Steph is an Accountant & Woodworker
Stephanie Campigotto, a Director at PwC, talks about how she found her passion for woodworking, building her own furniture, how these skills apply to her job as an accountant, and how where you live plays a major role in company culture!
• Getting into woodworking
• How woodworking skills translate to accounting
• Seeing people’s reactions to her woodworking
• Be a human first
• Culture in Denver vs. Chicago
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Photos of Stephanie’s work
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Welcome to Episode 397 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 in 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.
And if you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want to hear my voice reading the book, yeah, that’s right, me reading it to you, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. The book goes more in depth with the research of why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture. 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.
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. This week is no different with my guest, Steph Campigatto. She’s a product owner in PwC’s Denver office and now she’s with me here today. Steph, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Steph: Thanks so much for having me. I’m very excited.
John: Yeah, this is going to be so much fun. So much fun. But I have my rapid-fire questions right out of the gate here, get to know stuff on a new level. So buckle up. We’re ready. Okay, here we go. Favorite color?
John: Blue. Yeah, mine too, mine too. How about a least favorite color?
Steph: Like camo olive green.
John: Oh, yeah. By itself, super weird.
Steph: Yeah, like army green kinda. Yeah.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. By itself, yeah, that’s odd. Very true. How about a favorite Disney character?
Steph: Oh, boy, that’s a good one. You know, I just watched the Aladdin movie, so I’m going to go with the genie.
John: Oh, the genie. Okay. Yeah, very fun. I think that was Robin Williams who voiced that.
Steph: Yep, and then Will Smith was in the live action.
John: Oh, and then the live one. Yeah. Very cool. Yeah, yeah. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Steph: Can I think jigsaw?
John: Yes! Yes!
Steph: I guess Sudoku as a number person but…
John: Jigsaw puzzles. Good. I like that answer. I should probably throw that in as one of the options, actually. So I like that. Very good. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Steph: Oh, man, I can’t purport to be a huge fan of either, but I would have to say Star Trek.
John: Oh, okay. Yeah. All right. How about your computer, more a PC or a Mac?
Steph: Oh, definitely a PC. I have no idea what I’m doing on a Mac.
John: The same. Absolutely, the same. Yeah, it’s crazy. You might as well be left handed for something. I’m like, “What is going on?” How about your mouse then, right click or left click?
Steph: Oh, gosh, right, I guess, right?
John: Right click, that’s what opens up all the cool stuff. Yeah, totally, totally. How about a favorite movie of all time?
Steph: Oh, gosh. You know what? Tombstone, the movie Tombstone?
John: Yeah, okay, there you go. That’s a classic. How about more rain or snow?
Steph: Snow, for sure.
John: Yeah, I hate rain so much. It’s actually comical. In high school, my friends used to make fun of me so much of how much I hated rain. Like I was just like, it ruins everything.
Steph: There’s not much fun you can do in the rain, but there’s a lot you can do with snow.
John: Totally. Amen. Exactly. How about, since you have the accounting background, I ask you a silly one here. Balance sheet or income statement, or you are more tax?
Steph: I mean, you know, we do both but, yeah, income statement, I would say.
John: Income statement. Okay, there you go. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Steph: You know, a margarita. I think just there’s never a wrong time for Margarita.
John: Am or pm.
Steph: Yeah, exactly.
John: There’s not a wrong time. Amen. That’s awesome. How about a favorite number?
Steph: Oh, boy, you know what? Six. I always put six on stuff. I don’t know why. Yeah. If I have to pick a random one, this is always on my brain.
John: No, no, that’s a good answer. How about books? Real book, e-book, or the audio version?
Steph: Oh, man, that’s a good question. I’m kind of looking at my books for inspiration here. You know what? The one that I’ve probably read the most is The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I think that is just a fun linguistic experience.
John: Do you prefer the audio version, the real book?
Steph: I think it’s the real book. I don’t — yeah, I think I only have the real book for some — those old ones just feel better on paper, I think.
John: Totally. No, I agree. I agree. It’s an experience.
John: We got a couple more here. More pizza or hamburger?
Steph: Probably pizza.
John: Okay. All right. Yeah, yeah, because, I mean, a really, really good pizza is, yeah, that’s really good. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Steph: Ooh, that’s a good one. You know, Gerard Butler just always seems to do it for me.
John: Good. Yeah, it’s always good characters, which makes it good too.
Steph: Yeah, exactly.
John: Yeah. Yeah. Two more. Early bird or night owl?
Steph: Night owl, for sure.
John: Okay. Okay. And then the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own?
