Ariel is a Management Consultant & Baker & Volunteer
Ariel Lomax, from Jabian Consulting, talks about her passion for baking, her drive to getting things done the right way, and how you can develop an understanding of someone through knowing their passions!
• Getting into baking
• Coming up with the name of her bakery
• Being intentional with your time
• Understanding people better through knowing their hobbies
• Ariel’s volunteer work
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about Corporate Culture!
Pictures of Ariel’s Cakes
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Welcome to Episode 357 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
If you like the podcast, you can go even deeper into my research with my book. It’s available on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it. It’s really cool to see.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love hearing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Ariel Lomax. She’s a manager in Jabian Consulting’s Atlanta Office, and now she’s with me here today. Ariel, thank you so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ariel: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me, John. I’m excited.
John: Oh, this is going to be so much fun, so much fun. I start out with the rapid-fire questions, get to know Ariel at a new level here. Here we go, shake and bake. We’re ready. How about a favorite color?
Ariel: Favorite color is coral, between pink and between orange, it’s coral.
John: Yeah, very specific. How about a least favorite color? Red. Okay, interesting. How about, prefer more hot or cold?
Ariel: I prefer cold because you can always warm yourself up in the cold. In the summertime, you cannot strip everything off of you and walk outside.
John: Exactly. I’m with you on that one, 100%, totally. How about, are you more early bird or night owl?
Ariel: Early Bird. I wake up at 5:30 every day and go to the gym.
John: Wow, that is impressive. I do neither of those things so, good for you.
Ariel: Every day.
John: Very impressive. How about, Star Wars or Star Trek?
John: Neither. That works.
Ariel: I’m not a fan of either. I’ve got to be honest.
John: That’s honest, absolutely. How about your computer, more PC or a Mac?
Ariel: PC. I’ve never owned a Mac.
Jon: Yeah, me either. They’re weird to me. Then on your mouse, more left click or right click.
Ariel: No, no, thank you.
John: Right? Because none of the —
Ariel: I would say right click.
John: Right click, there you go. That’s where all the clever stuff is. Very cool. How about, diamonds or pearls?
Ariel: Pearls. We need pearls. I’m an Alpha Kappa Alpha woman.
John: Oh, okay. Okay. All right, there we go. There we go. You have the accounting background, so, balance sheet or income statement.
Ariel: Balance sheet. They have to make sense, what goes in and comes out. It has to, hey —
John: Yeah, the full picture. I see. Okay, okay. How about, chocolate or vanilla?
John: Chocolate. Okay. All right.
Ariel: Milk chocolate, yes.
John: Okay. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Ariel: Favorite actor would be Michael Ealy. He’s beautiful. Favorite actress, I’m going to go with Kerry Washington right now because I love Scandal.
John: Right? Yeah, exactly. The shows that they’re in actually makes an impact on that too, for sure. How about, oceans or mountains?
Ariel: Oceans. I love the sound of the ocean waves. Oh, my God, it relaxes me so much. I do love mountains, but I would prefer the ocean.
John: Right. Yeah, if you had to pick one. How about, four more, favorite sports team.
Ariel: I’m going to get killed for this but the Patriots.
Ariel: It’s my stepmother’s fault. I’m a Patriots fan.
John: Okay, all right. Sorry, not sorry, there you go. Very cool. How about a favorite number?
John: Okay, is there a reason?
Ariel: My line number on my sorority is 21, and that was the best year of my life, so, 21.
John: 21, there you go. No, that works. How about when it comes to books, Kindle, real books or audible?
Ariel: Real books.
John: Real books. Yeah, very cool.
Ariel: I highlight pages like crazy and underline things and take notes, so, real books.
John: Yeah, absolutely. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Ariel: Favorite thing I have is the box I got from Michaels that has every single card, note, love note, flower note. Anything that anybody’s ever given me that has sentimental value is in that box, so if my house burned down, I’m grabbing that box under my bed. It’s coming with me because when I have a tough day, I go back in that box, and it just fills me up with so much love.
John: Oh, that’s a good idea. That’s really cool, Ariel. That’s very cool. Let’s talk baking. How’d you get into that? Is it from when you were a kid?
Ariel: My aunt, my mom’s sister is baker, and she baked all of our cakes all of our lives. When I went to high school, people’s birthdays, you give them a doll. I’m like, I want to do something different. She taught me how to make the box cakes, the Betty Crocker cakes.
John: Oh, yeah.
Ariel: I would use the Christmas tins and put a cake in there and decorate it very, semi-nicely as much as I could, and say, “Hey, Happy Birthday,” to my friends.
John: Right, in a Christmas decoration even though it’s April.
