Episode 126 – Patrick Kmieciak

Teaching others helps Patrick sharpen his business skills


Patrick Kmieciak started tutoring when he was in college after a friend said that he was going to do it. A friendly competition arose between the two to see who could do it fastest. Patrick ended up winning and he helped his first client go from failing at mid-terms to getting a C+ and being able to graduate. Patrick was even invited to her graduation party!

In this episode, Patrick and I talk about how his tutoring keeps everything fresh, so it helps him understand business better and directly helped him pass the CPA Exam with such a high score to get the Elijah Watt Sells Award. It also helps him understand how best to communicate with others. And whether he’s in the office or he’s tutoring students, he’s found that, “People like people with a personality and some sort of uniqueness about them.”

Patrick Kmieciak is an Assurance Experienced Associate at PwC in Jacksonville, FL. In 2016, he received the Elijah Watt Sells Award from the AICPA for receiving one of the highest CPA Exam scores in the country.

He received both is Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting, and his Master’s Degree, Accounting from the University of North Florida.

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  • Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close

    Welcome to Episode 126 of the Green Apple Podcast. This is John Garrett and each Wednesday, I interview a professional known for a hobby or a passion, making them standout like a green apple in a red apple world. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and” as in my guest Patrick Kmieciak is an accountant “and” a tutor for both high school and college students.

    As you’ll hear, his passion for teaching others has helped him learn more about business which in turn makes him better at his job. This isn’t unique to only Patrick because most of us have a hobby or a passion that sharpens some aspect of us that can benefit our careers whether it’s community theater for presentation skills or maybe dancing for some confidence or music for learning consistency and practice or running and cycling for mental toughness. These are just a few of the examples of hobbies and passions that actually make you better at your job but only if you let them.

    I’ve got a quick favor to ask, if you like the show and are listening to iTunes or your favorite Android app, don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any of future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week.

    This week is absolutely no different with my guest Patrick Kmieciak, he’s an Assurance Experienced Associate with PWC in Jacksonville, Florida and he got the Elijah Watts Sells Award from the AICPA for receiving one of the highest CPA exam scores. Patrick, I know you’re swamped in the middle of a busy season so thanks so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Patrick: Glad to be here.

    John: Oh, man. I’m so excited. You’re in sunny warm Florida, not even sunny and warm I guess.

    Patrick: Oh, it’s been pretty cold these last few days, we have freezing, and the whole city shutdown three days ago.

    John: That’s what you get. So now you know how the rest of the country feels. I gave everyone a little bit of your introduction but maybe in your own words where you’re at now and how you got there?

    Patrick: Right now I’m 25, working at PWC as an audit associate. Going through them here in Jacksonville, Florida. I’ve been in Jacksonville, Florida all my life, went to Delores middle, high school, college, master’s here.

    John: Right, there you go.

    Patrick: I guess going into college, wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, ended up getting steered towards accounting, taken some classes, enjoying the way it all works, and the biggest thing I think that’s advanced me and got me to where I am today is all the tutoring I did in college. Helping kids out with different subjects.

    John: Yeah, no. That’s awesome, man. That’s so cool. I mean PWC alone, I mean myself, so great firm. I really enjoyed it there, different office clearly but all that. In high school, you took a couple of classes?

    Patrick: Yes. In high school, we never had any business-type classes and I went into college being a chemistry major and I looked at the job market for that shortly after declaring my major and then I switched to undeclared because I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew that wasn’t it.

    John: Right and this was before Breaking Bad had come out, so you’re like there’s no money in chemistry.

    Patrick: Oh, yeah. I didn’t even know the opportunities that were before me. Then jokingly, my mom brought up one day like, “You should be an accountant” and I was like, “I’ll try it out”. I enjoy money, I enjoy math, who doesn’t enjoy money? I took a few classes and really enjoyed it, ended up being pretty good at it.

    John: That’s awesome and now look, you’re in Green Apple Podcast.

    Patrick: Oh, yeah.

    John: Thanks, mom. You’re welcome. No, that’s really cool, man. That’s fantastic and I’m glad it all worked out. That’s really great. So you alluded to it earlier but you have this real passion for teaching and tutoring and how did you get into that? Have you been doing it a long time?

    Patrick: I got into it probably sophomore year of college. There’s a tutoring center on campus at UNF and my friend said he was going to apply there and I have a pretty competitive personality so I said I’d better get a job there before you do and I did. I applied and got it. It wasn’t anything crazy.

    John: That’s awesome. Did your friend even get the job or not even at all?

    Patrick: Yeah, he did. He actually got it a month or two later and tutored with me all through our college and he’s still my best friend.

    John: That’s hilarious. That’s so funny, that’s really funny. What subjects were you doing? Was this for other college students or for high school kids?

