Episode 175 – Sue McFadden

Sue is an accountant and sidecar monkey



Sue McFadden talks to John about her adrenaline fueled passion of racing motorcycles and being a sidecar monkey and how it affects the way she is viewed by her colleagues in the workplace when they learn about this passion.

Sue is a Finance Manager at Lutherwood in Kitchener, Canada, and has an education with Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada).


Episode Highlights

• How Sue got into racing motorcycles
• How racing motorcycles can relate to her work as an accountant
• Talking about racing motorcycles in the workplace and how it affects her colleagues’ view of her
• Differences between colleagues at work and when racing motorcycles
• The stereotypes of accountant and how they can be self-inflicted
• Why she feels it is default to not share your passion in the workplace and how it affects who she chooses to share it with


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    Hello. This is John Garrett. Welcome to Episode 175 of the Green Apple Podcast where each Wednesday, I interview a professional who just like me is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. Just by being themselves they stand out like a green apple in a kind of boring red apple world. I’m always so fascinated how we usually try to stand out with our technical expertise. I’m here to shine a light each week on someone who understands that expertise isn’t always earned in degrees and certifications. Sometimes it’s your experiences from those passions outside of work that actually make you better at your job but only if you share them.

    Really quickly, I’m also doing some research. It’s a super short one-minute anonymous survey about Corporate Culture and how the green apple message might apply in your world. If you’ve got just 60 seconds, please head to greenapplepodcast.com. Click on the big green button there. Answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous. It’ll help me out for the book that’s launching soon. Thanks so much to everyone for subscribing to the show so you don’t miss any of my cool guests like this week’s Sue McFadden. She’s a finance manager at Lutherwood in Kitchener, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. We’re going international here, Sue. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me today on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Sue: Thank you for having me.

    John: Oh, I’m so excited to have you on. I know we chatted after the CPA Ontario conference a couple of months ago. It was so fun. I’m so excited that you’re going to be on here talking about some crazy cool stuff. Before we get into that, we have my 17 rapid-fire questions I like to run everybody. If you’ve got seatbelt, buckle up. Here we go. Got some good ones for you. I guess we’ll start you out with an easy though. What’s your favorite color?

    Sue: Green.

    John: Green. Nice. How about a least favorite color?

    Sue: Pink.

    John: Pink. Interesting. Okay. All right. How about do you have a favorite actor or actress?

    Sue: Not really actually.

    John: All right. Fair enough. How about more pens or pencils?

    Sue: Definitely pens.

    John: Definitely pens. There you go.

    Sue: Crayola markers are the best though.

    John: Oh, wow. Okay. Yeah. You don’t get that answer every day. How about would you say more oceans or mountains?

    Sue: Oh, gosh. Can you combine the two and you have some water going between the mountains?

    John: Oh, wow. Now you’re getting picky but I like it. That’s a good picture. I like it. How about more Sudoku or crossword puzzles?

    Sue: I really like puzzles but I’d probably lean towards Sudoku.

    John: Okay. All right. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Sue: Definitely Star Wars.

    John: There you go. On your mouse, would you say you’re more right click or left click?

    Sue: Scroll, scroll button, in the middle.

    John: Scroll. The wheel in the middle. That’s a good answer. The first time I’ve ever had that. A 175 episodes, scroll. Nice. How about more diamonds or pearls?

    Sue: I’d probably lean towards diamonds.

    John: Okay. All right. How about would you say you’re more chocolate or vanilla?

    Sue: Oh, vanilla.

    John: Oh, all right. When it comes to financials, balance sheet or income statement?

    Sue: I deal with a lot of both but I’m going to say income statement just because.

    John: Just because, right. Just right there, the number at the bottom. Boom. We’re done.

    Sue: Done. Easy. Yes.

    John: That’s right. Exactly. I got four more. More cats or dogs?

    Sue: Dogs.

    John: Okay. Do you have a favorite number?

