Rachel sings her way to better coworker relationships
Rachel Fisch really enjoys singing. And she happens to be really good at it as well. So much so that she was the director of a choir and sang a duet for her church’s Christmas service. If you’re lucky, she might also break out the chorus of a song mid-conversation if you happen to say a word that triggers it.
In this episode, we talk about her transition from bookkeeping business owner to National Bookkeeping Lead for Deloitte Canada. There happens to be a Partner in the office who also enjoys singing, so she’s been able to make a connection right away with her new coworkers. Once she started delivering CPE, she realized how similar it was to be a Choir Director — there’s a wide variety of people at different levels that all need to understand the same information.
Rachel Fisch is currently working at Deloitte Canada as a Senior Manager in Accounting. Prior to that, she was the owner of FischBooks, a bookkeeping services firm.
She attended Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and later Assiniboine Community College. She is also a Quickbooks Online Certified ProAdvisor.
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John: Welcome to Episode 59 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday I talk to a professional known for a hobby or a passion, making them stand out like a green apple in a red apple world. I hope everyone had a really happy holidays. I ate a ridiculous amount of food, none of which was healthy, so I should probably get to this interview before my arteries stop working. But before I do I just want to thank everyone who’s done my anonymous research survey I’m doing for my new book. If you haven’t done so already, please just go to greenapplepodcast.com, click that big green button there and answer a few questions to kind of help me understand your ideas on corporate culture and I promise it will take less than 60 seconds.
Okay, now it’s time for this week’s guest, Rachel Fisch. She’s a senior manager with Deloitte in Canada. The first Canadian guest to be on the podcast so I’m going to have to be so, so polite, which if you’ve been listening is going to be difficult. Rachel saw me speak at QB Connect a few months ago, and I’m so flattered she took the time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.
So, Rachel, let’s just start with something easy. What made you want to go into accounting?
Rachel: It all started in Grade 11 when I had a slot for a course and I didn’t know what to take and so I’m like “Take Accounting.” And then realized that I think everyone else in the room was maybe not quite as bright, I don’t know, I just kind of thought it. You know when you meet those people and I don’t think it’s… it’s T-accounts, it’s debits and it’s credits and it’s not really rocket science but it just really seemed to come naturally. And I think I was done the whole semester’s workbook in like the first couple of weeks, I’m like okay, do you have something else for me. And the teacher’s like “No, just sit and like doodle for the rest of the class.”
So then you’re going through the rest of high school and you’re considering your career and you’re like “What am I going to do that’s important in the world and how do I make my mark?” I’m like “Well, accounting’s easy so let’s do that.” I took a job right out of high school, data entry AP clerk and just basically worked my way up. I have taken some college courses but essentially it has all been work experience. I gather information and retain it well and that’s been it. And to that all of my Deloitte coworkers are like cringing, I can like hear them right now through the lines.
John: Well, congrats! That’s fantastic.
John: It’s amazing to look back and see how in the moment sometimes it’s crazy and chaotic and you don’t know where you’re going but when you look back it’s a straight line almost to where you are and it’s like “Oh, yeah, I wish I would have seen that earlier” or known. So that’s fantastic and it all led you to QuickBooks Connect in San Jose so we could hang out in this podcast.
Rachel: It all led me to you. You’re my North Star, John Garrett.
John: No, no, no, you’re going the wrong direction. Turn around. I’m the detour sign, wrong way, turn around, that’s me. I’m no North Star, trust me.
Rachel: But it’s really funny, it’s really funny though because in one of my first jobs I was fired by the receptionist so very knowledgable who said, “Do not ever go into Accounting.”
John: Right. But was it like a personal message or this is what someone told me to tell.
Rachel: This is what…yeah. Yeah. So apparently, they didn’t realize the difference between the person who created the problem and the person who found and was trying to solve the problem.
John: Yes, exactly. Don’t hate the messenger, right? So we have something in common really. We’ve had a lot of people tell us not to go into accounting.
So obviously when you had your own firm and now with Deloitte, that keeps you very busy, but what sort of things do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Rachel: My mom did say that I could sing before I could talk and so I did that. I have done that, I’ve kind of done that all my life. Lived in Nashville for a little while, not to pursue my music career but it certainly was fun to be on that scene and to be on Music Row and I got to meet some really cool artists and producers. That was fun, just to kind of be in that space it was really fun. I’ve always been in choirs, led choirs and children’s choirs up until like adult choirs.
