Episode 559- Heather Winandy
Heather is a Client Engagement Manager & Explorer
Heather Winandy, Client Engagement Manager at RSM US LLP, talks about her passion for exploring, trying new hobbies, bringing your full self into the office, and more!
• Getting into exploring
• Trying different hobbies
• Skills learned from pottery and ice skating
• Dropping the separate ‘work’ and ‘home’ personalities
• How RSM US encourages employees to bring their full self into the office
• Why it is important for leadership to show their human side
• Pressures of perfectionism
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Welcome to Episode 559 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.
And to put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that differentiate you when you’re at work. It’s answering the question, who else are you besides the job the job title?
And if you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the award-winning book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com.
The book goes more in-depth with the research behind why these outside of work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. And 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.
And if you want me to read it to you, that’s right, this voice reading the book, look for What’s Your “And?” on Audible or wherever you get your audiobooks.
And please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week. And this week is no different with my guest, Heather Winandy. She’s a Client Engagement Manager, Private Equity at RSM. And now, she’s with me here today.
Heather, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”.
Heather: Oh, it is quite my pleasure.
John: This is so great. We met so many years ago at an RSM event and it’s so cool to have you on.
Heather: I was looking in the area to see who I could find that was like comedian or could host an event for us out in Rockford and your name popped up and I have not forgotten you and that was years ago.
John: Yeah. And that was my first and last time in Rockford, so, you know, it gets laughs. But, it was so awesome and then, you know, to stay connected on LinkedIn and so, it’s just cool to have you be a part of this for sure.
Heather: Yeah. I’m excited to see where this goes.
John: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I have seventeen rapid-fire questions to get to know Heather out of the gate here.
Heather: Oh, okay.
John: It’s going to be a lot of fun here. This might be an easy one. Heels or flats?
Heather: Oh, flats, totally. I would still wear heels if my feet didn’t scream, but the weight of my rear end has driven me to flats.
John: Fair enough, fair enough. All right. I’m going to stay in flats all day.
When it comes to puzzles; Sudoku, crossword, jigsaw, or maybe Wordle I guess?
Heather: None of those. I do word search.
John: Oh, yeah, word search.
Heather: But, I like I hate puzzles. I hate them, they’re frustrating to me.
John: Word search though, it’s like, yeah, whatever.
You know what I do? I create a word search where three of the words weren’t actually in the thing and then, like…
Heather: I love when I find words that are not supposed to be there.
John: Right. Yeah, or the other way around, yeah, it’s bonus. There you go. That’s hilarious.
How about a favorite color?
Heather: Every color. Like, I guess I gravitate towards black, purple, and teal, but I have a rainbow. Everything is a rainbow for me.
John: Yeah. All right.
Heather: I used to only wear black and my mom was like, “Please stop wearing black.”
John: Right. What are you a vampire? What’s going on?
How about a least favorite color? Or I guess none of them because they’re all great.
Heather: Yeah. I don’t really have a least.
John: Okay. Fair enough, I’ll take it. I’ll take it. How about a favorite Disney character or any animated character?
Heather: I don’t like Disney. I guess I like Minions most.
John: Minions. Okay, that totally counts.
Heather: Yeah, because they’re mischievous, I like them.
John: Yes, very mischievous and I see how you would like that. That would be kind of like that’s awesome, which is why we’ve been friends for so long. There we go.
How about a favorite actor or an actress?
Heather: Again, I don’t really, like I don’t dig supporting people for – like I look for the person and to me like famous people are characters and I don’t…
John: They’re just people.
Heather: Yeah. I’m like such a nerd about it, but like it’s just not a thing for me.
John: No, fair enough. I think putting them on a pedestal, they’re just humans, like they’re just they have faults just like us, they just happen to be on screen, you know, in front of everyone. But, totally, I hear you on that.
This is an important one. Toilet paper roll, over or under?
Heather: Over, a hundred percent over. However, I learned that when you use over, there’s a reason you use over because it causes you to use more. When you use under, you’ll actually use less, which is why the preference from the company is the over.
John: Yeah. Very interesting. Interesting, yeah. So, they don’t have our best interest at heart? What?
A buddy of mine, Tom Ryan, comedian, so funny, he has a whole bit that he did on Letterman about baking soda and how they literally tell you to pour it down the drain to clean your disposal and your sink. Yes, you buy those and you pour it down your sink.
Heather: You but it to throw it away.
John: Just pour it down. Like, you’re like, what? And you buy it? And you see that’s what. Yeah, just pour it down, like, okay, same thing. That’s amazing.
PC or a Mac?
Heather: I’ve always had PC. I don’t even think I’ve used a Mac ever.
John: Yeah. I tried like it was like throwing left-handed. I was like, I don’t even know how to do this, if I can just go back.
Oh, is it sunrise or sunset?
Heather: Set. I am not an early riser. It’s cool when I see the sunrise, but I will stay up for the set.
John: Okay. There you go.
How about ice cream, in a cup or in a cone?
Heather: Oh, gosh. There’s more calories in a cone, not that it matters, either way.
John: You’re already doing ice cream, why not?
Heather: I usually buy it just in a cup because I don’t want it to be messy.
John: Exactly. You know what I do? I sweet talk them and get them to put the cone on top of the cup.
John: Like a little hat. And they do it, it’s amazing.
How about a favorite day of the week?
Heather: Hmm. I would say Saturday because I get the most done, that it’s like my…
John: Okay. Yeah. Yeah, for you, absolutely.
How about your first concert?
Heather: Oh, my gosh, there’s two stories to this. So, I was not a concert-goer as a child, my sister totally was.
Heather: My parents took us to see Neil Diamond and the Monkeys at Poplar Creek…
John: Oh, my gosh!
Heather: And I remember like my dad got so upset about because it was an outdoor theater, people are like peeing on the wall behind us. He was like, “I have children here.”
