Episode 4 – Andrew McArthur


Andrew homebrews stronger bonds with coworkers

 

Andrew McArthur talks about how his homebrewing and air guitar competitions create stronger bonds with coworkers. Though he stresses it isn’t important to have a “cool” hobby — you should share no matter what your hobby or passion is.

I’ve known Andrew since my first day at PwC. He now works in Investment Risk Management at an Asset Management Firm in Denver, CO. In this episode, we talk about our first training at PwC, moving into the Internal Audit side shortly thereafter and how an accounting degree can lead to a diverse career path — many times not even doing traditional accounting at all.

Andrew graduated from UCLA with a major in Business Economics and a minor in Accounting. After 5 years with PwC in their advisory services division, focusing on Risk and Controls projects, Andrew made the move to an asset management firm where he has been working in various roles over the past 12 years.

He still has his active CPA license, although his career has gone many directions other than accounting.

 

Other pictures of Andrew

(click to enlarge)

Andrew pours grains into the mash tun for his latest home brew beer.

Andrew wins this U.S. Air Guitar Competition.

 

Transcript

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    John: Welcome to Episode 4 of the Green Apple Podcast. Thank you so much for listening and tuning in. The numbers last week were through the roof so I really appreciate you guys sharing this with all of your friends. And my guest today is going to be just as good. He’s a guy I’ve known since my first day at PricewaterhouseCoopers right out of college.

    Andrew McArthur is a great guy. He now works in Investment Risk Management at an Asset Management Firm in Denver, Colorado. He graduated from UCLA and later passed the CPA exam. And we talk about how back in the day when we both started at PricewaterhouseCoopers at the same time, moved into the internal audit side shortly thereafter and how something small that they talked about during training, at our very first training, has stuck with Andrew and how that has paid dividends long-term for him even today.

    So thanks for being on the show, Andrew, let’s get started with you telling everyone what Investment Risk Management is.

    Andrew: Yeah. So currently I’m working at an Asset Management firm, I’m in the Investment Risk area so basically that means that I support and have oversight of the portfolio managers and the investment teams as they manage the mutual funds. So I kind of have a job of overseeing the risks that they’re taking, helping to communicate that to management as well as kind of coming alongside them to help them understand risks, maybe unintentional risks, that they’re taking the portfolios. So it’s kind of not just an oversight, like an internal auditor and so forth, but it’s also to kind of be a value add to the portfolio teams and help them in their process of kind of construction portfolios.

    So it’s really interesting, yeah. I’ve just been doing it for a couple of years now so it’s still a huge learning curve but it’s a really cool, coo job.

    John: Yeah, that sounds really cool. And actually, Andrew and I, we go back to 1998, the fall of ’98, I believe, when we started with PricewaterhouseCoopers and we’re running around Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa. It feels like yesterday. But one question that I never asked you in all the times that we hung out is how did you get into accounting?

    Andrew: It’s probably actually sad when I tell people that like from my earliest childhood, the first thing that I remember wanting to be is an accountant and it’s true. I’m sure you remember taking those assessment tests, like in middle school, that talk about your personality and what would be a good job fit. And like ever since I remember taking that, maybe in 6th or 7th Grade and having it come back as an accountant and then all the kids point at you and making fun of you like one of those scenes out of a movie.

    So I mean I was on that track from elementary school, middle school, whatever, I was on the accounting track, man. And like in high school I was taking accounting courses and in college I was focused all the way. From my first day at college I focused on getting in to one of the Big Four accounting firms, Big Six at the time, of course. So it really goes back the whole way along I was into that.

    And what is funny then is as you were mentioning that training we were at together, it’s funny because I got off track from accounting basically before I even started my first day at that training, our new hired training, because I got hired on at the Big Six firms, I was on track for my accounting dreams and as you remember, they came to us probably a month before we started and said, “Hey, we have this new program we want to start, you can try out different parts of the firm and see what you’re interested in.” And so I was like, “Sure”, I didn’t know what I was doing, but basically at that moment it got me off track of accounting and I have never really done accounting.

    I got my CPA out of college because I knew that was the thing to do and that’s what I was planning to do with my career, but yeah, even before I stepped in the door our first day at training, by joining that program it got me off track because these other parts of the firm really weren’t accounting-oriented. They kind of got you off, like the group I ended up joining was more around internal controls and risks and so forth and so I didn’t go down the audit path that I always thought I would which would have gotten me kind of on the accounting track.

    John: Yeah, the 6th Grade Andrew is so disappointed in you.

    Andrew: Yeah, that’s funny, though. Looking back, that definitely how life works though, you have all your plans and then just one little thing that were mostly random to people, of the six firms I chose, I chose the one and then they offered me to be in this group and it was the first year they were even doing that program.

    John: Yeah, we were the guinea pigs, that’s for sure.

    Andrew: Yeah, exactly. Basically, I have never really done a day of accounting.