But one thing that really surprised me about that especially with the training experience that I had, it was very uncanny how similar that was to directing a choir of like 70 or 80 people when you’ve got everybody from they do not read music to people with music degrees. And so my job as a choir director was to teach the same material to that wide variety of people and have a cohesive result that actually sounded decent. And I was probably directing choir for a few years before I realized the correlation of what was actually happening here and I think that being a choir director made me a much better trainer because I was aware of the variance in skill and being that trainer helped me be probably a lot more patient with my choir than I normally would have.
John: Yeah, yeah, but that’s so great. It’s so cool how one fed the other back and forth, one led you to see the skills that you were learning and one you were able to bring back to the other which is really neat.
Rachel: Well then that was the thing, it wasn’t something that I consciously or strategically did. It was after I’ve been doing it after a couple of years I’m like “Oh, wait a minute. There’s consistency going on in my life” but just being delivered in completely separate ways. And it’s actually kind of amazing the number of accountants that I know and bookkeepers and ProAdvisors that do there is a creative side to them, there is an artsy, whether it’s musical, whether it’s drama, whether it’s production type stuff. And I think it just helps us be better at our jobs, it feeds both sides of our brains, like there are some accountants that really need to be in an office with no windows just auditing all day.
John: What do you mean smiling, is that what you’re talking about?
Rachel: Even accounting people can have personalities, it’s true.
John: That’s so great, that’s so great. So when you’re doing your trainings do you make everyone wear choir robes so you feel more at home?
Rachel: I do not. I sometimes pass out hankies and we get a Hallelujah every now and then but other than that, no.
John: You pulling your Whoopi Goldberg Sister Act II, is that what’s going on here? That was like a way old reference for anybody that’s paying attention. But I think that’s so fantastic, though, and such a great example of something that is something that you’re clearly passionate about. You don’t lead choirs on accident, just for fun. You don’t just walk in and be like “Oh, yeah, sure, I’ll do this.” So how did you get into that?
Rachel: Well, it was kind of by accident.
John: Oh, it was by accident. Sweet! There we go.
Rachel: Here, let me prove everything you just said wrong. No. We were going to a new church and I said, “Hey, do you have a choir?” and they said, “No. Did you want to lead one?” and I said “No.” And they’re like, “No, really.” And so they said “Start with getting a small group together and doing some Christmas songs at Christmas.” And then the next year was a little bigger and then the next year they’re like “I think maybe you should do a choir now because it’s not that much different than what you did for the previous couple of years.” And so before we knew it we had a full-blown very choiry choir.
John: Yeah, but look at you, building it from scratch and taking it on. Yeah, that’s great and that’s really, really cool that you did that. So what would you say was like maybe your most fun time whether it was you singing or maybe a rewarding experience? That Nashville experience has to be chock-full of stories.
Rachel: Oh, gosh. So over the last few years, it was a huge, huge job, this production we did was a huge production. But there is this amazing, amazing tenor and it’s funny as a choir director you shouldn’t really be doing solos. It doesn’t really go over well in the stage when the choir director is singing or like you add some things like that. But there is this amazing tenor voice and we had been in the same either somebody else was directing both of us in the choir, I was directing and he was in the choir, sometimes he wasn’t there every year but I’m like “One of these years I really want to sing a duet with you.”
And it was really funny because this past year, this past Christmas, we finally were able to sing a duet together which just thrilled me and it was one of my favorite Christmas songs. And what I didn’t realize at the time was that was my last Christmas with this choir, so to finally get that duet with this amazing tenor. My favorite Christmas song, the last Christmas production that I was going to be a part of there was pretty sweet.
John: Right, yeah, that’s like a movie. When you walk outside and then it started snowing and then Santa flew over and it was like “Ah, this is a movie, this is exactly what’s going on right now. I am a rock star. I am Rachel. Everyone, autographs to the left, please.”
No, but that’s so cool though. I know what you mean as a performer and all that you’re able to put it all together and really just deliver that performance.
Rachel: Yeah. Because I have kind of a bad habit of joking. So I really like it when it goes — I think it’s nice when it actually works out. I just think I’m not really hard on myself when it comes to stuff like that but again, that piece drives that, makes me really good at what I do at work. Because I am hard on myself, I do want basically as close to perfection as I can get it because if I don’t somebody’s audited, or if I don’t somebody doesn’t get paid. But the only thing is that when you do have those accountingy people who are crafty, or artsy, they’re probably the most stuck-up of the artists but they’re the most artsy of the accountants. A friend of mine is a country music singer, he’s also an accountant and he said the same thing, amongst his accounting buddies he’s the music guy but among the music guys he’s the accounting guy. So it’s kind of both ends of the spectrum.