Heather: But then, when I’m old to go to a concert, the first one I went to was Metallica as an adult with my husband.
John: There you go. Metallica was my first concert. Yeah, that’s amazing. But, Neil Diamond and the Monkeys, like, wow, that’s legendary. And it – that doesn’t seem like the kind of audience that would be peeing on walls.
Heather: I know, yeah.
John: You know, but it’s outdoors and why not?
Heather: Yeah. And it was in the 80’s, I…
John: Yeah, it was that – it was that time where people just did that. But, that’s hilarious, that’s awesome.
How about a favorite number?
Heather: Hmm. I always say 12.
John: Yeah. Is there a reason?
Heather: I don’t know. I often say like, “What are you 12?”
John: And I say yes, you know, like it’s – I mean, it’s a solid number, that’s for sure.
But, here’s a tricky one since you’re in Chicago area, cheeseburger or Pizza?
Heather: Oh, pizza, a hundred percent.
John: There you go.
Heather: Like, not even a question.
John: Not even a question. There you go. And do you prefer more hot or cold?
Heather: Hot. Like, it doesn’t matter what it is. I would rather be sweating than cold any day. I would rather have hot food. I would rather be on the beach than in the snow, like everything…
John: All the things hot whether it’s food or the atmosphere or whatever. All right.
All right. We got two more.
When it comes to books, audio version, eBook, or real book?
Heather: I love real books, but I get distracted, so I gravitate everything now is audiobook just because I can get through it. I listen in the car and I tend to retain it a little bit better too.
John: Interesting. Okay.
And the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Heather: I thought about this a little bit. I would say if it’s a physical item, the favorite thing I have is my wedding ring. It’s just very symbolic to me. I look at it regularly, it reminds me of stories.
But, if I’m thinking about like myself, my favorite thing I have is my curiosity. Like, if I didn’t have curiosity, I would be an entirely different person.
John: Yeah. I love that. That’s a great answer, which probably leads to your exploring and even your pottery, which I saw on LinkedIn which is the whole reason I was like, hey, I didn’t know you were doing this, like, let’s – be a guest on the show.
John: But, exploring, have you always been the explorer type?
Heather: Uh-hm. I don’t know how far back it goes, but definitely as an adult, I’ve always investigated something. My husband said to me one time, “You never finish anything.” And I’m like, “That’s not true. I try things and then, if it’s not still intriguing to me, then I move on to the next things.”
Well, I am one of those people that if you said to me, hey, you want to go do blah blah or will you go here? The answer most often is, yeah, let’s go, let’s figure it out. So, that’s just like me as a whole. I love looking into something new and going is this the road I want to go down or is that a one and done kind of thing.
John: Yeah. And in the roads as long as you want it to be, you’re going to do it for X time or X distance or whatever. You know what? Yeah, it is, I did finish. It’s done.
John: And like, you know, it’s like…
Heather: Exactly. And sometimes I come back. Like, I was an ice skater as a kid and I was going down like the competition road and one – at one point I was like, I’m done with this. And then, in my 30s, I picked it back up and I did it for ten years.
John: That’s awesome. That’s so cool. To me it seems like, you know, the end bucket the outside work hobby passion interest bucket is a container. And sometimes it’s ice skating, sometimes it’s pottery, sometimes it’s, you know, concerts, sometimes it’s this. But, you know, it doesn’t have to be the same thing all the time, but you’ve always had that container.
John: And no matter, you know, what job you’ve had at RSM or where you’ve been before that and like, you know, that container was always with you.
Heather: And it also gives you tools to take to the next thing.
John: Yeah. Can you give me some examples of that that come to mind?
Heather: Well, in skating, it was teamwork because it was synchronized skating, so what you had to do was work connected to people. And so, whatever you did affected them, so that was a really strong metaphor for teamwork.
And, in pottery, I’m learning patience, which I have not had like ever. I am not a patient person. I’m like, come on, let’s go, get to the plan, let’s move on to the next thing, are you done yet kind of stuff. So, like that’s another one that is teaching me, you know, things that I can bring into the next into anything else too.
John: Yeah. And especially into work, you know, which isn’t the reason why you’re doing these things or these things were part of your life, but they are part of Heather and it’s like asking you to come to work with one arm tied behind your back.
Heather: Well, and you know now that you say that, I used to say there is two different Heathers. There is Heather at work and there’s Heather at home and, you know, it’s whether you know which one or the other.
And really now more as I’ve aged grown, it’s the whole person, so what you pretty much see is what you get no matter where you are with me now.
John: Yeah. And do you feel like that’s made a difference at work or in your life in general?
Heather: Yeah. I think so because I don’t have to separate and, you know, I don’t have to think about which persona or which attitude or, you know, which mentality I have to be in, it’s all one place.
John: Yeah. And there was someone I was talking to at a conference I was speaking at and after I got done, he came up and he was talking to me and he’s like, “I told a friend of mine I need to bring all these different – “ his name was Shay – “all these Shays together.” And I was like, “Well, I challenge you and be like there’s just one Heather. It’s just like a trivial pursuit piece, where there’s different pie pieces, but it’s one Heather.”
And so, it’s so cool to hear that you’re bringing the one Heather all the pie pieces to work, you’re bringing them all to skating, all to the pottery, all to these things.
Heather: Right. And I think people have to remember that too when they’re working with people at work, like there’s more than this person here that is in front of you. If they have bad attitude, it’s probably not because of that situation. It probably came, you know, with them from something else.
John: Yeah, absolutely. And in a lot of the research that I found, it’s if someone is outside of work life is not settled, then their inside work life will never be good. They’ll never be, you know – so, make sure that your people are living their best life.