    Sue: 2014.

    John: Okay. Why is that?

    Sue: It’s a long and complicated story. We’ll go with the other favorite number is 901 which is my race number.

    John: Okay. All right. Do you have a favorite TV show of all time?

    Sue: No. Definitely none. There’s too much on Netflix to watch so.

    John: Oh, Netflix counts. You watch it on your TV I’m sure.

    Sue: Yeah. I don’t have a favorite, that’s for sure.

    John: There’s not like one.

    Sue: No.

    John: So would you say Netflix, like just that’s it. All right. The last one, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have.

    Sue: Probably my bikes.

    John: Oh, yeah. That’s a solid answer. That’s a solid answer right there. I mean, talking about the bikes and I guess, how did you get into the motorcycle racing to begin with?

    Sue: So I’ve always ridden motorcycles. I’ve always loved them. There was nobody really in my family that I knew of that had a bike. It was just something I always loved. So, I’ve had my license, street license since I was about 20. When I was in my 30s, I went with friends to go watch a race and I was like, “Oh yes. I need to do this.” I just made some friends and started talking to people and figured out a way to make it happen.

    John: That’s really cool. Where was this race? Is it just like in a back alley somewhere or on a kind of race track?

    Sue: It was on the street. There were lots of cops involved, you know.

    John: Right. Exactly. Those are what criminals do, that’s what that is. That was a movie shoot. What are you doing?

    Sue: Well, I mean, there’s tracks all over Ontario, Canada whenever everywhere but there was a little one in Grand Bend so that was the first one I went to watch.

    John: Nice.

    Sue: Yeah. It’s a small beach town. It was really fun. It was a great weekend.

    John: That’s awesome. Then, where was your first race?

    Sue: Back up, you can’t just start racing. You have to get some kind of training with anything else —

    John: Oh, really? I thought you just like get on the bike and go.

    Sue: No. Well, I took a school, right. I actually took a few schools. There is a racing school up in Shannonville, Ontario that I took the first level one school which I would recommend to any motorcycle rider because it’s just so ridiculously fun. It’s good just for street riding too, just gives you a kind of an edge, some extra skills. Then, I also took with the club that I’m in, the Vintage Road Racing Association. They also have a school so I took that one as well just you know, for fun, get to know the people, part of the club. It was good times.

    John: That’s great. Then, after you take several lessons then it’s time for the first race?

    Sue: Yeah. There’s different speeds obviously. There’s different bikes. The club that I’m with happens to be vintage motorcycles so I would say that they don’t feel or seem quite as ridiculous as if you go out there and watch CSBK Superbike or anything like that but it’s still pretty fast. It’s still pretty crazy. You can’t really practice, right. It’s not like you can go on the street and practice.

    John: Right.

    Sue: You could but then that’s when “call cops” thing comes up.

    John: Right. Well, you’ll be in jail when the race happens. Then, it defeats the whole purpose.

    Sue: Yeah. I just took it easy. There are practice rounds right before the race so you get lots of practice in and you get comfortable and then you just go. You do it, right. Everyone on the track knows that you’re learning because you wear a vest and so you just kind of work your way up into whatever speed you can get to.

    John: That’s really great. In that first race, it’s not like a bunch of newbie, you’re racing against some veterans.

    Sue: Yeah. Totally. Absolutely. In our club, there’s definitely some people that are real racers back in their day and they’re just, you know, they’re a bit older and they’re coming back out to continue doing what they love.

    John: That’s neat. Very cool. Do you have any like memories from this or a race that really stands out to you as being really important?

    Sue: Gosh. Honestly, the first year, I was just talking to somebody about this the other day. I don’t think I finished a practice or a race my first year. I had bike issues. I had knee issues, like I just didn’t come together, right. The second year, it kind of — actually, maybe it’s on the third year, I got a different bike. I learned that what I was riding, although it was lovely to ride, my husband will shoot me, wasn’t what I needed to do. I got a better bike for me and then I started having more fun.

