Episode 193 – Amanda Wilkie

Amanda is a consultant and hobby collector



After meeting John back in March, Amanda Wilkie was inspired to figure out what makes her a Green Apple. Through this, she discovered that she was a hobby collector. She has a passion for trying new things and learning new skills varying from motorcycle riding, inline skating, running, and more!

Amanda talks about this trait that has contributed to her success as a consultant in the technology space despite it being potentially seen as a symptom of a lack of focus.




Episode Highlights

• Taking the Strength Finder’s Assessment
• Why she feels collecting hobbies contributed to a successful career
• Talking about her hobbies at work
• What can happen if an organization doesn’t step to create an inspiring culture


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Amanda’s Pictures

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Amanda’s links



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    Hello, this is John Garrett and welcome to Episode 193 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 sharing it or even just being it, it makes them stand out like a green apple in a stereotypically boring red apple world. I’m always so fascinated how we usually try to stand out by talking about our technical expertise. We shine a light each week on someone who understands that expertise isn’t always earned in degrees and certifications. Sometimes it’s experiences from your passions outside of work that will make you better at your job, but only if you share them.

    Really quickly, I’m 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. So if you got just 60 seconds, please head to greenapplepodcast.com. Click that big green button there, answer a few quick questions. Again, it’s totally anonymous. I really appreciate the help for the book that I’m launching in the end of September, so I’m pretty excited about that.

    Thanks so much for everyone for subscribing to the show, so you don’t miss any of the cool guests like this week’s Amanda Wilkie. She’s a consultant with Boomer Technologies and before that was in a variety of CIO and IT consulting roles. Now she’s with me here today.

    Amanda, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Amanda: Oh, John, I am so excited to be here. I think the first time we talked back in March, you really threw me into this existential crisis. I’ve been trying to figure out what makes me a green apple.

    John: Oh, man.

    Amanda: My world’s been upside down since that first time that we talked. There’s a million things that make me unique and a million things that make me different, but I was really asking myself, what is it that I would want to share with people? What makes me that green apple? Honestly, I was listening to your episode with Alan Long.

    John: Oh, yeah. Yeah, really great. Harley rider, hunter, fisherman.

    Amanda: Not that any of it really surprised me because I know Alan, but I really enjoyed your conversation with him. I was thinking as I was listening to it, one of the things that few people know about me is that I have a motorcycle license as well.

    John: Sweet!

    Amanda: Yeah. I’ve got the helmet and the jacket and all the jazz that comes with it. But after going through the motorcycle training courses and getting my license, I never really cared to ride very much. So I’ve got this habit of collecting hobbies. So riding motorcycles is one. I took whitewater kayaking classes and did a lot of whitewater kayaking in Georgia for about 18 months, and then I got bored with that.

    John: I hope you make it at the end of this podcast because you’re going to get bored with me asking you questions.

    Amanda: I am. I’m going to check out here in just a few minutes. You have to do an email with the rest of the point. Throughout my life, it’s been just collecting new things and new experiences. Of course, when I was younger, it was a little bit more concerning. Not surprisingly, I was in the first computer club that my elementary school had. I think it was fourth grade. I did that for a year. I was in course for a year. I did Taekwondo for a couple of years. I think my mom was a little worried that nothing was really going to stick. It really wasn’t until I was an adult and I took the StrengthsFinder’s assessment, if you’re familiar with StrengthsFinder. The concept is there are really 34 different strengths that’s laid out in the book, and you take the assessment and it gives you your top five strengths. For me, it’s helped both as an individual and as a leader and a supervisor. It’s helped me understand my team strengths so that I could pair people accordingly and opposed to trying to fix someone’s weaknesses really play to their strengths. When I took this assessment, I wasn’t really surprised. My number one strength is learner. So I love the process of learning new things.

    I was so excited to call my mom. I was like, “Mom, it’s not that I lack focus. It’s not that I needed to apply myself. I just really love learning.” So I was able to reframe this pattern where I thought that I just wasn’t excited by a lot of things and things wouldn’t stick. I was able to reframe that as a strength and something that now I can leverage for good.