Heather: And that’s one of the cool things about working here too is they are thinking about the whole person, which is really impressive and there’s so many times that I’m like, “Are we sure that we’re an accounting firm? Like, there’s so many other things that go on here.” It’s pretty interesting.
John: That is cool. And I’ve seen that in the marketing as well with RSM, which is so encouraging to see that, you know, organizations are realizing like, wait, we have a human here that so many more multidimensional than just their job title technical skills.
Heather: Exactly. Yeah, it’s pretty cool living through that development and not just be a cog. It’s pretty cool.
John: And I would imagine — do you feel like, like relationships at work are different now than maybe, you know, ten-plus years ago?
Heather: Yeah. And like people think I’m wacky when I do things like this, but I don’t think of the person here as their title. So, like we got a new CEO last year and I was in the office that he works out of which is different from mine. And I sent him a message while I was there, I was like, “Hey, I know that you’re in the office today and I’d loved to meet you. Would you like to go to lunch with me and my team?”
And he was like, “You know, I’m busy today. You know, I’m glad to hear about that you’re here and maybe next time we can catch up.” But, my friends, like people that I work with were like, “Are you out of your mind?” I’m like, “What? So what? Like…”
John: It’s just a guy, a person. It’s just a person that’s he needs his lunch too. You know, like, it’s like, why not? I mean, what I get a no.
John: How important do you feel like it is for managers or CEO types to just be more human and peel back those layers?
Heather: So, I wish badly that our leadership and even in any company, it doesn’t even matter that here where I work, like get out of your office and go meet somebody and say hello. And I’m sure they are terrified and I know that they are, like the youth that are coming in would never walk into an executive’s office and be like, “I am struggling” or, you know, “What did you do when you were 25 and you came to work here?” Like, that’s just not something they do.
So, if you as leaders come out to your people and greet them and talk to them and take a step back and remember how it was for you when you were 25 will make a huge difference in people’s experiences.
John: Totally. And such a great example too of how whether it’s right or wrong, if you have a title, people have a stigma around that.
And so, you know, you have an executive level title, even just manager title, they’re scared of you. And so, the more that you can do to come down to their level to meet them where they’re at, to, you know, just care about people, then, you know, the better it is for everything involved, you know. And so, that’s such a great example.
Heather: I hope that somebody hears me say that because that will be really cool if it made a difference in someone’s experience that a leader took that step back. Rather than I’m worrying about where their next level is, think about where you’ve come from and help those people.
John: I mean, I remember when I started in Big Four, like I thought partners were gods.
John: They must know everything and be…
Heather: Let’s not let them hear that. Let’s not let them hear that.
John: No. Well, I mean, six months later, I was like, I couldn’t have been more wrong, like, wow! And they drop way more F bombs than I ever thought like way more.
Heather: When I first went to work in corporate – and like I said earlier, I went to a private school and I came home swearing, you know, in my…
Heather: Early 20s talking to my parents F bombs and, you know, what F could fill in the gap of a sentence to be more empathic. And my dad was like, “I’m so glad that I paid extra money for you to go to a private school to speak like a truck driver.”
John: That’s hilarious. That’s so funny. You’re like truck driver. What? No, I’m speaking like a partner, like what have you said. That’s so funny.
But, it’s so true like, you know, just the more that we can be vulnerable a little bit and that’s where what’s your “and” comes in, you know, like you’re talking about the pottery or the ice skating, like are you on the Olympic team? No. Does it matter? No. Is your pottery in a museum? No. Does it matter? Also, no.
You know, like you’re doing it for you, but you’re also showing like I’m not an expert and super awesome at everything all the time. And it’s a great way to just humanize yourself just a little bit. Plus, it brings you joy to talk about.
Heather: Well, it does. And so many people in my class too, I try to remind them when they’re going for perfection, they’re like, “Oh, it’s not awesome.” I’m like, “Are you kidding? That thing is a masterpiece, like compared to what I’m even making, like it’s so perfect in my eyes.” And people just don’t see it.
And one of the things that somebody said this fall, they were like putting their pieces in a show and she had this piece that she did not appreciate to the level that she should have. And she was like, “I’m just going to put this out there.” And like within a second, somebody had bought it. And she was like, “Why would you want that thing?” But, it’s not your vision, it’s somebody else’s vision.
John: Exactly. Yeah. And I mean, and especially when you’re creating from scratch, it’s so hard, so hard to do in the perfectionist mindset and so that this exercise has to shatter that when you’re at work. So, I’m sure at work when something is not perfect perfect, you’re like, it’s good enough, like this is great.
Heather: Yeah. However, I hate the phrase, “good enough”. And it’s just a me thing, I don’t want to limit myself to saying, good enough. Like, so, I don’t know, it’s a thing with me, where my parents always taught us that there is always better, you can always do better. And it might not be perfect, it might not be the vision that you had, but what’s the next step that you can take to improve or what did you learn from that, that you’re going to work in the next version of it.
And it really is hard for me to be okay with that. Like, I had a call with my cousin last night and I was showing her some of the pieces that I had made. And I’m like, “This one is a little wonky and this one is not the best color and it’s smaller than it should have been.” But, like I was being very critical of myself, where it wasn’t what she saw.
And I was like, “This one piece,” I was like, “I don’t even know why I made this.” She was like, “I love that piece. You need to send it to me.” So, it’s a really interesting take. And because I come from the corporate world of where everything should be X or why isn’t it to this degree or, you know, we didn’t shatter the goals that we had set, it’s what can you turn it into.
And, that’s something that I am developing. And I’ve spent so many years going, well, I will just work on it a little bit more, I’ll work late to make sure that it’s perfect. And nothing is ever going to be perfect. I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist to a degree that my parents are, but you always want to. Well, I do would always want to provide the best product I can.