Ariel: Have some bold colors in there maybe, once in a while. Then I started, for my basketball team, we had practice before first period. I would bake cupcakes. They were maybe three inches big, and I would sell them. Every morning, before first period, it would be sold out. My mom’s like, I’ll buy all of your ingredients, you keep your profits. I would sell, every day, 40 cupcakes a day, off the room.
Ariel: I became known as the cupcake lady.
John: Okay, okay.
Ariel: I’ve just always loved baking, so I would take classes. I got to go to a special school where I got to major in Culinary Arts and interned at the Marriott Marquis in the Woodlands in Texas.
Ariel: I kept baking throughout the years but when I came to college at Parkland University in 2009, I was just so focused on, get a corporate job. Deloitte is what I wanted. I baked on the side for things here and there, didn’t charge people, but I just was so focused on corporate life that it was all about that. ‘09 to ‘13, in college; 2013, started with Deloitte, full time; travelled every week, didn’t have time to bake. I baked for Thanksgiving and Christmas and maybe one-offs for friends’ birthdays, but nothing to the magnitude I’m doing today.
John: Yeah, because you can’t bake in a hotel in another city.
Ariel: No, I’m flying, Monday through Thursday. I only have Friday, Saturday and Sunday to wash clothes, go to the doctor, see some people and pack up and go out on Monday.
Ariel: When I left Deloitte, I came to Jabian, a local consulting firm. We do not travel. I realized I had time. My dad’s sister passed away a few years prior from kidney failure. Her name is Michelle Monroe. My bakery’s name is Sweet Monroe’s Bakery. I’ve been talking to her. She knew I loved to bake, and she made me promise her that I would start my bakery. Because I wanted to keep that promise to her, I did it. I officially became Sweet Monroe’s on January 8, 2017.
Ariel: Sweet Monroe’s since 2005.
John: Yeah, yeah, right.
Ariel: That’s how baking started. It was just, I was always in her bowl, licking the icing and licking the cake water. It was creative. That’s where my creative gene comes out, in my desserts and in my baking.
John: I love that so much, just how powerful that is where it’s more than just, I like to bake stuff. There’s a big deep story here which is rich.
Ariel: I like to hear people’s responses and look at them when they’re like, hmm, it tastes so good. I’m like, Yeah, I did that.
John: Right, and it is amazing. I remember graduate school then you move out. You’re just like, oh, I’ll make a cake. It’s less than five bucks. It’s so cheap. Even if it’s just out of the box, which isn’t as good as what you’re doing, but just out of the box, the fact there are cakes on everybody’s table, every week, is amazing to me. It would be terrible for health reasons, but it would be amazing. Just, there are always smiles when there are baked goods there.
Ariel: It is. It feeds your soul. It really does.
John: Literally and figuratively, that’s exactly it. I guess you’ve taken it to the next level where it’s like, no, no, I have a bakery. That’s a big leap.
Ariel: It is a big leap, and I am self-taught. You want to learn anything, you can figure out how to do it. You just have to take time. I started off with learning how to make my cake smooth. It was just stressful for me. I even took a class. It didn’t work. It was a Wilton class, didn’t work for me. I wanted to learn how to make cake pops, miserable, failed. The cakes weren’t even fully rounded. It was bad.
Ariel: I’m a very determined person. I don’t like to fail. I had to go into GSD mode, get shit done. I said I have to get this done. I have to do this right. I will not be successful if I don’t invest in my craft. So, a lot of time, a lot of money, of course, but I’m reaping the benefits of the hard work I put in before. There’s nothing I cannot do. If I hadn’t done it before, I’m going to practice. I’m going to figure out how to do it. I will be honest with you as a customer, and say, I haven’t done that before, but give me a week. I’ll send you a picture of a replicated instruction that you sent me, and we’ll go on from there.
John: Yeah, and I have to believe that GSD mode translates to the office.
John: I would imagine you were at your GSD mode when you were in college even. It’s just now, you’re using it in a different way.
Ariel: I was an athlete. I ran track and cross-country. I’m a cross country, All-American Division. I was a nerd. I was an Accounting major. I didn’t party until my senior year when I knew I had my job, I’m graduating with a 3.0 GPA, and now I can celebrate. I came to Atlanta from Houston to get an education and to start my life. I did not want to get distracted or do anything that might jeopardize that. So, yeah, I was in GSD mode all the time. Let me tell you, I stayed up all night for a test I knew like the back of my hand.
John: Right. That’s fantastic. You just see how the outside-of-work baking translates to, it’s not a distraction, it actually gives you another muscle, if you will, to bring to the office that’s different than maybe what everyone else has.