    It’s led to so much. Oh my gosh. One of the gentlemen in the club asked if I would ever be interested in monkeying on a sidecar. I said, “Yes. Yes, I would be.” Why wouldn’t you want to do that?

    John: I know what a sidecar is, that’s a little piece that sticks on the side of a motorcycle, like in the cartoons, there’s always the sidekick that’s right there, right? Monkeying, is that just the term for riding along?

    Sue: Yeah. It’s pretty physical though like you’re kind of that, I don’t know if the right term is balance but you’re kind of that weight between around corners so you have to move, right. Depending on which way you’re going, you’re moving to one side of the back, kind of the back wheel of the bike where you’re going over on the other side and sticking your body out as far as you can to try to make sure that bike sticks to the pavement.

    John: Wow. Yeah. That’s not just like tagging along to see what the ride is like. That’s being actively involved.

    Sue: Yeah. It’s pretty cool. Also from that, my driver, his name is Mike Vinten. He took me down to Loudon once which is down there in the States somewhere. I apologize I can’t remember where but we went there. We went on his sidecar and it was awesome but then I had the opportunity to hop on an F1 rig which is a much faster, more modern sidecar.

    That was also super cool. I think we even placed that weekend with very first time in it. Somebody just showed me what to do because the first time out, I was really, really bad at it. She gave me some pointers and I got back out there and I think we placed like second or something like that for the weekend.

    John: Congrats. That’s awesome.

    Sue: It was really cool. Yeah. I got to meet a whole bunch of new people. It was pretty awesome. It’s a whole other community.

    John: Yeah. So you still do both?

    Sue: Yeah, race with two wheels and definitely still with the three wheels.

    John: Yeah. Then, I guess have you ever been interested in driving the sidecar one?

    Sue: I just said that to my driver the other weekend or the last time we were out. I was like, “Yeah. So I’m going to have to try this maybe next year. I should try driving.”

    John: Right. Yeah. Let’s just switch it up here. Why not?

    Sue: Yeah, totally.

    John: It’s only fair.

    Sue: Yeah.

    John: No, that’s very cool.

    That’s just fantastic how out of nowhere you get this passion for motorcycles and then it turns into racing and then it turns into, you know, placing as the sidecar monkey person which is great. I don’t know if that’s the official title but it is now.

    Sue: I like it. We can go with that.

    John: Right. Do you feel like any of these translates to work at all?

    Sue: Yeah. There’s some really tangible things like the fact that — and people probably won’t like me saying this, but it’s a bunch of vintage bikes and I deal with a bunch of perhaps more vintage people with the vintage bikes. At work, currently, I’m dealing with the retirement side of our business. It kind of does relate but what else? I’ve personally also had to deal with some pretty interesting situations where I’ve used some calming and diffusing techniques not with anyone at the track who is part of the club but just with people outside of that because I volunteered on the board with the club and did a bunch of other work with them. Actually, you know what else really did now that I’m thinking about it, just presenting the financials at the board’s meeting for the club, that totally relates to what I’m doing at work. It’s like a practice, right, practice to get up there and do my thing that I have to do.

    John: Yeah. The only difference is you don’t have to wear a vest in this practice.

    Sue: I’m long out of the vest. The vest has been thrown, cast aside.

    John: I feel like I’d be in a vest for probably seven years, like, “I’m bad at this. Don’t worry.” Like I would get one lap and be like, “All right, you know what, this is crazy. I’ll come back next time.”

    Sue: It’s so funny so many people with the sidecar monkey thing, there’s a lot of people that want to try it and being one of those things that you get on and you do it and it’s really hard at first and it just gets easier and easier and easier as you do it. Some people, they get on and they try and they get off and they say, “Never again.” Then other people get on and go, “Oh, yeah. I want to learn this. I want to do this. This is what I want to do.”