    Patrick: I’ve tutored some middle, high school, college students, probably 98% college students. I tutor pretty much all the business subjects from management, accounting, finance, statistics, to a few others, a little bit of calculus here and there depending on the day.

    John: Look at you, man. It’s like you wanted to be a teacher but you want to work long hours.

    Patrick: Right. Yeah. Really conflicted.

    John: Right. That’s great though, man.

    Patrick: The first semester, I guess right before I start tutoring at ACE at UNF, the tutoring center, a girl in one of my classes sent out an email about asking for a tutor to help her with the class and I was doing well in the class so I figured why not get paid to study? So I took her up on that at about the same time I started working at the UNF tutoring center and she was my first client and she was failing the class and it was her last class before she graduated, it was about halfway to the semester and I helped her out.

    I went over to her house on the weekends and she ultimately got it down, passed the class with like a C+, ended up getting a hundred on one of the exams and she ended up inviting me to her graduation party and everyone was like, “Oh, Amanda passed” and then Amanda was like “Everyone, Patrick did it.”

    John: Great. That’s very cool, man. That’s so rewarding just to see the impact that you can have on people’s lives.

    Patrick: Yeah. That was the very first person I ever tutored and that really stuck with me and there’s nothing like helping someone through something like that, being able to connect with someone and provide insight that they would not otherwise have. It’s just really rewarding.

    John: Yeah, man. I mean that’s great. You rarely get that during an audit. Once in a while but rarely but that’s very cool, man, that’s really cool and you’re still doing it now?

    Patrick: Yes, I’m still doing it now. I guess I’ve been doing it for about five years total now. Oftentimes, especially during exam weeks I’ll work until somewhere between 5:00 and 9:00 usually and to go tutor for a handful of hours after work. It feels good to go do something I’m really good at after being at work all day.

    John: That’s really great. Do you feel like this tutoring and mentoring has helped you with maybe a specific skill set that you use at work?

    Patrick: Yeah, it entirely has. Through tutoring, I kept everything fresh. Every class I ever taught I then started to tutor and I remembered virtually every topic from all of them. When I came to taking exams and master’s classes that drew from various undergrad classes, it made it very easy. When it came to the CPA exam, it made the CPA exam very, very fresh on my mind that actually tutoring, I give full credit to helping me win the Elijah Watts Sells Award on the CPA exam just because it’s like yeah, I had already been studying it for four years.

    John: Yeah, because I mean for those of you that don’t know, that’s one of the top scores in the country, right?

    Patrick: Yeah.

    John: That’s awesome though and that’s such a great way to look at it is you’re basically, yeah, you’re still flexing those muscles, and working those skills out even though you’re not at work by helping others. That’s really neat. I imagine that maybe communication skills probably helped a little bit as well?

    Patrick: Absolutely. Communication because I would meet with somebody, different students, be able to hold conversations with them as well as figure out how to explain things in the best way to get points across. It really helped with those skills. Additionally, I presented at classes every semester between 20, 30 plus classes to advertise my tutoring because I was really close to some of my professors, it just helped the world as far as presentations skills, interpersonal skills, technical skills. I couldn’t see any other hobby that could help so much.

    John: Yeah because I mean my standup comedy does two of the three but it definitely keep things fresh. But that’s what I was running away from. But yeah, no, that’s really cool though and also that you could recognize it in the moment because most of us don’t always see it happening in real time, it’s always in retrospective but that’s really great, man. Really cool. Is this something that you talk about in the office with your co-workers or it came up during interview or something like that?

    Patrick: For interviews, tutoring helped a lot because for behavioral interview it’s always like, give me a time when yada, yada, yada. And all those times were times when I was tutoring so it’s really kind of carried me through there. As far as at work I talk about students I’m helping, sometimes subjects I’m tutoring. I don’t talk about it too much at work but I definitely talk about how I enjoy it. Everyone tells me I’m crazy for going after working late night, going to tutor for a few hours until midnight or a little later and I don’t know, I just still consider tutoring work. Everyone I tell I’m like, “Oh, I’ve worked until 9:00 today.” It’s like, “But you’re tutoring until midnight?” I was like, “Tutoring’s not work.”

    John: Right, yeah. What I mean when it’s a passion like that then it’s just something that you do and any “pain” or uncomfortable moments or it’s all for the good. Yeah, that’s really cool, man. Does your friend still tutor that you started with?

    Patrick: Funny enough my friend’s actually a high school teacher now. He went in as Chemistry major with me and kind of pointing in fact that there’s not too many jobs for chemistry maybe. He teaches AB Chemistry at a high school here in Jacksonville.