Ariel: I call it cake therapy because you go to therapy to vent. If I’m having a rough day, I go home and I bake it out. I work it out. I come back the next day, and I’m great. Sometimes, a few of my clients have been Mercedes Benz and E*Trade. They’re bigger companies, and it’s just me. Some days, I’m up, 24 hours, at least, just to get 700 cake pops done for your Valentine’s Day event at E*Trade.
John: Oh, wow.
Ariel: Yeah, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
John: That’s very cool. Yeah. Do you feel just the difference — you just have to be intentional with making time for it. Is that really the difference?
Ariel: You definitely have to be intentional. You have to plan. I’m a big planner. I think things through, start to finish. It also comes with being in consulting. We plan a lot for our clients. But it’s being intentional with your time. I tell people all the time, be intentional with me because I’m intentional with you. Respect my time so I’m going to respect yours. You make time for what you want to make time for at the end of the day. If I want to be great at this, I’m making time to be great at this. It really is just as simple as that. I don’t like excuses. I don’t like, well, I… No, get it done. Figure out a way to get it done. Once you’re done, you’ll look back and say, I did that. I did that.
John: Exactly. Even if it’s something that’s outside of work, it still matters to your life, and it’s still important. Do you have any of the cooler things that you’ve made, that you’ve baked that you’re super proud of, that you’re like, wow, this is —
Ariel: I’m going to share some pictures with you. There’s this geode cake. I used to collect rocks when I was a kid in Indiana. I would take a hammer and break it. You can see all the crystals inside of it. One of my friends from high school, this is where it all comes full circle. I’ll be 30. She just turned 30. In high school, she used to buy my cupcakes, play basketball with me. Her birthday was in Houston last weekend. I baked the cake here, decorated here, drove it down the Atlanta streets, got it through the airport in Atlanta, got it on the plane, got it off the plane in Houston, got a rental car. It was a handled box which is a new thing for me. I went to the rental car. I drove down the street, and I said, let me go check on the cake. I went to stop, pulled it up by the handle where I have been holding it the whole day. Cake falls.
John: Oh, no.
Ariel: Cake falls to the concrete ground.
John: No. No, no.
Ariel: Oh, my God. I didn’t bring any tools with me. I brought stuff for cupcakes and cake pops. I had to go into, what, GSD mode.
John: GSD mode.
Ariel: I called my mother. I said, “Can you run to Party City, go to Walmart, get all these things for me?” I stayed up all night. I slept maybe two hours. I replicated that cake. I told her because I had to check the timing of what window I was working with. Once she saw it, she goes, “Oh, my God, that’s better than the first time.” I’m like, thank you. So, geode cake, I do. I’ve done some fondant cakes. My thing right now are drip floral cakes, so, with chocolate around the top and actual real flowers that I’ve sealed the actual stems. I just love it right now. That’s my thing.
John: That’s very cool. Those are awesome. Do you talk about this at work?
Ariel: I do. My job actually supports me. When we have our quarterly meetings, I bake for that. Any client things we want to give gifts to, they tap me before they go buy anything from the store, and I love that about Jabian. The thing is, like What’s Your “And”? more than half the firm has an “and”. We have an “and” because we chose to leave the travel and come to the local. Yeah, they support it. They know I bake. They love that I bake. They buy for their kids, for their families. Other clients know about me. I bring stuff in the office, and I have extra, so they love me.
John: Yeah, yeah. Of course, anybody making baked goods, you’re my new best friend. I don’t even care. You can call me whatever you want. It doesn’t matter.
Ariel: Absolutely, absolutely.
John: Yeah. That’s fantastic. Do you feel like there’s a different connection to people that know your “and” and you know theirs, verses maybe prior in your career where maybe you didn’t always have those connections or shared that?
Ariel: I would think so. Knowing my “and”, it shows you a different part of me. My aunt is baking and volunteering. I volunteer a lot. A lot, a lot. I feel like my purpose on this earth is to serve and help people.
Ariel: I think knowing that about me, it paints a full picture of who I am versus just seeing me at the office because I’m on GSD when at the office. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to — we gotta get work done. But also, we’re humans too, so I do smile. I do have fun. I do have other things that interests me that you might be interested in too. It helps people understand me better, and also them. Because work is work and that’s just what it is. There’s a time to play, and there’s a time to work. Sometimes people don’t like to show the other side of them at the office, so when you do see it, it humanizes them a little bit more, especially if they’re your leader or your manager or your director. So, I think it helps. It helps to know people’s “and”. It helps to try to include them in it, too.