    John: Yeah. I’m sure that that translates to work as well. When we graduate school or you know, whatever, start a new job. That’s hard because we’re doing something completely different.

    Sue: That motto always goes to my head, “Work hard, play hard.” That’s kind of like different points in my life, that’s how it’d feel like. I’ve kind of had to live all the time as you’re working really hard, you’re playing really hard and you’re doing some crazy things. It’s fun.

    John: That’s really fantastic. Is there something that you talk about at work?

    Sue: I do talk about the motorcycle racing. Usually, when I find out somebody has an interest in bikes, that’s a pretty good excuse to start talking about it. Yeah. I think people view me differently once they know that because I’m a pretty soft-spoken, short, smallish person and once they kind of figure out what I do, they kind of view me a bit differently. I actually had my boss said to me once, “You’re really easy going, really casual person but you just have this core of steel.” I really, really liked that analogy because I feel like that core of steel kind of helps me get through a lot in work and school and what I do outside of work.

    John: Yeah. You’ve stared down some crazy, you know, it’s just like, “Yeah. I fly down the road on a motorcycle or in these sidecars. I’m doing all this.” It’s like, you know, “Whatever you throw at me in the office can’t be any more challenging than that.”

    Sue: Yeah. I can do this. I’ve got everything basically. That’s the way it feels, right.

    John: Yeah. That’s fantastic. At work, is it typically, you just find out someone has an interest in motorcycles, that just makes it a whole lot easier to open up that conversation. Like, “Oh, I know something,” and then they are, “Yeah, whatever.” You’re like, “Well, oh, okay.” Maybe, “I have problem with my bike, can you come and look at it, Sue?”

    Sue: I can fix one. Yeah.

    John: Yeah. Exactly. I know somebody who can do that for you.

    Sue: I got a guy.

    John: Oh, I got a guy. Yeah, there you go. Yeah. It just seems like a lot of people, you know, they just think, you know, “Oh well, motorcycle racing has nothing to do with my job as an accountant or a lawyer or consultant or engineer, whatever.” But it clearly does and so do you have any pointers for people that are maybe on the fence to like, “Well, I don’t know if I should bring it up?”

    Sue: I don’t know. I feel like this particular hobby, I mean, I’ve had other hobbies in the past that I haven’t talked about and haven’t wanted to but this one in particular I just feel like, if people know what you do, then they — it’s exactly why I’m on this podcast, right. If people know what you do, they look at you a little bit differently. They change their attitude about you like it just changes people’s perceptions. If you’re at work and you tell somebody, “Hey, I like to jump out of airplanes on the side.” I actually know somebody that does that. Changes how you view them and it’s for the better.

    John: Yeah, because I would just imagine that people just get to know like who you are and then they see that core of steel all of a sudden because they’re looking at you through a different lens.

    Sue: Exactly. That different lens is the key.

    John: Yeah. That’s really fantastic.

    Do you feel like those relationships with your colleagues where you are talking about bikes is a little bit different than the other colleagues that you just work around?

    Sue: For sure. Obviously like my core team that I’m in, they get to know me a lot closer but they’re also the ones that know all the things that I do. Anytime we have a new person start, if I catch that they’re interested in motorcycles or that they have any inkling towards anything like that, I share my story. I think it does immediately change how they view me. Whereas other people that I don’t share that story to, they still just see me as the boring accountant. People have that stigma against accountants in general, right. We’re kind of boring. We’re kind of like just — yeah, we don’t do anything. We’re not fun.

    John: Or super risk averse.

    Sue: Yeah.

    John: Like we would never go on a motorcycle. Are we crazy?

    Sue: You’re all wrong.

    John: Right. No, exactly. They are wrong. The thing that frustrates me the most personally is the people that believe that more than anyone else are accountants themselves. That’s what drives me crazy. Everyone is like, “Well, you know, we’re just accountants.” Like, “Hey, Eeyore, slow down, buddy. Go over there and be an engineer or something. We’re not like that. Go be an actuary.” Like, those are the real nerds. No, no, just — I don’t know. But it’s not true.