And having that mindset of it’s not that it’s good enough, but it’s the quality is acceptable. So, kind of the same thing, it’s semantics, but…
John: Well, it’s also it’s what it’s supposed to be because I’ve got to work through this myself as well and, you know, and it’s, you know, well, I’m where I’m supposed to be, this piece of art is what it’s supposed to be. I mean, when I wrote the book, right? And so, you turn the manuscript into the publisher. Two weeks later, you come over, oh, this should have been in the chapter, oh, this should have been – and it’s like, well, then you’d be writing forever.
Heather: And it’s so many things that like our – you hit send on the email and you’re like, oh, I should have blah, blah, blah or whatever. But, yeah, like if you’re working on a deadline, you have to give the best product you can up to that deadline. And like you said, you’ll be working on something forever if it’s going to be perfect.
And then, I actually heard somebody recently that was kind of art, I can’t recall what it was. But, they said, “If I had kept working on it, it would have been worse.”
John: Right. Absolutely, because then you ruin it and then, you can’t back up. You know, it’s not like in, you know, on a computer where you can undo. You know, it’s like, ah.
Heather: Yeah. It was really interesting. I love that stuff that twist your mind that makes you think differently.
John: Oh, me too. That’s so awesome. And it’s so cool that you’re that like these things matter and then they create great relationships at work that are stronger and make work go better.
Heather: Uh-hm. And now, I mean, those friends that I’ve created at pottery, you know, you get to know about their lives and it’s not just about what you’re doing there, you make all these other new relationships and maybe they impact them like something that you can attribute from your other experiences to them. I’ve had people that I’ve met that now work with me.
John: That’s awesome. Yeah. And I mean, it’s just having this other dimensions because if you were just one dimensional all the time, I mean, you’d be terribly boring to talk to. I mean, it’d be – it’d be, oh, God, this again? Really? Okay.
And then, it just makes you better at life and better at work and better at all the things. And I love that, that’s so great.
Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that maybe they have an outside work hobby that they’re like, ah, no one cares because that had nothing to do with my job?
Heather: I think everything has to do with your job and really your job has everything to do with you. So, like I said, it’s bringing the whole person and I’ve heard people say like follow your bliss, like what sets you on fire, what gets you excited about and that like for me going to pottery every week. I’m like, “Oh, my class is Tuesday. I get to go to pottery.”
Heather: And somebody at class said, you know, it’s less expensive therapy, which is totally is, you know, and an outlet…
John: That’s great.
Heather: You talk with people, you get to – like if you wanted to, you know, punch a clay, go right ahead, it’s fine.
John: Yeah, exactly. I love that.
Heather: Like, include your whole self is really what I’ve learned over the last couple of years.
John: Yeah. I love that. That’s so awesome and such great words of – of advice for everyone listening.
But, I feel like before we wrap this up though, it’s only fair that I turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Heather Winandy Podcast. So, thanks for having me on.
And so, I asked you all the questions at the begging, so you can ask me whatever you want. I’m all yours.
Heather: Okay. Hmm. So, John, I believe there’s a helmet behind you. Why is that important to you?
John: Notre Dame football helmet. And it was signed by Coach Brian Kelly. It was the coach before Marcus Freeman now. It’s important to me because I went to Notre Dame, but then I also do some work writing the award show for the football team. And so, I get to see a lot of the behind the scene stuff and do that. And two of the shows were nominated for Emmy’s over the years, which is pretty awesome.
Heather: Holy mackerel, that is so awesome. That is not the answer I was expecting.
John: Yeah. And it’s not just like his signature, it’s like, you know, John, thanks so much for your help with Echoes, go Irish, you know. So, it’s like a personal note from him on an actual real like helmet out of the equipment.
Heather: That is cool.
John: Yeah. So, it’s cool. It’s cool for me. And it’s one of those things where I keep it here because it brings me joy, you know. And then it’s also back there for video calls, so then people can be like, well, clearly that’s important and then, you asked and then now, you know stories happen.
Heather: That’s cool. What’s your favorite color?
John: So, my favorite color, blue for sure. Yeah, I’ve always liked blue, always, always, always partially because wearing blue is okay for me, but it’s also…
Heather: It’s the color of eyes.
John: It goes with the eyes I guess, but I just I’ve always been a blue – a blue person. I don’t know why.
Heather: I was blue — growing up, everything I had was blue and my sister, everything was purple. So, even our first cars, our first cars a blue one and a purple one.
John: That’s funny. So awesome, Heather. Well, thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”.
Heather: Thank you so much. I look forward to reading those books you recommended as well.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Heather in action or of her pottery or other things, connect with her on social media. Be sure to go to whatsyourand.com, all the links are there.
And while on the page, please, click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture and don’t forget to read the book.
So, thanks again for subscribing on Apple podcast 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.
Episode 339 – Suraya Yahaya
Suraya is a COO & RV Road Tripper & Paddleboarder
Suraya Yahaya talks about getting an RV and the adventures she has been on with her family through the past year. She also talks about how her experiences with the RV and traveling have helped her with problem solving and relating to others at work!
• Why she got an RV
• Some of her latest trips
• Talking about the RV at work
• Skills she learned from traveling that apply to her career
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
(click to enlarge)
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 339 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 differentiate you when you’re at work. I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is published. It’s available on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com 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 nice reviews on Amazon, and more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it. And please don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week.
This week is no different with my guest, Suraya Yahaya. She’s the founder and CEO of Khazana, Inc. in Denver, Colorado and now, she’s with me here today. Suraya, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Suraya: Thanks so much for having me, John. I’m excited to be here.
John: This is going to be so much fun especially those 17 rapid fire questions. Get to know Suraya on a new level. Are you ready?
Suraya: I’m ready. I’ve got my vegetable shake with me.
John: That’s not going to protect you. All right. Here we go. I’ll start you out with a fairly easy one. Chocolate or vanilla?
John: Chocolate. Oh, that’s slam dunk.