John: Yeah, yeah. That is cool that the people that are in the office know that because what I find a lot too is there is that when you’re outside of the office, yes, you’re the accounting guy but when you’re in the office you’re still the accounting guy because a lot of people don’t tell people what they love to do or what they’re passionate about.
And so what made you be willing to open up and share, “Hey, I’m a singer, I lead this choir”, things along those lines.
Rachel: So I’m telling this to you but nobody at the office knows so we’re going to make sure that they don’t hear it, okay?
John: Right. Well, this podcast doesn’t work in Canada so it’s all good, it’s all jumbled. It’s a different language out there, right?
Rachel: Yeah. amazon.com, what’s that? It is a little bit. We have our words that Americans know nothing about. So yes, some people know that I sing especially because one of the partners that I work with, he sings, and so I think it made it a little bit safe. I don’t know if anybody knows that I’ve directed choirs before. I don’t know if this is going to come up at the Christmas party, if we happen to rush the stage I’m not sure what’s going to happen. So we’ll see, maybe after our Christmas party the whole world will know that Rachel Fisch sings.
John: She can really tear up Jingle Bells, let me tell you, like it’s amazing.
John: That’s great, so there’s a partner there that also sings. How did you find out that they do?
Rachel: Because he’s the loudest partner at the office.
John: Okay, right.
Rachel: You can’t help but know that he sings. No, I think one of my peers had mentioned it. “Oh, make sure you ask Peter about his singing” so of course I had to make sure that I did that and so it’s like “Yeah, me too” but then of course, everybody thinks they can to varying levels of success. It’s like when you go out and you see a band and you’re like, “Well, I sing”, “Oh, yeah, everybody says that” to varying levels of success.
John: Oh. Right, right, right, yes. So one person’s in the shower and one is in her car —
Rachel: I’m amazing in my car. Have you ever — we did this in high school, I’m not sure if everybody else did this. It was a little bit torturous as high school where they would set up a stage in the cafeteria and we would have these airhead contests, have you ever heard of an airhead?
John: Like the candies?
Rachel: No, you listen to your Walkman, this is in the days of the Walkman so you now know how old I am. Listen to a Walkman but you’re miked and you need to sing along.
John: Oh, but no one else can hear the music?
Rachel: Nobody else can hear the music. You can’t hear yourself very well or at least you think you sound like a rock star, but everybody else can only hear you. If you ever have the opportunity to put somebody else in a situation like that, I highly recommend that you’ll be highly entertained. Yeah. I’m sorry, you’re not Whitney, honey, I’m sorry.
John: Right, right. That’s like bad karaoke. Karaoke’s bad but then without the music to like help bleed over, oh, my goodness, that’s hilarious. It’s absolutely hilarious. Plus you’re going through puberty probably, early high school, so it’s like it’s just the worst of all comedy. You are cruel.
Rachel: But the person walks off the stage as if they’re a freaking rock star because as far as they could hear, they sounded great.
John: I sounded just like the guy, I mean, what the hell. That’s so great, that’s hilarious.
So before you do that to your partner at the Christmas party, do you find that you… because I would imagine that early on in your career or what have you or when you’re new to a job, you’re probably not as open to sharing. Do you find that there’s a difference between when you hold back and don’t share that versus when people do know your singing passion, if you will, your relationships with people, with clients, or what have you?
Rachel: No. I think I kept it under pretty tight wraps until I hired somebody that could not help but sing with pretty much every song on the radio. And so it’s like when somebody else is singing it’s like this force that just draws me in, except that she would be singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” like every month of the year, but there’s a beautiful harmony to that and I could not let her sing alone and so we’d sing together.
John: Right. And then it just comes out and they’re like “Wait, what?” So did you find that there was a difference then after people knew?
Rachel: Yes, because they knew that we were both crazy. It was not a “Oh, you have interest outside of this.” It’s like, “Oh, you will not shut up.”
John: Right. Well, yeah, there is a fine line between having an interest and having an interest that annoys the hell out of everybody. So I guess that that is true. But I find it hard to believe that you’re… I guess maybe it’s just singing along but that’s not so crazy. I mean, I knew you were crazy and I haven’t even heard you sing yet. So we’re all good.
Rachel: You knew I was crazy after like what, after our first Twitter chat.