Steph: I just got — I’ve wanted one for I don’t know how long. I just got a blue velvet couch, and I am obsessed with it, like I’m almost scared to sit on it. Right now that’s kind of my favorite thing just because I’ve pined over it for years.
John: Well, congratulations and that is awesome. It’s just got to look as cool as you thought. So that’s awesome. Very, very cool. Yeah. So let’s talk woodworking. Did you grow up doing that? Was it something you got into high school as an elective? How did you get started?
Steph: So my father is a contractor, so I’ve been around tools and that experience, but I was never interested in it ever really. He would kind of make me help hold stuff and do things when I was younger, but it was just never really my scene and I never really needed it. I’ve lived in high-rise apartments my entire adult life until recently, a few weeks before the pandemic hit, we moved into our first house. Going from living in these 500 to 900-square-foot apartments, you didn’t need a lot of things. We have a house. Somehow you always just need more furniture.
As most of my hobbies before the pandemic happened to be outside of my home. I started to really think about things that I thought I might have an aptitude for and could do inside my house or in my backyard and that would benefit me. As I started to look at all this furniture, I’m like, man, it is going to cost me a fortune.
John: Right, to fill the rooms.
Steph: Yeah, exactly. And when I looked at it, I mean, I can’t build a couch. But when you look at a table, you’re like, that’s not particularly complex. So I thought I got to figure that out. So like most of my endeavors, I just wake up one day deciding to do it. And then my husband comes home and I have a bunch of wood and tools. “What are we doing today?”
John: Right, and he’s holding things for you. Exactly .
Steph: Yeah, he’s definitely my apprentice, we’ll call him. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to hear me say that.
John: That’s a pretty nice title, I’d say. But that’s so cool that you’re like, “Hey, you know, I think I can build something like this.” And why not?
John: So is YouTube your friend? How do you —
Steph: Yes, YouTube, definitely a friend. There are so many awesome videos out there that really walk you through things. You can find plans and stuff online, which is also really helpful. Also, I don’t know whether he is excited or not about this, but there are plenty of calls to my father to ask him. What kind of blade do I need for the saw? What am I doing here? So I know every call ends with “Please be careful.” He’s a little nervous. But I know he’s excited when he comes to visit next time that he’ll get to play with all my new tools and toys and stuff.
John: Yeah, and see what you’ve built. That’s really cool. So do you have a piece that’s been your favorite so far?
Steph: We just finished a new TV console.
John: Oh, wow!
Steph: Yeah. I was looking online for months trying to find a new one that I liked. Again, I was like, it’s just a box. I feel like I could make a box. It really is more complicated than that, which I now know. But that one has taken us a while to do, but it looks awesome and I’m really excited about it.
John: That’s great. Yeah. Plus, you want it to fit your house right.
John: And the sizes aren’t quite what you need and all that. And yeah, that’s good. I love it. That’s so fantastic. So do you have a favorite tool then that you’ve gotten to use?
Steph: Oh, boy, we just got all the big saws, and so those are always really fun. We started with some hand saws and doing that compared to having real power tools is night and day. So I would say I think we got a big retractable miter saw and that one has been fun to play with and very fast. It makes quick work out of everything compared to sawing it.
John: Do you have a full-on table saw and stuff too?
Steph: We do, yeah, yeah.
Steph: Yeah. So that stuff makes it all so much more approachable than trying to do it the quick and dirty way.
John: Yeah. Because, I mean, I did woodshop in high school and drafting and that’s sort of how I kind of got into it, and then you take woodshop the next semester. Yeah, my shop teacher, it was so funny because I cut something, I don’t know, like an eighth of an inch too short. So he’s like, “Oh, just go in the back and get the board stretcher.” So I was like, “What?” So then I went back there. For about 30 seconds, I came back out and he’s like, “Yeah, there’s no board stretcher. Just measure twice next time.” Oh, okay, good to know.
Steph: There’s nothing like putting it all together and realizing you’re like an eighth of an inch short. You’re just like, “Oh, this is not great.”
John: Yeah. But you learn and then you come back and you’re better next time and all that.
John: It’s something that you enjoy, and then it’s there for you to enjoy looking at.
Steph: Yeah, exactly. It’s nice to have a tangible thing at the end of it, right? Like most of my other hobbies are just like, “Well, that was fun.” But then you just go about your day. And so this is cool because you can really see the outcome of your effort.
John: I love it. That’s so cool. I love it. And also something that you came up with in the last year-ish, your plus. So was it something that you feel like any of that translates to work, maybe the measure twice, cut once kind of concept?