    John: That’s awesome, man. It’s also really great that you didn’t stay with chemistry because you would’ve taken his job and he’d be unemployed right now.

    Patrick: Right, yeah.

    John: I always say it in case he listens, and now he can hate me but it’s all good. One that I think is great is that you’re able to talk about this, that you’re able to say, “Hey, I’m leaving work to go tutor” type of a thing and that the culture allows that and encourages that. How much do you feel it’s on the firm or an organization to create that culture or how much is it on the individual, you, just to be like hey, this is what I’m going to do and just stepping up and doing or saying it?

    Patrick: Yes. I feel like from the firm point of view, there’s really no way you could be happy at a firm unless the company is allowing you to do whatever it is you want to do, whatever passions you have, for instance, I left a little early today to do this podcast. But at the end of the day, you’re getting your work done, you’re doing what you need to do at work. So as far as your hobby not interfering with work, I feel that’s pretty important. I don’t leave early to tutor but I do schedule tutoring for when the team plans to leave.

    John: Right, exactly. Yeah, no, that’s such a great prospective is hey, I’m getting the work done that you assigned to me and that you need done but yeah, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t have a life or shouldn’t have something that’s just as important or maybe even more important outside of work and it’s okay to say that.

    Patrick: Yeah. One thing I feel that — I hear a lot about our company’s talk about how, in general, big Four is not flexible, things like that but I’ve never seen a job this flexible as far as coming in, leaving, taking breaks, whatever hours I choose, ultimately as long as I get the hours in, get the work in, I’m free to do almost anything I want at near any time of day as long as it doesn’t conflict with some sort of meeting.

    John: That’s awesome, man. That’s very cool. Yeah, I know thats because I mean not everyone is doing that. I speak to firms and conferences all over the country and I see a wide variety of that and so it’s great to hear that especially the Jacksonville office is doing that. That’s really awesome, man. That’s very cool.

    I do agree. From the firms perspective, they want their people to be happy because happier people are just more productive, turnovers lower, your bottom line’s better, you’re clients are going to be happier because they’re not dealing with miserable people, and yet not everybody always sees it that way. It’s always just a more billable work, more hours. So it’s cool that that’s the case. Is there anything specific that your office does to encourage people to share or to have a life outside of work?

    Patrick: There is one co-worker who every Tuesday night he has a commitment, he won’t tell any of us what it is because he’s very sneaky but it’s a passion of his.

    John: He’s tutoring the kids at the rival school. That’s what he’s doing at night.

    Patrick: Right. He doesn’t want to let me know. But he’s been doing that, he leaves early each Tuesday and no one has said anything about it, no one has anything against it. I have managers who leave at set times especially managers with kids or associates, co-workers with kids who make it a priority to do whatever it is they want to do. It’s not just a few people acting out on their passions, actually going through with their passions. I feel like it’s the whole office.

    I have another co-worker who’s taking off for a couple of weeks to bike across the United States like all the way across this coming summer. It’s totally supported and I think the firm or at least a lot of the people in the firm are like it’s for a cause, I believe it’s for AIDS and so there’s a bunch of support through the firm and through the people at the firm monetarily and emotionally, things like that. I feel like everyone in the office has something they like to do and the firm supports it.

    John: That’s really cool, man. It almost makes it weird if you don’t have something. If all you do is work like what’s wrong with you? That’s an awesome — that’s how it shouldn’t be, man. Maybe you’re not very good at your job because you have to do it all the time like why are you so slow and inefficient? That’s really cool and you have to imagine that someone who’s biking across the country for a cause, they didn’t talk about that and they wouldn’t stand out at work, you may or may not even know who they are but all of a sudden it’s like wow, they have a passion like they have a life and that’s what draws you to them and what you’re going to remember about them. That’s really great.

    So being that you’re in the younger generation, if you will, what’s your perspective on I guess, I kid when I speak to firms that the older generation acts like they don’t have anything outside of work, like all they do is work and then the younger generation never even talks about work, they overshare at work a little bit. So it’s like the older people don’t want to admit they have hobbies and then the younger generation doesn’t want to admit that they’re an accountants. Do you feel like there’s any, I don’t want to say tension, but any sort of difference between the people in the office?

    Patrick: As far as older versus younger?

    John: Yeah, or perspective of things?

    Patrick: I feel like the entire office is pretty in unison in enjoying their hobbies, sharing what they do at work, and there are a lot of the firm events outside of work for instance immediately after this podcast, we have a beginning of busy season happy hour. We’re meeting at Intuition, a brewery downtown here and getting together and probably going to dinner at places later than that when we split off.

    I feel like it’s a very young, I mean in Big Four naturally with the turnover, you generally have a pretty young crowd. My senior managers are younger than 35 but the partners feels like they’re just one of the guys, one of the girls. Just a friend, it’s not a hostile environment or any sort of environment in which you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing what you like to do or your passion.