    John: Yeah, that’s awesome. I believe it’s Tom Rath wrote all the StrengthsFinder series. He wrote a really great book called Vital Friends that I’ll quote on occasion where he’s found a study, 92% of people that have three close friends at work are more satisfied with their lives, which is crazy, because the auditor in me just says immaterial difference, 100%. But, yeah, he’s got such great books and that StrengthsFinder series especially. That’s so awesome that you were able to do that and think that what was a liability — yeah, growing up, I take swim lessons, three lessons, and you’re like, “This sucks. I want to quit.” Your parents are like, “You can’t quit.” People always teach you that. You think that you have a problem or a liability of sorts, and come to find out it’s the opposite, it’s a strength, which is really cool. I have so many questions, but I forgot to just start with the rapid-fire questions.

    Amanda: Oh, man!

    John: I didn’t want to get because you said how I threw you into this tailspin months ago, like I feel bad. So I’d figured, why I start it in another tailspin. So if it’s okay, we’ll get to know Amanda super-fast and then we’ll jump into more because I want to know about those motorcycles and kayaking and stuff. But here we go. You got your seat belt? Are you ready?

    Amanda: Okay, I think I’m ready. Let’s go.

    John: Okay, I’ll start you out with a super easy ones. Favorite color.

    Amanda: Purple.

    John: Purple. Nice. Okay, how about a least favorite color?

    Amanda: That’s a hard one. Orange.

    Amanda: Orange. Okay. Yeah, that’s a pretty popular least favorite, actually. How about cats or dogs?

    Amanda: Cat.

    John: Oh, nice. Okay. All right. How about a favorite actor or actress?

    Amanda: Ooh, Kristen Bell.

    John: Oh, okay. Very good. Yeah. How about a favorite band or musician?

    Amanda: Ooh, that’s another tough one. See, this is where I put my consulting hat on.

    John: There could be a few. You could rattle them off.

    Amanda: Yeah, it depends. I really dig Meghan Trainor. When I need to get some girl power going, it’s definitely Meghan Trainor. So we’re going to go with her today.

    John: I like it. That’s great. How about a Sudoku or a crossword puzzle?

    Amanda: Neither.

    John: Neither. All right, fair enough.

    Amanda: I don’t have the patience.

    John: Right. If it was a two by two Sudoku, how about that?

    Amanda: That would work. I could do that.

    John: Yeah, how about a least favorite vegetable.

    Amanda: All of them.

    John: Nice. That is the correct answer.

    Amanda: I’d have to say green beans. We’ll go with green beans.

    John: Wow. Okay. All right. All right. When it comes to trilogy, Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Amanda: Star Wars.

    John: All right, and computers, PC or a Mac?

    Amanda: PC.

    John: Okay.

    Amanda: People are surprised, but yeah, I would go PC.

    John: And on your mouse, right click or left click?

    Amanda: Right click.

    John: Oh, okay. That’s where the snazzy stuff is.

    Amanda: Yeah, the shortcut.

    John: Right. How about prefer more hot or cold?

    Amanda: Hmm, hot.

    John: Okay. All right. Heels or flats.

    Amanda: Heels. Those are power shoes.

    John: Yeah, absolutely. We got five more, five more. When it comes to financials, balance sheet or income statement?

    Amanda: What’s the difference? I’m kidding. I’m kidding. Cash flow statement.

    John: If you could actually do one of those, then God bless you. You’re like, “Yeah, John, that’s how you do it. You do the reports, cash flow etc. That’s how you do it.”

    Amanda: Exactly. Let me call my accountant.

    John: Right. How about when you’re flying, because I know you travel a fair amount, window or aisle seat?

    Amanda: Oh, another it depends. Are there three seats, or is it just two seats in the aisle?

    John: Three seats.

    Amanda: Three, then aisle.

    John: Aisle. Okay. All right. How about a favorite number?

    Amanda: Seven.

    John: And why is that?

    Amanda: Why not?

    John: Yeah. I mean, it’s just the most popular answer. It’s my favorite number too, so that’s what I was just wondering. This is an important one. Toilet paper, roll over or under?

    Amanda: Always over. Look at the patent, it’s over. It’s not under.

    John: Right. And the last thing, the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Amanda: Oh, this is the one I spend a lot of time thinking about, John. How to be my cat?