Steph: Yes, that one, for sure. You know, it was funny, I hadn’t really connected the dots until my apprentice husband mentioned something about how it really is very congruent with work. How do you come up with your plan, your design? What are the materials you need? What are the resources you need? What to do when things go wrong when you don’t measure twice? How to adapt and adjust? To me, it’s so practical to translate those skills. He was joking. He’s a physician and if you know physicians, they tend to be a little singular-minded. No offense to anyone else out there. My husband is a physician. So he’s very good at following directions, but when it comes to planning out that design and all that stuff, he’s like, “You do that.” I think that definitely speaks to our professions and our different experiences with our day to day.
John: Yeah, you don’t want a physician to be too creative.
Steph: Exactly, right.
John: Well, we decided to move your nose over to the side of your face. Okay, slow down, Picasso. But that’s really cool to hear that — I mean, it’s an accidental byproduct. That’s neat. It’s cool that you and he were able to point that out and notice that because that’s not why you do it, but it’s cool that it makes you better at your job.
Steph: Yeah, definitely. It’s been cool to do together too. We don’t have many other hobbies that are in there together. So it’s been fun to have one that we can really get excited about and spend time doing together, which is funny too.
John: That sounds great. So is it something that people at work know about?
Steph: Yeah, I think so now. At first, and this is just me, I’m always — when I’m starting a new endeavor, I don’t really tell anyone about it because I want to make sure I’m not going to totally flop. The first few times I started making stuff, I was like, “Okay, let’s see. Okay, that went okay.” And then our first case we made was our kitchen table. And so once we were able to do that, I was like, “Okay, I think this is something that we’re decent enough that we can share.” So yeah, so I have started talking about it at work a little bit but only with my hand-close team, it feels like.
John: Yeah, totally. I mean, it’s not something you shout from the rooftops, and then it’ll just seep out. I can totally appreciate — I mean, my hobby when I was at PwC, ironically enough also, was doing stand-up comedy. Yeah, I mean, that’s something where you’re definitely not good for a long time, I mean, like a long time. So letting people know that was there was a part of me that was like, “Well, I don’t know if — I mean, I’m not that great. Don’t come see me.” But also you asked, what did you do this weekend? Well, I drove to Springfield, Illinois, and did a comedy show and they’re like, “Wait, you did what?” It’s like, you know, “Well, I built my dining table.” “Wait, hold on, wait, Steph, what? Did you say you built?”
Steph: I think it’s funny too to witness the reactions. I think, typically woodworking is thought to be a pretty male-dominant hobby. So I think it’s even extra surprising when people find out that a woman has decided to pursue that hobby. It is cool thing, you know, YouTube, there does seem to be a bigger presence of women in that industry in general, which is really awesome to see.
John: No, for sure. And Joanna Gaines just do — I mean, I know Chip does a lot of that stuff, but she’s definitely swinging hammers and making stuff happen. So that’s cool to see that as well. Yeah, maybe you and your husband are the next Chip and Joanna. Hey, why not? I said it first. I said it first.
Steph: There you go. Okay, yeah, I’ll give you credit.
John: That’s awesome. So then before the woodworking, did you have something else, some of your other hobbies that maybe you shared, or was this the first one that kind of cracked it open?
Steph: So to his now enjoyment, but prior this May, I have been forcing him to learn how to ski. So that has been something that we share in those months. But before I was really, you know, and I still am, into yoga, which as much as I have tried, it’s not happening for him. So he’s more of a lay on the mat and just kind of fall asleep.
John: Just breathe and fall asleep. All right, I like that. I like that.
Steph: So it’s been cool to have something that really is tactical and close and you can — because skiing is like such a production and it’s a whole day. But here we can pop out for an hour or two in the evening even and get some stuff done, which is cool.
John: No, that’s cool. And so then the skiing and the yoga, is that something that co-workers knew about, or you would talk about with them?
Steph: That more so. I did teach a few yoga classes at PwC, actually. As I’m sure you’re aware, busy seasons can get pretty long sitting in a desk all day, so we did some little sessions there. And then our folks here in Denver are definitely big in the skiing, so we’ve done a few outings there. So that one’s a little bit common ground, for sure.
John: Yeah. But it’s the other dimensions to who you are.
John: As opposed to, yeah, that’s pretty cool. That’s awesome. How much do you feel like it’s on a leader or the organization to create that atmosphere to share or even have those activities where we’re doing them together, or how much is it on an individual to just kind of share amongst your team and get it started that way?