    John: That’s awesome, man. That’s very cool. Yeah, it’s not intimidating. It’s not the partner in the corner. No, it’s Susie or it’s Ted or it’s whoever. It’s somebody with a first name that’s a real person with things that they had to do outside of work which is great, man, that’s where it’s at.

    I’d have to imagine that some of your friends or some of your peers whether it’s at the PwC or at other offices or other firms, sometimes are reluctant to share or well, I’m the only one who does this. I mean I’m sure with tutoring, you’re the only one so I imagine there’s a few of you so are there any words of encouragement to others about sharing your passions isn’t necessarily a bad thing?

    Patrick: I would say you have to be yourself because no matter who you are, people are going to like who you are if you’re genuine. You really just want to be yourself no matter where you are, at work, at home, any environment because it just makes you that much more likable. If people see someone who is kind of not internally consistent, doesn’t practice what they preach or doesn’t seem to make sense overall as a person because you’re hiding something about you, it just makes you standoffish, it just kind of makes people less interested in getting to know you.

    Whereas sharing what you do regardless of whether it’s out there, people like people with a personality. Some sort of uniqueness about them. I’m all about sharing anything I do. I don’t feel self-conscious about anything or worried about what people think of me because at the end of the day, I like who I am so there’s no reason anyone else would not.

    John: Right. No, I agree with you 100%, man because I mean yeah when you come across those people that are hiding something, you can tell they are. It’s not congruent with the rest of everything else in their life and so it just makes everything better. That’s great, man. It’s just really encouraging to hear things are going well and that the PWC office there really supports others doing as well which is really great, really great.

    Before we wrap this up, I do have my 17 rapid fire questions I’ll run you through.

    Patrick: Let’s do it.

    John: I’m going to fire this thing up here and all right, here we go. Here we go, all right. First one, when it comes to financials are you more balance sheet or income statement?

    Patrick: Income statement.

    John: Oh, okay. Do you have a favorite sports team?

    Patrick: People are going to hate me for saying this. The Warriors.

    John: Oh wow, Golden State. Okay, basketball.

    Patrick: Yeah, basketball. Golden state.

    John: All right. Do you have a favorite number?

    Patrick: 5.

    John: 5 and why is that?

    Patrick: Because it’s very easy to track in the number system you know, 5, 10, 15, 20.

    John: Right. There you go. And it’s a prime number, it’s all — yeah, it’s everything. Are you more Sudoku or crossword puzzle?

    Patrick: Sudoku.

    John: Okay. How about pens or pencils?

    Patrick: Pencils because I make mistakes.

    John: You make mistakes. Well, at least you admit it, man. That’s good. How about do you have a favorite color?

    Patrick: Blue.

    John: Blue, there you go. How about a least favorite color?

    Patrick: Oh, I don’t know. Orange.

    John: Orange, all right. Are you more Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Patrick: Star Wars.

    John: When it comes to computers, how about more of PC or a Mac?

    Patrick: PC.

    John: PC. Since you’re a PC, when it comes to your mouse, are you more right-click or left-click?

    Patrick: I’m more a left-click.

    John: Okay, making decisions. That’s where it’s at. How about do you have a favorite cereal?

    Patrick: Oh, I do. French Toast Crunch.

    John: Nice. I like it. Good answer, man. Good answer. Anything with sugar is a good answer. Are you more suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?

    Patrick: Jeans and a t-shirt, wearing that right now.

    John: Nice. Very cool, man. How about toilet paper roll, over or under?

    Patrick: Over.

    John: Over, yeah. Do you have a favorite band or musician?

    Patrick: That’s a good question. I feel like I like virtually every type of music except country.

    John: Okay. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?

    Patrick: A night owl, for sure out of the two.

    John: Yeah. Two more, two more. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?

    Patrick: Oh, I don’t think I do.

    John: Okay. The last one, favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Patrick: I say the coolest thing has to be my Oculus Rift virtual reality gaming system.

    John: Oh, wow. That’s awesome. That’s very cool. How long have you had that?

    Patrick: Had it since maybe half a year.

    John: That’s awesome, man. Very cool. Well, thanks so much, Patrick, for taking time to be with me on Green Apple Podcast. This was fantastic.

    Patrick: Absolutely. Glad to.

    John: Wow. That was so great. I loved how Patrick said, “People like people with a personality and some sort of uniqueness about them” because it’s your “and” that people like, not hearing more about your work.

    If you like to see more pictures of Patrick in action or connect with him on social media, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com and while you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey, takes about 60 seconds about firm culture. It will really help me out with the book I’m writing.

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