    John: Oh, and is it a special kind of cat?

    Amanda: Just mine. That’s what makes it special.

    John: The Amanda worldview variety.

    Amanda: Yeah, I’ve had her about 14 years.

    John: Wow!

    Amanda: Yeah. So she and I have been through a lot. But also, I’m the only human the cat can really tolerate.

    John: Oh!

    Amanda: Yes. We have a special relationship. She just not like anyone else.

    John: That’s fantastic though, 14 years. That’s really cool. So you made it through. See, look at you. And we found out you’re a lifelong learner, collecting new hobbies. So let’s get into this. So what made you want to go take motorcycle racing classes?

    Amanda: Yeah, well, it was a like a motorcycle safety class so that I could then get my motorcycle license. It was actually a gift. It was a birthday gift from someone that I knew that enjoyed that hobby. I said, “Of course, I’ll try it out.” I tend to collect new hobbies when I move, I’ve moved kind of all up and down the East Coast. I mentioned whitewater kayaking, and there’s probably no better place — well, I’m going to stop myself because I’d be lying. Let’s just say the southeast has some amazing whitewater. I was living in Atlanta and took some classes at Georgia Tech and bought a kayak and practically lived in it for about a year.

    John: Wow. That’s fantastic. That’s like the helmet and the life jacket. You’re all in on that gear stuff.

    Amanda: Exactly. It was an investment, but it was a lot of fun.

    John: So you just have like a storage place with old gear of hobbies that you no longer do?

    Amanda: Oh, I did for a long time and even after I sold my kayak, I think my paddle moved with me twice. It was one of these things like, “What am I doing with this?” So I don’t know if I gave it away or donated it. But yeah, I collect the stuff that goes with all those hobbies as well.

    John: Right. No, no, I was just curious. It hit me, well, yeah, there’s a lot of gear here.

    Amanda: Oh, yeah.

    John: That’s really cool, though. They sound like the hobbies are more adventurous and active, would you say, or they’re somewhat the less daredevilish things that you like to do as well?

    Amanda: I’m an adrenaline junkie. So I actually went skydiving a couple of times, and then started doing the research about what it would take to do it on my own and do free fall. The more and more I looked into it, the more and more I was reminded that I’m getting older, and maybe I don’t have a death wish like I did when I was younger. So I decided not to explore that hobby. But to your point about all of the equipment, I think that maybe one of the reasons my hobbies as I have gotten older, they have become less adventurous and they’ve required less equipment. So now it’s like running. I love to run. I love to travel around and do races. I think it’s a great way to see us

    John: That’s funny, but really a good perspective on things as well. Just over time, things change. But collecting new hobbies is a thing. So do you feel like at all that this has given you a skill that you can bring to work? I know that you were talking about like the StrengthsFinder earlier. Do you feel like it makes you better at your job?

    Amanda: I think that’s the only thing that has made me successful at my job. So not surprisingly, it took me a few years and a few different tries in college to determine what I wanted to major in. That’s a different podcast.

    John: Because motorcycles wasn’t a major at the time?

    Amanda: Right. Yeah, my college didn’t really have a major in having a good time.

    John: Right. That’s so weird.

    Amanda: I know. That should be a thing, right, especially at that age. I fell into computer science, and technology changes so rapidly that I am constantly forced to learn new things and learn new technology. I think that that strength has been one of the drivers behind my career and all of the new things that I’ve learned and the opportunities that I’ve had, especially the last few years around emerging technology. I had a managing partner joke with me one time and ask how I became an expert in blockchain and he said, “Did you just read about it on Wikipedia?” He was joking, but I think he was a little surprised when I said, “Yeah, actually I did.”

    John: I watched Social Network, the Facebook movie.

    Amanda: Yeah.

    John: There’s got to be some other cool stuff that hasn’t been totally popularized. Whatever these Winklevoss twins, what are they doing now?

    Amanda: Yeah, what are they up to? I honestly use Wikipedia as a source, not Wikipedia itself. I scroll down to the bottom of the page where all of the citations are, and that’s a great place for me to start research. So a pro tip there for you.