    Sue: Actually, I’m so, so lucky I work in an office full of people who have interesting careers and we’ve had people actually say to us, “You guys aren’t the typical accountant.” I’m prideful of that. I think that that’s awesome that most of us in the office are not that typical accountant personality. We all do some pretty cool fun things.

    John: Yeah. The thing that’s interesting to me is as if you have an office full of people that are “not the typical accountant.” Maybe it’s possible the definition of typical accountant is wrong. Maybe the typical accountant is you and they people in your office.

    Sue: Don’t share that though because then it’s going to change how cool I feel.

    John: Right. Well, no, I’m just saying like, you’re the one sharing it though. We just need more people sharing that because all of a sudden if it becomes, “Hey wait,” like on the research that I’m doing, I fine that 92% of people that are professionals that have done the survey and it’s almost a thousand people now, 92% have a passion or an interest they regularly do outside of work. So that means that that’s the norm by far. The auditor in me calls the rest immaterial difference so let’s just say a 100%. Why do you think it is that our default mode is to not share?

    Sue: It’s not safe and most people have to be in a safe place to share, correct? If you don’t feel safe, you’re not going to share that. Like I said earlier, I share it with my immediate team but I don’t go out and tell everybody what I do. I don’t go out, you know, just walk up to a random co-worker and say, “Hey. I race bikes.”

    John: Right. Exactly. Yeah, because then you’re a crazy person. I imagine that word spreads, I mean, when you saw me speak at the CPA Ontario event, that conference, I mean, you heard about me. There was a guy that I never met and he remembered me because I’d like to do stand-up comedy at night and it’s like sure that there are people that have worked in organizations where you’ve been that know about you that they’ve never met you. The cool thing is that people remember that. They’ll remember like, “Was that the lady that does the motorcycle stuff?” “Yeah, that’s her.” As opposed to the one that’s really good at Excel. It’s like, “Well, we’ve got an office full of them.” Like, they’re all good at Excel. Like, what are you talking about?

    That’s fantastic though. It’s really great that you’re so open with it and that I guess people are so receptive. Do you feel like it’s something where you just kind of tiptoed in to the shallow end and then as people are more receptive, they gave you more confidence to share?

    Sue: For sure. Like I said, I don’t just walk up to people and tell them that I like motorcycles and race them but you do start a conversation. I have started conversations with, “Hey, do you like motorcycles?” Just to ask. Then, sometimes you get me going and I just could run my mouth off and non-stop talk about the adrenaline rush and how fun it is and just all aspects that I’ve experienced. But no, generally, it’s a soft start, “Hey, do you like bikes?”

    John: That’s cool because as you’re telling them that story, that energy that you feel, it’s infectious. They feel it as well. I imagine, going on a limb here but talking about financials at work or your accounting job as a finance manager does not get you that same level of adrenaline rush, I would imagine.

    Sue: The most fun we have is creating new program names within the five-digit code.

    John: Look, whoa, you’re getting a little crazy. We’re going to have to put somebody in a vest right now. You guys got to slow down. You’re new at this. That’s fantastic. That’s really cool. That’s really cool though that you work in such a place that has that kind of culture. Are there certain things that — I loved how you referred to it earlier, just feeling safe at a place where you can share. Is there something that happen specifically there that maybe others listening can bring to their office or is it just kind of top-down approach?

    Sue: Gosh. We actually work really, really hard at our culture and I would say that’s something that I’ve also been there a long time. Lutherwood works very hard at ensuring that they have a great culture and that people do feel safe and valued and have the right work-life balance for them. I’ve been there for 12 years. I really like the team that we’ve built and the team, the people that are there and that we have. It’s pretty great.

    John: Yeah, because I imagine you’re interviewing people not necessarily totally on skillsets.