Steph: I think kind of both, right? So I will say that over my career, many of my leaders, partners that I’ve worked for, I really had no idea what they do after, you know, they just seemed like this ethereal thing that was beyond reach for anyone else. So to me, when you start to learn more about them and learn more about anyone on your team, one, you become human again, right? And so you understand when people have bad days or good days or distracted. There’s reasons for those things. But I have found that as I start to have those connections with people above me, I realized how important it is to make sure that I’m at least trying to connect with my team so that they understand that I am a very candid person. So I don’t think I have that vibe from them at all. But having the space to make sure that they know that when you leave here, you walk away from your office, home office, whatever it is, but there’s got to be something else that makes you you because having your life be consumed by your job, even if you absolutely love it, is still draining. You really need that outlet in other forms to reset so you’re better at your job. Regardless of if they tie back together or not, you just need to reset and recharge.
John: I love that. Yeah, I mean, you’re so right. I mean, before the pandemic, it was very much building relationships, whether it’s co-workers or clients or things like that. It gives you a skill set that maybe makes you better that other people don’t have. But then once March 2021, it’s 100% for your own mental wellness. I mean, like you will lose your mind because, I mean, the work is right there 24/7 and our homes weren’t necessarily built for this. You have people with roommates. You have like, you know, everyone’s eating and working at the dining table. It’s just like, you have kids. You have who knows what’s going on? And you’re so right. And that’s cool that you create that space for them. We’re so permission based I feel and professionals, but especially accountants are so —
Steph: Right. We like the structure.
John: Yeah, exactly. And we don’t want to ask forgiveness after.
John: And it’s cool that you recognize that and also too just you want to become the leader that maybe you didn’t always have, or the good ones that you saw you want to emulate. That’s such a good tip for people listening is just be a human first and then the leader next type of thing.
Steph: Yeah, exactly.
John: Is there anything specific that the Denver office does to allow that? I mean, it sounds like the activities are asking you to lead a yoga session. I mean, that’s pretty cool. That didn’t happen when I was there, that’s for sure.
Steph: Yeah, I will say, so I started my career in our Chicago office, which is, as you can imagine, much different in size and culture and all that. So I will say just between the two, because of the smaller teaming environment that the Denver office has, there is much more of that, you know, they planned to hike a few weeks ago, just like the whole team. And we just did a Rockies game, which was awesome to see people in real life again. I think it’s just Denver, in general, as a city as a culture is really about, you know, what else makes you you? I know for the first year that I was meeting new friends here, there was a lot of them that I really didn’t know what they did for a living because it just never came up. That, I think, is so cool because in Chicago, that’s like the first thing anyone ever asks you like, “Hi, my name is Stephanie. What do you do?” So here, I think just in general, the culture is much more about, well, what else do you do? And I think that does translate into the workplace here, which is great, because there is, especially here, so much other things to do that are way more fun than working regardless of what your job might be.
John: So do you find that it’s a different relationship or a different conversation that you’re having with people here?
Steph: Yeah, I think so. And you know, I have a lot of folks on my team that don’t fit in Denver, and so it is funny to hear the difference between where different people In the US and how open they are at sharing their outside of their work experiences. And I find that people here in Denver are much more excited about their hobbies, first and foremost. Maybe that’s it. They’re pumped to go skiing and they’re pumped to go camping. So they just are talking about it to whoever will listen, which is great. I do think it’s much more human here.
John: We’re not hobby shamed or whatever it is. I don’t even know if that’s a phrase, but we’re making up all kinds of new things here on this episode. But that’s a good point is like, you know, if you feel like other people are excited to hear it or they care, then you’re more excited to share where maybe if you’ve been beaten down enough or you’re excited about it at first, you share and everyone’s like, “Why are you talking? Go back to work.” It’s like, oh, I’m not going to do that again.
Steph: I think that was the, you know, not necessarily even at PwC particularly, just city vibes in Chicago was more, you know, I don’t want to talk about my hobby because I don’t want you to think that I’m not super invested in my career, in my job that I’m doing right here. So you definitely got that feeling that people were like, well, if you’re thinking about what you’re doing after work, are you thinking about what you’re doing here? which is we all know that you can be excited for something later but still be present in the present. So I think that, to me, it was really part of how I felt in that city of just my job is the most important thing, and I’ll enjoy my hobbies if I have time later and then I’ll enjoy them silently personally.
John: Yeah, no, I mean, it’s so true, like professionalism tells us these lies. I find most of the time I’d be curious, was that mostly in your head do you think?