    John: Yeah, good to know. How do things like this come up at work? Whether it’s the Bitcoin or it’s these hobbies and things like this, how does that conversation happen? Because I know a lot of times when I speak to people, they’re like, “Well, I don’t really know how to do it.” I’m like, “Well, you’re a person and so is everyone else.” But it’s not that easy in the office. For some people, they feel pressure to conform or whatever.

    Amanda: Before the StrengthsFinder’s assessment, I didn’t open with, “Hey, I’ve got 50 different hobbies that I kind of fall in and fall out of.” And then I also don’t lead with the “Hey, I get really bored very easily.”

    John: Save that for the interview, Amanda.

    Amanda: Exactly. I just think you should know, I’m not going to be around very long. But now I am able to refocus it as a stream and show people, hey, I get really excited about learning new things. So as new technology comes out, I can guarantee that I’m going to be on top of it, and I’m going to be curious about it. I’m always open to learning new things. So it allowed me to really reframe it as a positive for sure.

    John: That’s great. So before it obviously don’t lead with that, but at some point, it comes up. Was it more within a circle of people that you had developed some trust with, people you were working with regularly or things like that?

    Amanda: Yeah, usually it was very close friends, I would share, yeah, I’ve got kayaking class tonight, or this weekend is my motorcycle safety course, or one of the things when I lived in Atlanta as well was inline skating. I used to skate 40 to 50 miles a week. That was a lot of fun. So those kind of things would come up, but I was never able to really share the passion behind it of, hey, I’m very excited that I get this new opportunity to learn something new or try something new.

    I do a lot of speaking now and it’s primarily on emerging technologies and technology in general in the public accounting profession. But now, give me a new topic. I’ve been talking about blockchain for five or six years now. I still love that topic, but now seeing more about RPA and process automation and the convergence of process and technology in general, those things get me excited. So anytime someone says, “Hey, we’re looking for a speaker,” I don’t think about the content that I necessarily already have developed but I ask, “What do you want to know about?” because that’s an opportunity for me to learn about something new as well.

    John: Yeah, that’s pretty huge. I love how now you’re able to share the passion behind it because I think when people talk about things in a work setting, a corporate setting, what have you, that emotion is void, all emotion — happiness, sadness. We’re just automatons sort of a thing. So it’s important to know that if someone shares something with you, then that’s probably a passion by default whether they are allowed to be excited about it or not. But now that you’re able to show that, and especially when you’re speaking, that’s the thing that I think that most speakers forget about, especially in this industry world, is the passion and why are you telling me this? This isn’t a lecture for credits in college. You’re actually up there for a reason. So sharing that passion and how you want me to feel as an audience member is huge. So that’s really cool that you were able to harness that, and that’s exciting to hear.

    Amanda: Yeah, and I love sharing it with folks because I think there are a lot of people out there, as you mentioned earlier, who they feel shut down and they feel like some of these passions, some of these hobbies can be considered a detriment when actually I think that any of these can be reframed as a positive and as a strength. We should be looking for those strengths in other people and maximizing those strengths, not necessarily looking for opportunities to fix or eliminate weaknesses.

    John: Yeah. Wow, that was so perfect. Can you just tell everyone that? That was amazing. That’s exactly it. I always came up thinking, oh, well, these are distractions, or there isn’t a charge code for that, so why are you even thinking about it at work and whatever. Come to find out that they’re not distractions at all, they’re enhancers. At the very least, it humanizes you and makes you relatable. But in your case, it straight up gives you skills that you bring to the work and that’s awesome.

    Amanda: Yeah, and I think we see that within our profession, especially when it comes to technology. You mentioned there’s not a charge code for our hobbies and for our passions. Well, a lot of times, implementing new technology, even though there’s a return on that investment, sometimes there’s not an immediate return, so people see it as it’s going to be a detriment to me this year. They’re not looking long term. They’re not looking at it as an investment of time and an investment of learning so that you can get full ROI in years to come. I think we need to change that stigma as well. We need to give individuals a little bit of space to try new things, to be innovative, to try new tools. And they need that support to do that.

    John: And so how much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create a culture where not only is it okay to share your passions but it’s encouraged versus how much is it on the individual to either be a part of that or to create their own little small circle and a place that maybe doesn’t encourage it?