John: Right, right, pretty much, when you told me to bring comfortable shoes.
Rachel: I’m like “I don’t know who this person is, I’m really not sure what’s going on but okay, yeah.” I mean the fact that I can have the entire conversation in GIFs, that takes a special problem.
John: Right, right, now I know. That’s interesting because it’s certainly something that a lot of people struggle with because they’re sitting there “I love to sing but if I start singing in the office everyone’s going to think I’m crazy”, or “If even people know that I go and do singing gigs or I have something outside of work then they think that that’s going to take away from, it will be frowned upon or I’m not as good of an accountant as the next person” or what have you.
Rachel: I just really believe in authenticity and having things happen organically, and I totally know that those are two really bad buzzwords but it’s really true. If you’re going to be yourself then just be all of yourself but being all of yourself doesn’t mean full of yourself and it doesn’t mean I’m going to shove what I do in everybody’s face. It’s just “So this is what I happen to do.” And you can work with some people for quite a while and instead of it’s I’m hearing their life story on day one and I know that they’re in abandon, I know that these are, you know. It just kind of seeps out in conversations and in experiences and in working together and I think that’s probably more of how connections get made.
Connections don’t get made when you tell everybody about yourself the second you meet them because then they’re just like “Ooh, crazy.” But as those connections, those little touch points continue to get made, I think that’s what connects people to each other and not knowing 100% about the person right away.
John: Yeah, definitely. So how do you go about maybe trying to foster those relationships or find out about the people that you work with or do you just let it ride and then whenever it’s time they’ll open up?
Rachel: Yeah, everyone’s a little different, and I think what was interesting… So this Deloitte gig just started about four months ago so I still feel like a bit of a newbie but it’s just “Hey, how’s your weekend?” or it’s just pictures on your desk, “Oh, you’ve got kids, how old are your kids?” and just genuinely expressing an interest in other people. You can tell from people whether they want to be asked those types of things or not. If you say “Oh, I see you have kids” and they take the picture and firmly put it upside down on their desk then maybe they don’t want to continue that conversation.
Just be genuinely interested in what other people do and what their life looks like outside of work. They’re not feeling well and they come back to work, “Hey, I hope you’re feeling…” Honestly it does not take a lot of time and energy to say thank you, to express interest in somebody, to wish somebody well. It takes much less effort to do that than it does to hold grudges and be upset with people.
John: Right. And then who knows, you find that you now have probably a stronger connection with a partner who was also a singer than some other random partners that aren’t. So that little bit of sharing sometimes opens up a whole new world for you and opportunities and what have you, so that’s exciting.
Rachel: You did have to say “a whole new world”, you really did have to say that…
John: See, I did that just… you’re welcome, Rachel, see how that works. I am such a giver. But I didn’t sing it because if I did you would have eardrums bleeding. Even when I’m at church old ladies turn around like “You know what, God still loves you, you can stop”, like seriously, like “It’s good.” I can play a musical instrument and I can hear that’s out of tune easily but when I sing I can’t and it’s–
Rachel: It’s the disconnect that you hear in the voice.
John: It’s very bad. I don’t know why but I’m very jealous of those of you that can sing but you know what, rub it in, rub it in all you can.
Rachel: I’m doing no such thing.
John: No, I know. I’m teasing, I’m totally teasing. This has been really, really great, really great and I think really full of some good stuff for some people. Do you have any words of encouragement to others that are maybe on the fence or thinking like “No one cares about my hobby, or my passion” or “I’m the only one that’s a singer, no one else is going to know” or “No one else is going to care” sort of a thing.
Rachel: I was just going to say well, everybody cares, not everybody cares. But I would say that if somebody is reaching out to you or being kind with you or being gracious to you, it’s okay to be kind and gracious back. And if somebody asks how you’re doing it’s okay to honestly let them know how you’re doing, unless things aren’t going well — no, I’m kidding.
I mean whatever that comfort level is but I think… I’ve seen some people in the industry, conference after conference, and they’re never hanging around other people and yet these are what I see as the most community-minded engaging people. And so when people hang out by themselves conference after conference, you’re like “Okay, that’s not the community”, that’s you not opening up and not kind of letting the community in a little bit. I try to be this smiling face and I try to reach it and include people as much as possible, of course, but that person still has to be willing to be included. Does that make sense?
John: Yeah, that makes complete sense. Because when it comes to a lot of firms especially at Deloitte and places like that, there certainly is a little bit of weight on the firm to create this culture but it still is on the individual to be willing to step up and open up when appropriate, type of thing.