John: Yeah, absolutely. Because whether someone else bakes or they don’t, just knowing that, or volunteers or they don’t, just knowing that. Plus, when you talk about it, you light up. Your eyes get big. Your tone, your smile, everything about it lights up. Where, at work, sometimes you light up about the work, but sometimes you don’t because like you said, work is work. Joy comes from the “and” all the time. If you’re able to talk about that at work, then suddenly, there’s joy in the office. There’s some emotion in the office, and you start to care about people. The volunteering as well, is that something that you’ve been doing for a long time or?
Ariel: Yes. I mentioned I’m from Houston.
Ariel: When I came to Jabian, I helped — we have a day of service on MLK Day, every year. I helped lead, my first year there, with the organization called “HouseProud”. HouseProud from Atlanta, they provide low income repairs to disabled or senior citizens in a particular area because gentrification is happening. I decided that I want to do more. That was great, but I want to do a lot more for the community. The hurricane hit Houston in 2017. I forgot what hurricane that was. There’s just so many.
John: Well, even in 2020, there’s been 40 of them, I think.
Ariel: With my one hand, decorating these cookies, but they were beautiful for the first time. What HashtagLunchbag does, let me back up, is they just provide food to the homeless. It started with three men in LA. What they say is we’re all one circumstance away from being in that same position, which is, for some people, very true. So, for every month, since 2017, we gather people together in Atlanta, and it’s in most major cities as well. We make it fun, have a DJ, we decorate bags, put motivational cards in those bags, make sandwiches, and we hand them out. When you see people and kids and you hear them say, thank you, they’re crying like that; it does pump into you. It really does because we’re more fortunate. If, God forbid, I’m ever in that situation, how would I want someone to help me? What would I want them do for me? I literally treat people how I want to be treated and better than I want to be treated because of that, just that notion of, if I’m ever there, this is how I want somebody to help me. So, HashtagLunchbag every month, HouseProud. I’m also becoming a court-appointed special advocate for neglected and abused children because I have time. I want to be able to help people and kids that cannot speak for themselves and make sure that what’s happening and what’s being decided for them is what’s in their best interest.
John: Yeah. That’s so fantastic. It’s amazing how, if you’re intentional about it, that there’s time. There’s time. You get your work done. You’re good at your job. You like your job and all that, but there are other hours in the day where you don’t have to feel like, oh, well, if I don’t use them for work, then I must not be very dedicated. It’s actually quite the opposite of, if you use them for something else, you’re richer and deeper and a better professional when you do show up in the office.
Ariel: Right. One of my friends who was the CEO, he challenged me because I was like, I’m not doing enough. He’s like, I want you to write down what you do for every hour on the hour for one day. When I did it, I’m like, I have so much more time left. I need to find something else to do. What am I doing? He was like, see? You have time. You just don’t do what you really do. So I tell my friends that. When you say you don’t have time in the day, how much time are you on social media? How much time are you watching TV? How much time are you investing in yourself? If your answer is ah or not enough, do more.
John: Yeah. What if mine is like several hours of eating cake, does that count?
Ariel: I need you to multitask and do something else at the same time.
John: Exactly. Come on, John, I’ve got icing all over my papers now. What? No, no, but you’re so right, just being intentional about it. Also, it doesn’t have to be something maybe that you do every day. Like you said, the HashtagLunchbag is once a month. Okay, cool. It’s twice a year. Whatever it is, just make time for it. Otherwise, it goes away altogether. That’s what I found. It goes dormant and then extinct, where it’s, I forget what I even like to do.
Ariel: Correct. A flip side of it too, with volunteering itself, is when you’re going through things. I went through something crazy this year. When you lose yourself in volunteering, it helps heal you. Because if what you went through doesn’t matter, it’s reminding you that even though you went through that, you should still have gratitude because it could be so much worse. So, I encourage people that are going through things, to give back because it’s — again, I’m not saying that what you feel doesn’t matter. I’m just saying that you’re going through that, and I understand that, but here are some folks going through a little bit worse than you. It might help with your healing process and how that looks for you.
John: Yeah, get you moving, get you active, get you helping others. There’s all the psychology research behind how that helps you as well. Yeah, that’s super cool to hear. Is there anything that you’ve seen, whether it’s companies you’ve worked for or clients or what have you, that does something specific to encourage the sharing? It sounds like Jabian, they’re buying your cupcakes and inviting you to bring to meetings and things like that, which is super cool, but even for other people as well?
Ariel: We have Jabian Cares. That’s our nonprofit for Jabian, and there are opportunities, from a volunteer standpoint, of just sharing the opportunities that are out there. They allow us to put money into that fund, but they also, they want us to come bring ideas to them of how we can continue to help people, or whatever your passion is. What do you want to do? What do you like doing? What organization do you work with? How can we help? They did a whole 10-year campaign where they gave $10,000 to 10 different organizations, and that was based on the employees nominating these actual organizations they work with.