Suraya: My vegetable shake is chocolate.
John: It sounds like my kind of vegetables. Those Hershey’s vegetables, they’re delicious. How about puzzles? Sudoku or crossword?
John: Okay. How about a favorite color?
John: White. Okay. How about a least favorite color?
Suraya: I’m going to go with lavender. I was looking at clothes yesterday and I saw this lavender sweater for my daughter and I was like, “What? No!”
John: Even the way you say it, it sounds so like, “Lavender? Ugh!” I hear you on that. How about prefer more hot or cold?
Suraya: I prefer hot. I’m always cold. I prefer hot. The 60 degrees in December, I’m going to take it.
John: There you go. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Suraya: Some people are going to laugh, but I have had the biggest crush on Keanu Reeves since I was 16 years old.
John: Yeah. He’s like the nicest guy.
Suraya: I hear he’s the nicest guy. Of course I’ve not met him but his movie skills are — let’s call it challenged. Let’s call it challenged.
John: But the movies he’s in are really good. You’re still watching it.
Suraya: They’re really good, yeah. I think the great part is that he seems like a nice guy.
John: Yeah, he’s just a really good person, totally. I’m with you on that one. I can get behind that. All right. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Suraya: I’m a night owl for sure. I don’t actually settle down until past 11 or almost midnight.
John: Oh my. Yeah. Wow. Okay. All right. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Suraya: Star Trek.
John: Oh, okay. That was a quick answer.
Suraya: I actually do like science fiction, so it’s not like I’m just throwing it out. I actually do like science fiction.
John: Right, right. If Keanu Reeves would do the new Star Trek movie —
Suraya: Right. Exactly. John Wick meets Star Trek, yeah, I know. My husband and I are actually rewatching Star Trek Enterprise. That was kind of like — I can’t remember — one or two season show, but we’re just rewatching that.
John: Yeah, very cool. All right. How about your computer? More PC or Mac?
Suraya: PC. I love the graphics and pictures on Mac, but I just can’t hang with all the connectivity issues that you have to troubleshoot.
John: Oh, I’m not even cool enough to go into the store. They’d kick me out.
Suraya: Yeah, there is that.
John: They’re like, “You’re too square. Get out.” How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Suraya: Denali Moose Tracks, which is basically double chocolate with chocolate chunks.
Suraya: It scares the crap out of everyone who tries.
John: Yeah. Absolutely. I need the ice cream with chunks. I need more of the calories per bite.
Suraya: I highly recommend it. It’s probably why I go to bed at midnight actually. “I’ve got to think about this.”
John: There you go. This is more of an intervention than a podcast, Suraya.
Suraya: Yeah, right?
John: Since you’re in operations, I have to ask, line chart or bar graph?
Suraya: Neither actually. I love charts and I look at them to get data and to understand the big picture, but actually, I manage operations with people. I like talking to people and I think you can get a lot more from people than charts can tell you.
John: Okay. All right. I had to ask. I needed a good laugh out of that. All right. How about a favorite adult beverage?
John: Scotch. Okay.
Suraya: The smoky kind. The smokier, the better.
John: Oh, there you go. All right. How about oceans or mountains?
Suraya: Mountains. I’m from Malaysia and I grew up by the beach, white sand, the whole thing, but I’ve lived in Colorado now for 20 years and mountains for sure.
John: Mountains it is. All right. We’ve got four more. Heel, flats?
Suraya: Heel, four-inch.
John: Four-inch? Whoa! Okay. All right.
Suraya: Personal, mostly flats.
John: Exactly, but it’s all good. It’s all good. When you want to.
John: Do you have a favorite number?
Suraya: I don’t think so, no.
John: Just positive ones?
Suraya: Just positive, yeah, exactly, just positive.
John: There you go. How about since my book’s been out, Kindle or real books?
Suraya: Real books. I love the feel. I love the smell. I love holding. I love the whole tactile experience of reading.
John: Yeah, for sure. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Suraya: I have a bangle/bracelet from my great grandmother that has been passed down through the women in the family, so I have that. I have her earrings, too. I have two daughters and I will give one of them each of that. It’s over a hundred years old.
John: That’s incredible. That’s super cool. That is super cool. Yeah, that’s awesome. From Malaysia, growing up there and everything, yeah, that means a lot. That’s really cool.
Suraya: It does. Well, my great grandmother was from India, and so it’s stuff she brought with her when she immigrated to Malaysia. I just love old things. My friends laugh because I’m just incredibly boring and I hang on to old things. I think there’s so much value in just the stuff that people overlook sometimes, so I hang on to all the old jewelry. I have my grandmother’s cookbook and it’s actually written in Indian script. So she would actually be writing the recipe. It’s kind of funny because she’s like, “And don’t forget to add” and then she writes with the Indian script and I’m like, “No! Add what?”
John: “The magic ingredient? No!”
Suraya: “This is not going to work unless you add…” and then it goes into a different script and I’m like, ugh!
John: Right. Exactly. That’s awesome. Actually, I have a recipe of a Scottish shortbread from my great grandmother in her handwriting, and yeah, it’s kind of cool. Of course, I never knew her. It was way before me, but it’s really good shortbread. It’s from the motherland, so it’s legit good.
Suraya: Have you been to Scotland?
John: I have, yeah.
Suraya: Yeah. I went to Culloden field, the highlands, and there’s actually a shortbread recipe in the museum that is etched on the wall that they found on the field after the battle. I guess it fell out of some soldier’s pocket. It must have been his mother’s recipe. It’s actually on the wall because it’s in Culloden field where the Jacobite battle took place, and I actually took a picture of it, so it’s pretty cool.
John: No, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. That dovetails perfectly with all of your travels, all of that wandering, if you will, the wanderlust in the RV. Maybe we’ll start with the RV. When did that come about? Because not everybody has one.