Steph: Right. No one ever said like, “Well, Stephanie, are you not focused?” Like no one ever, ever said that out loud. I think it’s because no one else was talking about it, and so it just — or you know, when someone did bring something up, it was like, “Oh, cool, yeah,” and then they change the subject. So it was like, well, I guess you don’t really sound super interested. But, yeah, it was never explicitly thought. It was definitely something that I cultivated inside.
John: But you’re not alone. You’re not alone. Professionalism just feeding us these lies and then you start to share and you’re like, oh, wait, actually, the world isn’t flat. Okay. Like we can have ands. It’s not an or; it’s an and. You can have all these things. That’s so clear and I love that for months or years you had friends that you didn’t even know what their job was like. It’s like, I have no idea, because it’s also the whole point of what’s your and is I kind of don’t care what the first part is. It’s so much more fascinating and rich and genuine with the second part.
Steph: Yeah, exactly.
John: And you just prove it, so that’s cool here. So do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening who maybe feels like, I’ve got this hobby, but no one’s going to care, or it has nothing to do with my job?
Steph: I think they do care that maybe sure, some guy might not care. But as a whole, I really do think that people care. I found out one of my co-workers does like the usher stuff at her community theater. No idea. That’s so cool. So stuff like that where you just think like, oh, this is just my thing. People do really care and it does make your teaming experience so much more impactful when you know a little bit about someone outside of just, oh, I’m I’m married, or I’m not married, like the checkboxes of things that people explain themselves as to me doesn’t define you. It’s just what does define you. I think only someone can explain that themselves. So I just absolutely love to hear it, and I think other people do too. So just start talking. You don’t feel like run into your boss’s office and be like, “Hey, I like to do stand-up comedy.” You know, tell your team and maybe if your boss brings it up, say something.
John: That’s such great advice. Yeah. I mean, it’s just a little bit, you know, just a little bit of who you are, a little bit of color in this gray world. It’s just magnified so much because there’s not a lot. So then it’s like, whoa, what? You’re an usher at a community theater? What happened? Did you go and they didn’t have a seat, and you’re like, “I’ll work”? Just so many questions that you have. We’re not in seventh grade anymore where we’re all making fun of that. Did you hear about her? She’s an usher? She does woodworking? What?
Steph: Right. Or if you are, then great. That’s your thing. I’m also at the point where if you do want to say something about that, that is also your prerogative and it’s not going to impact my enjoyment of my hobbies. Great.
John: Exactly. And that’s the biggest part of it is you enjoy it. I’m not asking if you like my table. I enjoy the process of making it. I didn’t ask you to buy it or even your opinion. That’s cool. Such great encouragement. So this has been so much fun, Steph. I feel like it’s only fair to turn the tables because I started out the episode with my rapid-fire questions. So I’ll make you the host of the show now. So it’s the Steph Campigotto Podcast. So thanks for having me on. So I’m all yours. So yeah, whatever you got.
Steph: So I’m sure you’ve talked about what your and is on so many podcasts, so I won’t make the listeners listen to that question again. But what I will ask is what is an and that you would love to someday cultivate?
John: Oh, wow, that’s a great question. That’s a really great question. Well, in my dream world, I would love to be able to sing. I am so tone deaf. I can play instruments. I can listen to music. I’m very musically inclined. I can tell when something’s out of tune, and my voice is always it.
Steph: I’m with you. It’s bad.
John: I mean, it’s bad. Like going to church like old ladies turn around and like, you know what? God still loves you. Just mouth it.
Steph: Just whisper, yeah.
John: Just mouth it. Milli Vanilli here with your Amazing Grace. Yeah, I would love to be able to sing. And if there’s a voice coach that would love to take on the hardest project in the world, I am all yours.
Steph: Let me know how that goes for you because maybe they could do some magic on me because I’m with you on that one.
Steph: So you say you play instruments. Which one?
John: Yeah. So when I was at Notre Dame, I played the trombone in the marching band. So that and then the piano a little bit as well left over from when I was a kid.
Steph: Very cool. I also played the trombone in high school — well, no, not even high school. I would say middle school.
Steph: And then I moved to the baritone because I didn’t want to lug that thing around all the time. It’s so heavy. I looked insane trancing around with this human-size instrument.
John: Oh, yeah. No, totally. Yeah, it’s large. Yeah, low brass. So that’s awesome. Very cool. So thanks so much, Steph. This has been so much fun having you be a part of What’s Your “And”?
Steph: Thank you for having me. This is great.
John: Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Steph in action or some of the things that she’s built or maybe connect with her on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. And while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. And don’t forget to check out the book.
So thanks again for subscribing to the podcast 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.