deep relationship like you said that makes you want to stick around in organization. Because it’s two-dimensional.
John: There’s a lot of people that you can have those transactional relationships with. Why do you think it is that our default mode is to not share and to be “the consummate professional”?
Ivy: Oh, I think so much of it. We have so many things to prove. We’re brought up thinking, “Oh, I’ve got to prove to everybody that I got the job, I earned it and I’m qualified to do it.” Sometimes, letting people in and seeing the person is a scary thing to do when you really are trying to say, “Let me just give you my credentials. Let me show you how I can help you.”
John: Right. Right. Yeah.
Ivy: I think we’ve got so much of our time spent where people are advising us to make sure we talk about the credentials, present ourselves as the consummate professional and not necessarily as the individual that we are. It comes as a part of that training.
John: Yeah. I know that’s true because when I speak to firms and at conferences I put up my old resume. Ninety five percent of the real state of that piece of paper is education and work experience and all that stuff. At the very bottom is big brothers, big sisters in Central Indiana and professional stand up comedian. Those two lines are what we talk about every interview. When I would go on interviews it would be those two lines. Everyone’s like, “All right. Yeah, you graduate college and you have work experience or whatever.” But yet that’s the thing that we’re trained to think is all that we need. That’s really table stakes nowadays. I mean everyone’s got that.
Ivy: Yeah. I think you’re absolutely right about that. In fact, when I get this job, one of the recruiters reached out to me because she said, “Hey I noticed you do martial arts.”
John: That’s awesome. Yeah.
Ivy: There was my LinkedIn profile and she’s like, “Oh yeah. Maybe we could bring that activity to our firm.” That caught her attention and when she reached out to me.
John: That’s so fantastic. I absolutely love that so much. I love it so much. Yeah. Because I mean all that hard work that you put in, MBA and everything, it’s like, “What? Martial arts? Come on, man. Seriously?” That’s who you are though and there’s a lot of traits to that that you bring to the table that I think you should be getting CPE for to be honest. But I’m not in charge. I guess one thing that I love to ask and think about a lot is just how much is on a firm or an organization to create that culture where it’s encouraged for people to share their — and if you will — their outside of work interests? Or how much is it on the individual to be maybe a source of change or create just a small circle or whatever?
Ivy: It’s quite obvious to me, it would be a combination of both. But I think the organization absolutely has to make space for it in individuals. Plante Moran I think has been under great places to work. Fortune Top’s 100 Places to Work. We’ve been on that list for probably 20 years. I think part of it is because we do some of those things. We do have committees that look at flextime how can you work hard and play hard, have some hobbies. The whole idea of the Bio that I have that talks about my martial arts and my photography, that was sent around to the firm when I joined. People had a chance to see a little bit more about me. I think that’s important and that’s part of the tenure that’s set by the organization.
John: Yeah. No, that’s really fantastic too. Because I mean I saw the Bio on the website for the firm and it certainly says that in there and that’s cool that they’re sharing that with everybody. Then it lets people know because then if someone else also does martial arts, it’s like, “Hey, I noticed you do this.” Then all of a sudden you have a friend there instead of a co-worker. That’s really cool, really cool.
Well, this has been really great. Do you have any words of encouragement to anybody listening that might be on the fence with, “My martial arts has nothing to do with engineering or accounting or whatever. Why should I talk about it at work?”
Ivy: I would definitely tell people, “Bring your whole self to work and look for an organization that allows you to do that because that’s where you will probably be happier.”
John: Yeah. Perfect. So profound and then so eloquent the way you said it.
Ivy: Thank you.
John: Yeah, yeah. But before I fly in to Chicago and we hang out and do some martial arts, which I’ve never done. It would be hilarious. Then you can have someone take pictures of me trying to do it, do both of your things at one time. I do have my 17 rapid-fire questions that I’d like to run you through. Let me let me fire this thing up here, a little get-to-know-Ivy better. Here we go. Do you have a favourite colour?
John: All right. How about a least favourite colour?
Ivy: I don’t have a least favourite colour. I think all colours are beautiful.
John: Yeah, yeah. I know, that’s great. All right. How about when it comes to books, more Kindle or a real book?
Ivy: Real book. I like Page Turners. It’s a fun thing.
John: Right. Okay. All right. I get it. How about a favourite actor or actress?
Ivy: Gosh, I guess it’s going to have to be, let’s see, maybe Matt Damon.
John: All right. Fair enough. How about do you have a favourite band or musician?
Ivy: I guess I’ll have to pick Earth, Wind & Fire as a band.
John: Oh, that’s solid. Very solid. How about more Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Ivy: Crossword puzzle.
John: Okay. All right. All right. More Star Wars or Star Trek?
Ivy: Star Trek.
John: Nice. Nice. When it comes to computers, more of a PC or a Mac?
Ivy: I guess I’d have to say more of a PC. That’s what I use most of the time.
John: Yeah. Yeah. When it comes to your mouse, would you say you’re more of a left-clicker or a right-clicker?
Ivy: Right click.
John: Right click. Nice. Do you have a favourite animal?
Ivy: I don’t have a favourite. I don’t like animals. I have a hard time picking up a favourite one.
John: You just like them all. Okay. All right. Now this one though, least favourite vegetable?
John: Brussels sprouts.
John: See you got that one nailed down right there. There you go. All right. This one’s important. When it comes to a toilet paper roll over or under?
Ivy: Actually, I don’t care but my sweetheart does so it’s over in my house.
John: Oh, wow. Okay. Okay. All right. Do you have a favourite number?
John: Three. Why is that?
Ivy: I liked the curves but I also like the opening that it has.
John: Okay, yeah. I see that. I see that. Then would you say you’re more heels or flats?
Ivy: Flats I guess, yeah. Flats.
John: Flats? All right. All right. Then there’s two more. We got two more. As an engineer, I have to ask you, more bridges or tunnels?
Ivy: Bridges for sure.
John: Bridges. Okay. The last one, the favourite thing you own or the favourite thing you have?
Ivy: Oh, gosh. I got two things for that. Let’s see. One of the things I would definitely say is I have a book that was signed by Maya Angelou. The other one is when I got my second-degree black belt, it’s embroidered with my name on it in Korean.
John: Yeah. Very cool. Yeah that’s somebody you don’t mess with right there. They have a name on their belt. That’s really cool. Really cool. Thanks so much Ivy for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.
Ivy: Oh, yes. This was a great fun, John. Thank you for asking.
John: That was really, really great. I love how Ivy said, “Look for an organization that allows you to bring your whole self to work because that’s where you will be happier.” This has been proven over and over again in every guest that I’ve had on the show. It’s nice to hear that Ivy has found that place at Plante Moran.
If you like to see her photography blog or connect with her own social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. All the links are there and while you’re on that page please click that big green button, do the anonymous research survey about Corporate Culture. Thanks again for subscribing to the show 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.