Suraya: Not everybody has one. You don’t have one? You don’t have one parked in —
John: Oh, we have three. Which one am I taking out today?
Suraya: My husband and I have been married for 20 years this year, and one of the things that brought us together when we first started dating was we both have this incredible sense of wanderlust. We traveled together. After we got married, before we had kids, we traveled. Collectively, we probably visited maybe between 15 to 20 countries together —
John: Oh, wow.
Suraya: — after we were married. The pandemic hit and we’re all isolating at home, which is what we needed to do, but we still have this incredible sense of wanderlust. We started thinking about, “How do we do this? We can’t be at home this entire time, not going anywhere.” I know a lot of people had to have that as their reality. Certainly, I’m not trying to do a compare and contrast there, but for us, what we decided to do was get an RV. If you can’t jump in the car and go someplace and get a hotel room because you have to clean the heck out of the hotel room when you get there, we’re going to get an RV.
Also, I think having an RV, every day is an adventure. Every day is an adventure, seriously. We’re not handy people. We’re not mechanics. The furnace drips, and my husband and I both stare at it like, “What are we going to do now?” So when we thought about getting an RV, everybody was like, “Don’t do it. It is the worst possible thing.”
It appeals to that sense of adventure and that sense of wanderlust. What has been great about it is as a family, we ended up spending the entire summer learning together, learning how to use it. It is an adventure even when you’re just parked at a lake. Getting to the lake is the adventure.
Suraya: It’s like, “How do I drive this? Am I going to hit someone?” You park it. You turn it on. It’s an adventure because there are all these you turn on this, turn that on, shut this off before you turn that, the furnace, the air conditioner, et cetera. Then you’re lying in bed at night and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, the water pump.” All this stuff you just think about. Literally, you cannot relax. We come back from the RV weekend like, “Where’s the bed?”
John: Right. That’s hilarious. That’s so funny, but it’s also part of it. It’s part of that experience.
Suraya: It’s part of the experience at a time when I think, again, learning taking care of each other, continuing to support each other is so important. I think it’s actually brought us closer as a family. It has allowed us to keep that sense of adventure in our own way. Essentially, the world’s your oyster. You could drive from Denver to Alaska.
Suraya: We’re planning our trip and we think we might go up to Calgary from Colorado, which is like a straight shot up. I was talking to my husband the other day. He’s like, “Oh, it’s only 19 hours!”
John: In an RV, it’s probably double that.
John: Yeah, exactly. Calgary, the Canadians, they say it’s the Denver of Canada. It’s very similar. I’ve been there actually when they had the stampede even. It is very Western and really good people. Yeah, it’s a fun city. That’s for sure.
Suraya: Have you been up there?
John: I have, yeah. Yeah, I was there. Actually, I flew in, and Banff is just a 45-minute drive away and that is really amazing. Is there a more fun trip that you went to with the RV so far?
Suraya: We just got back our last trip before we had to shut the RV down. Our last trip before we had to shut the RV down was we went to Eleven Mile Park in Colorado, which was just beautiful right there by the lake. We’re able to get out. The weather was warm enough. I do have two funny stories from Eleven Mile Park.
The first story is we were by the lake. We’re fishing. It’s myself, my husband, and we have three children. They’re fishing and we see this thing in the water and it’s swimming. My kids are excited. They’re squealing, “It’s an otter! It’s an otter!” You can see that the head is out of the water and he’s going back and forth in front of us. Finally, he turns and he starts heading to shore. My kids are squealing at this point. We’re like, “Shut it down. Shut it down. Don’t scare him.” I swear to God, he comes up to shore. He jams himself between the three kids like he’s the fourth kid. It wasn’t an otter. It was a muskrat. He has a giant crab in his mouth, or a crayfish, and he starts eating. He’s holding this crab. This muskrat is eating this giant crayfish and he’s looking around at the kids like, “Well, kids, what’s going on?”
John: That’s hilarious.
Suraya: Everyone was dead silent because we’re like, “Is this really happening?” The muskrat just comes up, sits like he’s the fourth child —
John: That’s amazing.
Suraya: “So, guys, what’s going on?”
John: Yeah, it’s like a Dr. Doolittle moment where you’re talking to animals now.
Suraya: No one moved for the seven minutes it took him to eat his crayfish. Then out of the corner of my eye, I see this second dude come up the water. I’m whispering to the kids, “He’s coming. There’s another one. There’s another one.” The second dude comes, walks up again on the shore to this first guy and tries to yank a piece of crayfish from him. The first guy’s like, “No, no, I have family now and my crayfish.” Then the second guy leaves and then the first one leaves. It was just the most surreal experience.
John: That is amazing.
Suraya: The five of us looked at each other like, “What just happened?”
Suraya: This muskrat really — because normally, you hear that animals are scared of people. Of course, my part-time lawyer brain is like, “Please, let’s not have a park ranger show up and think we were feeding him.”
John: Right, like you gave him the crawfish.
Suraya: We’re not feeding this crazy muskrat that came up and sat between my kids.
John: Exactly. That’s so cool though. What a great experience for the kids as well.
Suraya: Yeah. So we’re totally stoked at this point, right? We’ve got all these adventures. We’re totally stoked. We pack up the fishing stuff and we get back in the car. We’re driving back to where the RV is from the lake. We see a herd of something on the road. I’m like, oh, deer. You know in Colorado, in parks, deer. I’m heading towards them and I was like, “Oh, it looks kind of big. Maybe it’s horses. What is that?” We get up to this thing. It is a herd of wild donkeys.
John: What? I didn’t know there was a thing.
Suraya: I didn’t know they were wild. It’s literally a herd of donkeys. They stopped the car because they were on the road. We stopped; they flanked us. They flanked us. They come around the car, all around the car. They start scratching their necks against the side mirror.