Ariel: Also with just, as far as sharing my business, my sorority sisters, my family, my friends, they market me more than I market myself. That’s why it’s good to communicate what you do because people don’t know what they don’t know. My friends don’t know I’m baking over here, all night, all day. They’re not going to know, to tell a friend, “Hey, it’s great.” Or, “Hey, check her out. The designs are amazing. Well I don’t know if she does — well, ask her anyway.” It’s really just communicating and networking.
The greatest book I ever read was Never Eat Alone. Read it. It’s monumental and beautiful. A lot of relationships, even just from business relationships, they grow into personal ones, or vice versa. My clients at work, their birthdays for their kids or Thanksgiving or Christmas, they reach out to me, and that’s perfectly okay, but it would not have happened without us having deeper conversations outside of work about what else do you do besides working at Jabian?
John: Exactly. Yeah, and that’s it because you connect over the work, but that’s very two-dimensional, surface level. It’s literally that simple. What do you like to do outside of work? It’s literally that simple. Or it’s sharing a little bit of yours and then they feel compelled to share a little bit of theirs, type of a thing. Because I think that’s where people are nervous. They’re going to be judged, or it’s not work appropriate to talk about something else besides work. It’s so many things going on inside people’s heads that are lies. They’ll eat you up.
Ariel: I will say, this year has made those taboo conversations easier to have, when I tell you all of the social injustices, everything, the politics. We’re talking about it, so talk about your “and”. It’s no longer taboo. Talk about it. I’m telling you, hey, to talk about it. If it’s not okay to talk about it, say, “It’s not okay to talk about it. I want to talk about it.” Push. Push the line a little further.
John: Exactly. That’s like in my book. Everything is fair game up until you inhibit someone else’s ability to do their job.
John: If it’s something that’s taboo or going to be really causing a problem or going to inhibit people’s ability to do work, well, then, dial it down a little bit. Otherwise, it’s fair game, and there’s a time and a place for those things.
Ariel: It’s not necessarily what you say sometimes. It’s how you say it and when you say it.
Ariel: Talk to HR first if you need to, but yeah.
John: Right, and then just wear a T-shirt that says, GSD, and then go. That’s awesome. That’s so fun. Do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that maybe feel like, I have a hobby that no one’s going to care about or has nothing to do with my job?
Ariel: Words of encouragement. Try. Jump. You may fall. You may fly. Try. You can look back and not have regrets of not trying to do whatever that thing is or to start that thing. I have no regrets because I tried it. I could have started in 2017, officially, and I don’t have time, but it’s not in me to quit, so, huh. I could say, I did follow that dream of mine. I made it to that finish line. Now, I made it to this one, but I started. So, just start. Take the leap and jump. You may fall, but you may fly. You won’t know until you actually jump or take the leap.
John: I love that, and you’re doing it for you. You’re not doing it for everyone else’s approval. There you go. I love that. That’s awesome.
Ariel: Do it for yourself.
John: Very cool. So it’s only fair though, before I wrap this up, that I turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Ariel Lomax podcast, everybody. Thanks so much for having me on. I’m glad to be here. Since I peppered you with questions, it’s only fair that I allow you to fire away at me. I’m ready.
Ariel: What made you go into comedy?
John: Oh, it chose me, I think. I was at a training in Pasadena when I was at PricewaterhouseCoopers. It was a couple of weeks. We would rent a car and go down to the Improv in Hollywood and watch a three-hour show of tons of comedians. Whose Line Is It Anyway? would come in and do a 45-minute show. It was awesome. That was the first time I saw stand-up live and realized, oh, it’s not always hilarious. Sometimes it’s not, and I could be as not funny as that person. This is LA, so, why not? Then, yeah, just thought, it’s a creative outlet that’s totally different than my internal audit merger-acquisition work at PwC. Why not? Then I just started and then was okay at it. Then you just keep going. It was more of just, it was a challenge for me. It was fun for me, and it just gave me a different challenge and a creative outlet. Then I just got good, so, yeah.
Ariel: That’s amazing. That’s so amazing.
John: Yeah, I think some things like that choose you sometimes. Growing up, you don’t think, oh, yeah, I can just go be a comedian. Nobody says that. You can’t do that. That’s not a job. You go to college, go work for Deloitte, have a career, like you were saying. Then when you break that mold, you realize, oh, wait, I’m still breathing. Things are okay. I’m happy. It’s very hard, though. I definitely don’t advocate that people make it their career. I think it’s totally cool that it’s a hobby.
John: Because when you make that shift, everything changes. Everything changes, and so I’m very careful to make sure that I explicitly say, do not quit your job and follow your dream as your hobby, type of thing. Because if I’m able to tell you that and you don’t, then you never would have made it. It’s way too hard out here.