Rachel: For sure it is. And usually when you work somewhere and somebody knows somebody who works at that same place, it’s usually pretty you’ve at least heard of them or seen them in the hall and people assume that with Deloitte as well and I’m like “Nine thousand employees, we don’t get that.” “Oh, you work at Deloitte, you must know…”, like “No, I don’t know. So I know a lot of people but it’s a little too big for that.
It’s funny because before I was saying that community and that QBH group and all of that stuff that we built that was kind of my sense of community when I had a really small business and of course knew the two or three people that worked with me and so it wasn’t like I needed that. But now that I’m in this really this much larger organization, I still kind of find it as my escape to go to work everybody knows your name.
John: Right, I see what you did there. No, I think that’s great.
So I feel like we’ve gotten to know you over this time but I have my rule to see if we should sing a duet together with my 17 rapid fire questions and also the fact that I can’t sing so that’s probably the barometer there. But whether or not we should hang out again, this is like the real deal. I have my 17 rapid fire questions that I’m going to run you through so here we go.
Heels or flats?
John: Yeah, those were the comfortable shoes you were recommending. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Rachel: Night owl.
John: Oh, hello. When it comes to computers, more of a PC or a Mac.
Rachel: PC. I was forced to get an iPhone and I think I’m still rebelling a little bit.
John: Yeah, yeah, I’m not a fan. When it comes to a mouse, are you more right click or left click?
Rachel: Left click.
John: Okay, okay, left click, got it. Do you have a favorite Disney character?
Rachel: I don’t know that I have one. Every Disney princess coming to mind right now, Pocahontas maybe.
John: That’s a good answer. This one’s easy, Sudoku or crossword puzzle?
Rachel: Crossword puzzle.
John: Oh, wow. That was a ringer. I didn’t anticipate that one. Do you have a favorite color?
John: All right. Least favorite color?
Rachel: Brown. Oh, but chocolate’s brown so that can’t happen. Orange.
John: Orange. Oh, but never mind, that’s not chocolate so it’s all good. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Rachel: I can’t choose. I honestly cannot choose.
John: Yeah, that’s fine, I’ll give it to you. I’ll let this one slide, I’m so nice. How about do you have a favorite TV show of all time?
Rachel: I’m watching Westworld right now, Mr. Robot. Again, too many to choose.
John: No, all good shows, all good shows. How about do you have a favorite comedian?
Rachel: John Garrett.
John: Okay, you’re already on the show, you don’t need to kiss up anymore. Like for real.
Rachel: Wayne Brady. I went to a Wayne Brady show and my chest cavity hurt for a week from laughing so hard.
John: Yes, yes, very funny guy. Very funny, very talented guy actually, as well. How about do you have a movie that makes you cry?
Rachel: Oh, gosh, Stealing Home.
John: That’s a good one. When it comes to financials, balance sheet or income statement?
Rachel: Can I say trial balance?
John: Trial balance, there you go. Oh, my gosh, because that’s both of them combined to look at you. Here’s one, diamonds or pearls?
John: Do you have a favorite number?
Rachel: Nine came to mind but I’m not really sure why but let’s just go with that.
John: Nine, that’s solid. Oh, my gosh, two more. How about do you have a favorite animal?
Rachel: I don’t have a favorite animal. I’m not really much of an animal person.
John: And the last one, favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?
Rachel: I’m looking on my table and on my table there is a red stapler and this probably means nothing. So first of all, it is a Swingline stapler which is the best staplers out there but it is also a red stapler given to me by the guys at TSheets because I was complaining how at Deloitte the staplers were chained to the tables in the photocopy room and so if you needed to staple something you had to go to the photocopy room. And so, lo and behold, a short while later a package arrived from the TSheets crew to my office at Deloitte and it was a red stapler which is perfect. So yes.
John: That’s so fantastic, that’s so fantastic. Everything good about the red Swingline, everything’s good. Well, thank you so much, Rachel, for being with me today on the Green Apple podcast. This is really, really good.
Rachel: My pleasure, John.
John: That was so, so, so good. I really enjoyed how Rachel said to be all of yourself not full of yourself and realize that this might mean letting it seep out over time instead of just all at once.
If you like to see some pictures of Rachel singing and having fun with her daughters, go to greenapplepodcast.com. And while you’re there, please click that big green button and do the research survey. Thank you so much for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that are trying to spread which is to go out and be a green apple.