John: Oh my gosh.
Suraya: My husband’s like, “Can you just Google and see if they’re wild donkeys?”
John: That is amazing.
Suraya: I was of course thinking, “Is that really what I should be Googling right now? Maybe I should be Googling park ranger phone number.”
John: Yeah, 911.
Suraya: “Help. We’re surrounded by wild donkeys.” So I Googled and yes, there is a herd of wild donkeys in Eleven Mile Park.
John: And you met them all. There you go.
Suraya: We met them all. Of course, the children are trying to hit the down button on the window. I’m like, “That window better stay up, okay?”
John: Mom Suraya came out. There you go. That’s super cool though. You wouldn’t get that had you stayed home and even just watching Netflix or Nature Planet or whatever. That’s super cool.
Suraya: Every moment is terrifying in the RV. I highly recommend it.
John: Yeah. You might as well live on the edge a little bit. Why not? You mentioned earlier that people are like, “You’re crazy. Don’t get the RV.” Is this something that comes up with work people as well?
Suraya: All the time. The RV has become the conversation opener and the way that I think people connect with you because normally, I think as COO, people expect you to be in charge of all these functions and have all the answers to the problems. Well, not have all the answers, but come to you for problem solving. The fact that I get on the phone, I talk to my clients about, “Hey, the water pump turns itself on in the middle of the night in the RV. I don’t know why that happens. Should I be worried about this?”
John: Right. That’s awesome.
Suraya: It’s not only become a way to connect with people. I think it also allows people to just see me in a different way and that we have fun with it. We’re having this conversation right now and people are like, “Why did you get an RV? It sounds like it’s a lot of work.” I’m like, yeah, because we all have a desire to explore and see the world, and this is the way to do it.
John: Yeah. Sometimes too, it’s easy to overlook those things to explore within our own state because we’re busy on an airplane to a different country. All of a sudden, you get in the RV and you’re like, “What? Look at this.” It was right here two hours away from our home and we were busy flying over it, so that’s kind of neat.
Suraya: Right. Exactly. It’s also a huge learning thing too because things could get stale. You do the same thing over and over again. This just, in a terrifying way, allows us to expand our knowledge base. It’s like oh, yes, I am going to read up on why the water pump comes on in the middle of the night.
John: Exactly. That’s awesome. I love what you said earlier of how it just allows people to see you in a different light. How important do you think that is?
Suraya: I think it’s really important. I think over the years, I’ve learned that the leaders, I think, the ones you connect with the most and I think the ones that you trust the most — and I think trust is really important at the leadership level — are the leaders who want to appear vulnerable. “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. Are my kids going to get food poisoning because the refrigerator didn’t come on?” are the leaders who appear most vulnerable and the leaders who allow themselves to be seen in a light that you can connect with. I think when people build that rapport and trust with you, there’s a rapport and trust that flows through everything else, problem solving, planning, strategic planning. In my role, I do a lot of that, people development. I talk to people about where they want to go with their careers, and they see me as someone who’s a more well-rounded person and I think they’re able to bring themselves to that conversation, too.
John: That’s so well put, and somebody that they can trust with “Here’s what I really want to do and it’s not at all what my job is right now.”
John: You’re like, “That’s awesome!”
Suraya: Right. Also, I kind of like this, but I don’t know anything about it. I wanted to go for it and I’m like, yeah, go for it. The first day my husband and I got the RV, we couldn’t even get through the door. We don’t even know how the lock works.
John: How to unlock. There you go.
Suraya: Just do it. If you have a passion for something, explore it.
John: Yeah. No matter what it is, have that passion and explore it. I love that. That’s so perfect. It’s so perfect. Is traveling in general something that you would talk about all through your career or is it something that you opened up more about later on?
Suraya: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think that I’ve always loved to travel. Malaysians, there are only 33 million of us, but man, we get around. My parents and grandparents — well, my grandparents and great grandparents being immigrants to Malaysia, they had that sense of wanderlust. I’ve always traveled. I think I went on my first trip when I was like, I don’t know, two years old. Throughout my teenage years, I went to school in the UK. I left home when I was 17 and went to school in the UK. I traveled there extensively throughout Europe and then got married and traveled as well.
Yeah, it is a way, I think, to again have another — one, I think traveling opens up your perspective and your viewpoints. So to answer your question, at work, when people throw something out, I consider it and think, “Oh, well, okay. Maybe that’s something they’re saying based on their experience.” It makes you consider a different viewpoint because you’ve been exposed to so many different viewpoints. Travel is fun. People have great travel stories. People learn things when they travel. I think it just makes for interesting conversation.
John: Yeah, for sure. It’s just interesting because some of us in our own heads, we think, “Well, it has nothing to do with our job, so why talk about it?” type of thing. I was too dumb to know that we weren’t supposed to. If somebody asked, I was like, “Well, I did a comedy show this weekend in Louisville, Kentucky” or whatever. Oh, I was supposed to say nothing? I didn’t know.
Suraya: Exactly. Right. I think some cultures, work cultures, don’t invite that kind of authenticity and connection. It’s very stick to the facts, come in and do your whatever report.
John: The TPX report from Office Space.
Suraya: Exactly, from Office Space and that’s fine. That’s fine. I think, in my opinion, the cultures that are the most successful and invite collaboration and people feel like there’s really an environment of caring about the whole person and people who want to contribute to that type of an environment is where they invite people to share about stuff. There’s knowledge about, “Oh, what did you do this week?” Not just what you did this weekend, to your point, but also, “Where have you been? Where did you grow up?” that kind of thing.
John: Yeah, that next level stuff. That’s so great to hear. That’s so awesome. So awesome. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that might have an interest or a hobby that they feel like no one cares about or “It has nothing to do with my job?”