Ariel: Okay, a few rapid-fire questions. You’re going to like this. Chocolate or vanilla.
John: You know, and that’s a hard one for me too, I’ll go chocolate just because eating vanilla outside of a milkshake or ice cream, vanilla is like, no. Chocolate, you can have in all of the things.
Ariel: Cookies or cake pops
John: Wow, that’s actually a really hard one.
Ariel: I’m going somewhere with this.
John: Okay. I might say, yeah, maybe I haven’t had enough cake pops to know. I would say, because I’ve had a lot of cookies, so I guess I would lean towards cookies probably just because I don’t know enough about cake pops.
Ariel: Okay, and what is your favorite color?
Ariel: Blue? Okay. All right. Well, be expecting some blue treats from me soon.
John: What? That would be awesome. Oh, this is so cool. Cake pops, cake pops, I want your cake pops. I want to see.
Ariel: Cake pops, okay, I’ll send you some because you hadn’t had any. If you had Starbucks ones, it’s not quite the same. Mine are amazing.
John: Yes, exactly. I want to set the bar here so then whenever there’s cake pops again, I’m like —
Ariel: They’re not Monroe’s
John: These are not Monroe’s, exactly. Well, that’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Ariel. I’m excited to have you be a part of What’s Your “And”? Thanks for taking time to do this.
Ariel: Thank you so much for having me. This was so much fun. I enjoyed it. Thank you.
John: Awesome. Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Ariel in action or some of her finished goods or connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, also for Monroe’s and everything else. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture and check out the book. It’s good. I promise.
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Rebecca is an Accountant & Baker
Rebecca returns to the podcast from episode 62 to talk about her new passion in baking! She tells us how she got into baking, sharing recipes in the office, and how being open about her hobby encourages others to follow suit in the office!
• Getting into baking
• Sharing stories and traditions related to baking and cooking
• Testing recipes by bringing them to the office
• Sharing and trading recipes with colleagues and clients
• Being intentional with making time for sharing in the office
• How her office encourages colleagues to express their passions
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Pictures of Rebecca’s Baking
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Welcome to Episode 276 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday edition. This is John Garrett. Each Friday, I’m following up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work, and also hear how this message might’ve impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know, my book’s being published so soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details, or sign up for my exclusive list so you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe on the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes every Wednesday and also now with every Follow-up Friday. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week and this Follow-up Friday is no different with my guest, Rebecca Kelley. She’s a partner with Plante Moran in Denver, Colorado, and now she’s with me here today.
Rebecca, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Rebecca: Absolutely. My pleasure.
John: Yeah. It’s so cool to catch up with you and all that. But before we get into the fun, we start with more fun maybe, the rapid fire questions are at the beginning now. Here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Rebecca: Game of Thrones.
John: Okay. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Rebecca: Oh, gin and tonic.
John: Oh, nice. Okay. It sounds fancy too.
John: Is that a pinky out kind of a drink?
Rebecca: Definitely. Always.
John: Definitely. There you go. This is a hard one. Brownies or ice cream?
Rebecca: Ice cream.
John: Okay. How about this one. Ocean or mountains?
Rebecca: Oh, you know, I mean I’m blessed to live in the mountains so I love that but I really always love visiting the ocean and the beach. It doesn’t get old.
John: Right. I mean in Denver, the mountains are there all the time.
Rebecca: Right. Looking at them right now.
John: Bragger. How about a favorite Disney character?
Rebecca: Oh, boy. Disney character. You know, I’ve got two kids and I’ve become a big fan of Moana. I really like her.
John: Very cool. All right. How about are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Rebecca: Early bird all the way.
John: There you go, there you go. The last one, maybe the most important one ever in the history of this show. Toilet paper roll, over or under?
Rebecca: Over. Yeah. There’s only one way. Is that even a question?
John: Apparently, people with cats have a reason to go under but you never know. It’s also a way to know how long this interview’s going to go or rather how short.
Rebecca: Well, yeah. Now that you mentioned that though, I mean kids too. I might have to change my mind on that one. I’m going to try it out.
John: Yeah, because I guess it tricks them.
But yeah. You were on Episode 62. I mean over three years ago. That was amazing. Talking about travelling all over and all that stuff, is that still a passion of yours or probably now with the kids, it makes a little bit tricky to do that?
Rebecca: Yeah. The kids change things a little bit. I’ve got a three-and-a-half year old and a one-and-a-half year old. I’m not doing a lot of international travel. Most of my travel is for work. My hobbies and my “and,” and the things I’m doing have definitely changed a little.
John: Yeah, and so what are you up to now?