    Amanda: I think that if the organization doesn’t create that culture, then the individuals, they’re going to find that somewhere. The challenge is finding it internally when it’s not part of the culture. So the organization really runs the risk of losing that passion and losing that innovation from the individuals on their team if they don’t have a culture that’s going to foster it.

    John: I agree, because it’s going to happen. Why don’t you build the sandbox for them and let them play instead of them just going rogue and it just becomes crazy, and then the culture becomes — I mean, who knows what it becomes, like a Frankenstein of sorts. That was very well put. I guess, do you have any words of encouragement for people that are listening that maybe some barriers that they can overcome and the StrengthsFinder type of thing that you experienced?

    Amanda: Specifically, I would recommend the the StrengthsFinder’s assessment. One of the things that I love about it is that you can buy the book. You don’t really need someone to facilitate the findings of it. It’s very enlightening. I’ve had teams that I’ve managed in the past, I’ve had everyone take that assessment. But I would also encourage people to find their tribe. Hopefully, that is in their organization, but if they don’t have that support from within or if they need some additional support, they can always augment that community by finding their tribe, finding some like-minded folks who share their passion, who support their passion as well. I think the worst thing you can do is try to stifle it and put it in a box. That’s not good. It’s not healthy for anyone.

    John: Yeah, not only organization stifling, but you as an individual trying to stifle it because it’s always there. It’s interesting. No matter what company you worked for, what position you had within those companies, this collecting new hobbies was always there. It was always a thing. So that’s your anchor. If you try to hide that and push it aside, and then you have nothing to stand on really because everything else is constantly changing. That’s an excellent point. Really great.

    So it’s only fair that I offer you the opportunity to put me into a tailspin for several months by rapid-fire questioning me. If you had any questions to fire away on, I’m all yours. Here we go.

    Amanda: Okay, let’s start with favorite day of the week.

    John: They’re all Saturdays to me. Like honestly, I don’t even know. It’s hysterical when I talk to people that I have corporate jobs, and I forget what day it is, like I really do. So yeah, it’s a good and a bad thing at the same time.

    Amanda: See, that was a consultant answer.

    John: It depends. It depends. No, I actually if every day were Saturday, I’d be watching college football every day. So that would be magical.

    Amanda: That would be your happy place?

    John: Yeah. Oh, yeah, for sure.

    Amanda: Okay, couple more. Favorite airport.

    John: Oh, that’s a great question. Favorite airport. I got a least favorite airport, and I’m looking at you, Charlotte, because no matter where you land, you have to crisscross through the food court. Everyone’s got bags and we’re all playing this game of chicken and it’s like, ah, that’s the worst. I know that wasn’t your question, but there’s your answer. I’m partial to Denver just because I live here and they have clear, so I’m able to skip the TSA pre — I pay for clear, so I don’t even have to pull out my wallet or an ID or take my shoes off. I just go through the airport.

    Amanda: They just see you coming and they say, “Here comes John Garrett. Let him by.”

    John: Pretty much. Then the bugle starts playing, and there’s a red carpet out of nowhere. Yeah, I’m partial to Denver.

    Amanda: I’d have to say my favorite is probably Atlanta. If I have to be laid over anywhere, I can spend some time in Atlanta.

    John: Yeah. Well, just getting anywhere in that airport is going to take some time.

    Amanda: Exactly. And here’s what I did prepare for, but you didn’t ask me. So tell me, favorite ice cream?

    John: Oh, favorite ice cream. Yeah, cookie dough, chocolate chip cookie dough, for sure, or like brownie chunks or ice cream with stuff in it that you have to chew, I’m a fan of that, for sure. Plus, it really amps up the calories all in one thing.

    Amanda: That’s what you’re going for? The nutritional value of the ice cream?

    John: Exactly, exactly. So no, but this has been so fun, Amanda. Thanks so much for taking time to be with me on the Green Apple Podcast.

    Amanda: My pleasure, for sure.

    John: Wow, that was really, really great. And if you’d like to see some pictures of Amanda doing all sorts of hobbies or connect with her on social media, she’s all over LinkedIn, for sure, be sure to go to greenapplepodcast.com. All the links are there. And while you’re on the page, please click that big green button, and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. So 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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