Suraya: I think start sharing. I truly do believe — over the years, I’ve learned — like you said, John, you never knew. You never knew that it was not the right thing to do. I almost had a little bit opposite perspective of you. Well, I for a long time had experiences with different work cultures where I never knew that it was okay to do it. It’s almost the opposite of you. So if I would just say to listeners, if they’re in that kind of an environment, start doing it. Start sharing who you are. Start sharing your whole self. If people shut you down and they’re like, “Nope, I don’t want to hear about that, John. No, I just want you to stick to your TPX report” then you’re not able to bring your whole self to that place, that environment. Maybe it’s not the environment for you.
John: Yeah, but you never know until you do start to share.
Suraya: You’ll never know until you try it, right? I would say you want to find the environment where you can be your whole self.
John: Yeah, amen, because otherwise, you’re going to work with one arm tied behind your back and that’s dumb. I can be so much better in —
Suraya: Everyone has different circumstances. Some of us may not have the luxury of choice and I’m always very conscious of that when I throw out advice. If it turns out we have to be, I think, in an environment at work where you can’t be your whole self then I would say feel free to be your whole self everywhere else.
John: Yeah. There you go.
Suraya: If you’re at soccer practice with your kid, talk about your comedy club routine that you do —
John: Yeah, or your RV or whatever it is.
Suraya: If you’re at church, talk about scotch. I don’t know.
John: Right. There you go. It’s important, like I say, in the book. It isn’t sharing drama. It’s what are your true passions, what do you actually really — things that are more positive that bring you happiness and joy.
Suraya: That is a great point because I think there was a time there during, I would say, early to mid stage pandemic when it was just the grind, and yes, it was so easy to share drama. It was so easy to share drama, but this was a way to positively connect with each other as a family and also positively connect with people because it was funny. It was like, “Oh, so you pretty much spend your entire night in the RV reading the manual.” “That’s right.”
John: That’s so good. I love that. That’s hilarious. That’s so funny. That’s really funny.
Suraya: And we read that RV manual front to back.
John: I promise, everyone, What’s Your “And”? is an easier read than an RV manual. I can promise that. I’ve never read an RV manual, but I’ve got a lot of money on me being right on that one.
Suraya: I have no doubt it is a funnier read and less stressful.
John: There you go. Well, this has been so awesome, Suraya, but it’s only fair that I allow you to turn the tables on me since I started this episode rapid fire questioning you. So we’ll make this the first episode of the Suraya Yahaya podcast, everybody. Thank you so much for having me on as your first guest. I appreciate it. So what questions have you got?
Suraya: Favorite city you’ve been to?
John: Favorite city, probably Cape Town, South Africa.
Suraya: Oh, wow!
John: My favorite, yeah. That’s pretty cool because it’s a cool mixture of a lot of things going on. Plus, there’s wine country about 30 minutes away, Stellenbosch.
Suraya: Yeah. Actually, my husband and I were just talking about that. Africa is a destination we have on our list. I want to go there.
John: It’s so diverse. Africa’s huge.
Suraya: It is. It’s very diverse. I know.
John: It’s like everyone in America thinks, “Oh, America is huge” and it’s like, well, not totally.
Suraya: You’re absolutely right. Well, that’s awesome. Favorite drink?
John: Favorite drink, like a liquor?
Suraya: Yeah, liquor.
John: Mojito because it’s fun to say and it’s minty. I’m a girl. My wife and I, we would go to these all-inclusive resorts and I don’t know how to order liquor. I skipped over that, and so she would order it for me. I was at a conference in Chicago and a guy I knew from Texas happened to be there for business with the Texas State Society of CPAs. We met up at this hotel bar and the bartender is like, “What do you want?” and there was nothing wine. I know wine well, but I couldn’t get any wine at this bar. I’m like, oh no. So I said what I say to my wife, “Vodka and something fruity” and it’s like the whole bar stopped. They’re like, “Wait. What?” The bartender was like, “What do you mean something fruity?”
Suraya: Right. The soundtrack stops in the back.
John: He’s like, “So, vodka and pineapple?” “Yeah, sure, man. Whatever.” The guy that I met, he’s like, “What in the heck was that? Are you an adult?” Now, my go-tos are mojito or if it’s like a simple thing then vodka cranberry.
Suraya: I feel like I should buy you some. I’ll buy you a scotch or no?
John: I’m like anything fruity with vodka or rum. That’s me.
Suraya: I’m not going to judge, but let’s move quickly to our third question.
Suraya: Yeah, exactly. Bring your peach mojito when you got to sit in the RV. Since we talked about me going to bed at midnight, what’s your favorite thing to do to wind down?
John: Oh, that’s a good one. That’s a good one. Wow. That is a good one because it is hard to wind down.
Suraya: It is, right? And it’s something we don’t think about. Maybe we’ll leave the audience with that. I think part of self-care for 2020 no matter where we are in the year is think about taking care of yourself and winding down and filling out a little.
John: Yeah, for sure. Watching TV isn’t necessarily good for winding down. We just watch mindless —
Suraya: I was going to say mindless.
John: Yeah. My wife got us on Married at First Sight, which is —
Suraya: Oh yeah. Oh my.
John: It makes me look so good, so that’s why I watch it, but it’s so mindless and it’s just silly and whatever. So something like that, but that’s really not great. Yeah, definitely nothing on my phone. I’d stay off that for sure. Sometimes it’s nice before or after dinner just sitting on the back patio and just chilling out. The weather in Colorado, of course, is so nice. So just sitting outside and just chilling out, that’s always good, too. Cool!
Well, this has been so much fun, Suraya. Thank you so much for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Suraya: Absolutely. Yeah, I’ve enjoyed it. Thanks for having me. It’s been a great conversation. I can’t believe the time has just flown by. It’s been awesome.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Suraya’s RV or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there, and don’t forget to buy the book. 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.