Rebecca: Well, when I was on maternity leave with my littlest one, I actually took up baking. I am now – I’ll call myself a baker.
John: Yeah. Good for you. That’s awesome. Is there something that you like to bake more than other things or are they all the same to you?
Rebecca: It’s not all the same, no. I mean I’ve made ice cream, I’ve made brownies, I try new things. I’ve done pies and tarts but my real passion is cake.
John: Cake, yes. I love it.
Rebecca: Yeah. I love making cake.
John: Right? Cake is always good. I mean it’s always good. You’re never not in the mood for cake, I mean really.
Rebecca: Right. It’s true.
John: That’s very cool. Is this something that you share with colleagues and clients?
Rebecca: I absolutely do. That’s really been one of the most fun things, just asking my staff and people on my team what their favorite dessert is, and if it’s something I’ve never made before, giving it a whirl and trying it out so you know, somebody’s requested lemon bars and I made those and that was fun and it allows me to try something new, work on my perfectionism complex because not everything works out the way you think it will.
Even with my clients. I’ve had a really nice opportunity to get to learn either what some of their favorite desserts are you know, do they do baking which was some fun conversations around the holidays. I’ve got some pro tips on pie crust so that was good.
And then I have a client who was doing the keto diet and so I took up a keto recipe and made something for her. It’s been a nice way to try something new and connect with my staff and clients on a different level.
John: Right, yeah. Because I mean that’s such a great idea, and such an innocent question of you know, what’s your favorite dessert? I mean everyone’s got something. And you make it for them. I mean that’s the next level of wow, I actually care about you. That’s really cool.
Rebecca: Yeah. There’s a lot of love that goes into it and I really enjoy it and you know, it’s also something that I can actually, depending on the recipe, or depending on what part, can even include my oldest kiddo and it’s just with certain measuring or stirring or putting something in the bowl. It works out with the time that I have with my family and it’s just something that I’ve really come to enjoy.
John: That’s really awesome. Then would you say that this leads to I guess, some different relationships that maybe you had before? I mean because you could probably just go down the list of the people that are around you that you know their desserts.
Rebecca: Yeah. I’ve got a go-to, and you know I mean everybody’s trying to watch sugar, but food, everybody’s got a good connection, or a good story about a food or tradition and especially from a baking standpoint of just what’s your go-to or if you had to do dessert, what do you want to eat? And you know, of the mindset of what I make, I really hope that it’s good because also, if you’re going to eat a bunch of sugar, you better enjoy it.
John: Right. There you go.
Rebecca: I’m always trying to make sure that I’ve got a good recipe and I can’t tell you how many times though I do a test run, sometimes me test run, I bring into the office, if I’m doing a test run for a friend or something like that, that I’ll bring in to the office. I’ve got good taste testers but you know, really, lots of people have stories and they’ve shared their own recipes with me or say check this out or grandmother’s recipes and stuff.
It’s been really fun to see those and to hear those stories and to try those recipes and just kind of go a little bit deeper about family and traditions and different things like that.
John: That’s so cool. Because I mean those are conversations with work colleagues. These aren’t conversation with you know, people in the neighborhood. Those typically don’t happen unless you’re open to it and initiate it on your side so kudos to you. That’s really cool. Because I mean those are things that when you’re in business school, you never hey, learn how to bake a good cake because everyone, they keep relationships in business.
But clearly, I mean it’s a slam-dunk. No one ever made me a cake when I was working in the office, or I’d still be there. That’s how simple I am. Do you want a raise, John? No, just chocolate cake, I’m good.
Rebecca: Just bring me a cake.
John: You know what’s so mind-boggling to me is you make them from scratch but those ones that are in the box at the store, you can have a cake for four dollars. It’s amazing that everyone doesn’t have a cake every day like own their counter. You go to Starbucks for more than that. It’s really amazing. But that’s so cool that that’s what you’re doing and to hear how it’s leading to those relationships and those conversations is really encouraging.
Do you feel like others are sharing more of their hobbies and outside-of-work passions now or is it something that there’s still work to be done from my side?
Rebecca: I think people are actually you know, it’s really about starting the conversation and sharing of yourself and letting people share of themselves and just being aware of those things. It’s really paying attention and asking the question around, oh, what are you doing? What did you do this weekend? What’s important to you? What do you got to get to? Helping to support people in their passions as well.
Yeah, I definitely have lots of those conversations with my staff and I think on the client side, I try to have those conversations. I think there’s still challenges there around just shifting that paradigm of when you go in to meet with clients and not having it be just about the task at hand and really looking to cultivate and develop that relationship further.