    Sue: Definitely on the fit, right? The fit for each team. I’ve said this to other people before. We have mostly, another stereotypical accounting thing, we have a mostly full office of females and not a single one of them is a catty female. We’re all pretty easy going and laid back. It’s pretty awesome.

    John: Yeah. That’s fantastic. Have you come across others that want to get into the motorcycle racing or people just love hearing the stories and living vicariously through you?

    Sue: I’ve been trying. Let me tell you, I try.

    John: Right. They could be your sidecar monkey person. Come on, now.

    Sue: Do what? I actually tried to recruit people to be monkeys all the time. Yeah.

    John: I feel like at the end of this, it’s going to be, “Hey, John, what are you doing next Thursday?”

    Sue: Well, I did have a question for you.

    John: Okay. All right. We can get into that. You want to turn the tables and rapid-fire question me?

    Sue: I was actually more just curious of all the hobbies that you’ve heard on your podcast, what is the one that you have either tried or want to try? Like, let’s go in.

    John: Okay. Certainly it would be fun to — I would probably be better at the sidecar monkey person just because I don’t have to drive. I can lean, like I’m good at that. I think that would be really fun. I would have to really, really trust the person driving. We could do it. I think that would be really fun. Driving race cars, that’s always fun. You get to legally fly down the road in a somewhat safe environment.

    Sue: Controlled environments.

    John: Yeah. That’s pretty cool. They’re always so fascinating. Some of the ones even like I had MB Raimondi on talking about making stained glass. I’m like, “Wow. That’s just fascinating. I’ve never even thought about how to make stained glass but that’s like hard. That takes a lot of work and skill. I don’t know. I wish I could sing but I’m really not that great at it but although I’ve been told that some lessons would teach me how to be better at that. I don’t know. Maybe we should just combine them all and I’ll just sing while we’re doing the motorcycle racing and I’m painting at the same time.

    Sue: Yeah. Probably because the stained glass thing would be really hard with the bike shaking.

    John: Yeah. I guess that’s true. I guess that’s true but anything going fast would be something I would totally love to do. That would be really fun.

    Sue: I have one more, one. I was curious if you’ve noticed any similarities between all of your Green Apple Podcast guests, like you said earlier, 92% of the people surveyed have some kind of hobby. Does everyone seem to like the same color or the same number or?

    John: Yeah. Favorite number seven comes up a lot. That one definitely comes up a lot. Yeah. Typically, their favorite thing they own or favorite thing they have, if it’s not family, you know, they have children or you know whatever, then it’s related to their passion. Their favorite thing is never their 10-key or their desk chair or anything work related. It’s never that which is really fascinating. I never thought about that until you just asked but you know, your favorite thing is never something work related. It’s not your job. I got this really great penholder in the office. No, it’s not that. It’s your bikes or whatever it is. It’s always the passion, something about that which is really fascinating.

    Sue: I do really like my chair and my desk at work though.

    John: Yeah. But not more than your bike, huh?

    Sue: Definitely not more. It’s a different chair.

    John: Exactly. A different seat entirely. Yeah. Absolutely. To wrap this up, do you have any words of encouragement for people listening that maybe think that sharing their passion is scary, because it is, but you know, for people that have made it to the other side, to let them know?

    Sue: Well, I kind of like the work hard, play hard thing and go crazy. People think what I do is crazy. I get told that a lot. You know what, I’m so over it. It is crazy and it’s just freaking fun so just do it and soak it up.

    John: I love it. What’s crazier is going to work every day and not having a passion outside of work, I think that’s crazier. That’s totally crazy, just living everything for work. I love it. I think it’s fantastic. Keep up the good work. Thank you so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Sue: Thank you for having me. It was fun.

    John: That was really fantastic. If you’d like to see some pictures of Sue on her motorcycles or outside of work, connect with her on social media. You can go to greenapplepodcast.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big green button and do the anonymous research survey about Corporate Culture.

    Thanks again for subscribing to the show and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread which is to go out and be a green apple.


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