If you can’t do that at the scheduled meeting you have, it’s almost like scheduling the time to spend with your clients to not have a to-do list, to not have an agenda to talk through and to just have it be that open-ended discussion and see where that leads. I think that that’s the next big challenge at least for me is to make sure that I’m being intentional in taking the time to do that.
John: That’s such a great idea because it’s not always the time or the place, depending on the meeting that you’re having, but there is a time and a place and if you just be intentional with creating that, then gloves are off and we’re all good. That’s such a great takeaway for everyone listening. That’s really, really fantastic.
Is there something that you do specifically or maybe that your office, the Plante Moran office does specifically to encourage this from people or is it just meeting them where they’re at and asking like you said?
Rebecca: Yeah. I think a lot of it really is meeting them where they’re at. I think teams are broken down and there’s different relationships and it’s kind of taking that active interest but we do encourage people. If that’s something going on or something they’re passionate about or something they’re involved in to share that, and to practice some of that vulnerability and just putting it out there, bringing people along but we do try to do a team ousting, at least with my team. I’ve got about 15 people on my team directly and trying to do team outings or certain things like that.
When we do that, I’m not mandating and saying, here’s what we’re doing but asking the team, what are you interested in? What do you want to do? We went paddleboarding. A couple of people on the team really liked paddleboarding, and we had a great group of people, some who have paddleboarded a lot, some who have done it a couple of times, and some who hadn’t done at all.
It was a new experience for us to share in and be challenged. I thought it was a really great team outing and they all planned that. I supported it and joined along. But that’s really on them to figure out hey, what do want to do as a team and I thought it was great.
John: That’s great, because so many people will be like well, we’re going to go do this. It’s like, no one even likes to do that, you know that thing or whatever. It’s such a simple idea of asking them and you know, have them plan it and I love it too because there are some people that maybe their “and” is paddleboarding and now, you get to see how they light up when they’re paddleboarding and other people as well would get to see how passionate they are about it. That’d be such a great idea. Share your “and” and then we’ll go do it or watch you do it or whatever type of a thing.
Rebecca: Yeah. I love that.
John: Yeah, because then you get to see people really light up for that. That’s cool. That’s very cool.
Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that thinks that I have something that’s outside of work and it has nothing to do with my job and probably no one cares?
Rebecca: You know, I think it really is a little bit of that I’ll say being vulnerable, but I don’t even know if it’s vulnerable. But if you’re proud of something, if there’s something you enjoy and there’s something you’re proud of, don’t be afraid to share that.
It’s not that you’re bragging, it’s not that you’re talking about yourself and that you’re the best and you’re so amazing and everybody’s going to roll their eyes, but if there’s something you’re proud of, I think that if you share that, and that encourages other people to share what they’re proud of, or to ask them what are you proud of or what you’re excited about or what you’re working on outside of work that you enjoy?
Because even on the flipside, when I’m having a bad day, I’ll apologize maybe to one of my staff members, I’m having a bad day and I’m always really impressed by what she says and she’s like, it’s okay. You’re human too.
So just because I’m a partner or I’m leading the team or something along those lines that even if you’re a supervisory role, you’re a person too and your people know that. Make sure that you’re exhibiting that because that encourages them to be people too.
John: That’s really fantastic. Really great points. Yeah, Rebecca. This has been so much fun and really awesome with such great takeaways for everyone. But it’s only fair that I turn the tables and let you question me since I started out so rudely firing away at you. I’m on the hot seat now. Ready to go.
Rebecca: Okay. Here we go. I’m going to start with the baking. Cake or pie?
John: Cake all the way.
Rebecca: All the way. All right. Going to stick with the theme. Chocolate or vanilla?
John: Yeah. That’s so tough. That’s so tough. I mean when it comes to cake —
Rebecca: Or fruit.
John: Oh, yeah. No, no, no. That sounds too healthy. Got to go with chocolate. Sometimes, for milkshakes, I’ll go vanilla but yeah, I got to go have to go chocolate.
Rebecca: All right. Good. Let’s see. Favorite flower?
John: Favorite flower? Wow. I assume we’re not talking about baking flower, we’re talking about like —
Rebecca: No. But if you do have a favorite baking flour, there’s a lot out there.
John: Wheat or white or almond.
Rebecca: Potato or —
John: Yeah. I didn’t even know there was potato flour. Oh, yeah. Favorite flower. That’s a good one. I guess I don’t know, Gerbera daisies always seem easy because they’re all different kinds of colors and yeah, they’re always fun.
Thanks so much, Rebecca, for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”? This has been really, really fun.
Rebecca: Yeah, absolutely. It’s been a pleasure for me as well. It’s great catching up with you.
John: Totally. Everyone, if you want to see some pictures of Rebecca in action or maybe see some of her baking delicacies or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com and while you’re on the page, please click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends, so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.