    John: That’s funny. Yeah, I was the same way. That was the only way I got into PwC because of I said I’d be willing to do that program and be the guinea pig.

    Andrew: Nice.

    John: Yeah. And I was like “What’s the fastest way out of accounting? Oh, Big Four? Awesome!”

    Andrew: Yup. And so after like five years at the accounting firm doing everything except accounting, I came over to this place I’m currently at for Assets Management and I’ve been doing everything basically in the company except for accounting. Like I was doing Enterprise Risk before my current Investment Risk thing, so it’s been crazy to see, you plan, you think what you want to do your whole life and then you never do it, and you do everything else except for that basically.

    John: Yeah. That’s awesome, man.

    Andrew: Yeah, it’s been pretty wild.

    John: Yeah, yeah. And I know that obviously we all love work and sounds like you have a pretty sweet job. But what keeps you busy when you leave the office?

    Andrew: Definitely my family keeps me pretty busy; I have a few kids, and stuff like that. But when I have my free time, for the last couple of years I’ve gotten into the hobby of home brewing beer which maybe in some parts of the country it may seem like a strange thing. In Denver, anyway, it’s actually a big thing here, there’s a big community around it. I never would have considered doing it but it just kind of fell on my lap through kind of a random story that I ended up trying it out once and kind of just had a big interest in it.

    And for the last couple of years like it has kind of how I spend my free time trying to read books about home brewing, read magazines, listen to podcasts on it. I’m in a home brew club now that I spend time with them doing different activities. So that’s kind of my current passion for however long that lasts. But yeah, there’s all those kinds of aspects of it, the creativity of it I love, and I don’t know if you’ve ever had a good home brew. They have home brew nights here and there can definitely be bad ones that if you had it it could turn you off from ever wanting to try home brew again, but…

    John: So where do you brew this? In your basement?

    Andrew: No. I was always warned actually before I ever really started doing, to keep harmony in your marriage, you don’t want to bring it in the house, so stay out of the kitchen and so forth.

    So these days you can get an outdoor burner and pot and stuff and just do it all outside and be out of the way of everyone. So I just kind of do it all outside and I like to get really creative and do wild recipes of like chili peppers… I just recently did this cream ale with coffee and vanilla and the other half of the batch is pineapple, coconut. So it’s exactly what Budweiser makes fun of us with our apricot peach —

    John: Yup. That sounds pretty good, let’s try it.

    Andrew: Yeah, exactly.

    John: That’s great. So then how much do you make at a time?

    Andrew: A normal batch is 50 bottles.

    John: Oh, wow. And you bottle it yourself?

    Andrew: Yeah. You end up drinking maybe 15, 20 of those because they go fast. You have parties and you give them away to people to try it out and so you end up not getting that much yourself but yeah. I’ve only done it a couple of years so I just do bottling, I don’t do kegging and a lot of my people in my home brew club are way more serious than me but I’ve gotten into competitions. And there’s all kinds of different avenues you can go down, continue to learn more and more about it. It’s one of those things that as long as I am continuing to learn more about it it will stay an interesting hobby. Probably once it becomes just like you’re going through a process and you’re not learning new things, the podcasts are no longer interesting and the home brew club has no new tips and tricks to learn, I’m sure it may go away as a hobby. But for now, it’s the thing that I’m definitely into and gets me excited when I have some free time.

    John: Yeah, that sounds really neat. And so then how often do you do this a year?

    Andrew: I’d say I’d shoot for once a month because it actually takes about six hours from start to finish. If you just start with the raw grains and just do it all yourself, it can take a good six hours by the time you cleaned everything and done all that. And then of course that’s just for the brew day. And then you have to clean bottles later and do all that kind of stuff. So if I can fit a brew say in once a month, that’s great.

    But again, it’s not even necessarily just the brewing itself, it’s just all the other aspects of being in kind of the home brew community and like learning, like listening to podcasts, there’s a whole kind of thing associated with it as just being like your hobby, it’s a lot of fun. Even if I don’t brew for a few months, again, that’s not the whole part of it is necessarily brewing, it’s just kind of being involved with it and learning more about it.

    John: And being in the community and getting everyone else’s beer.

    Andrew: Exactly. And sharing it with them, getting their thoughts…

    John: Right. I’ll get around to mine in a couple of months, don’t worry about it.

    Andrew: Yeah. It’s great, it’s a lot of fun.

    John: That sounds really cool and I guess being a part of that community has to be really neat. So as far as your coworkers go, what do they think about your home brewing?

    Andrew: Once you get a hobby and start to mention, I think the first thing probably is that you have something you’re interested in or a passion, an interest, a hobby, whatever, that you’re going to kind of naturally want to talk about it a lot of times.

    So I think that’s probably a part of it, of why I find myself talking with people about it at work. And once you bring it up to someone then either you learn that they’re a craft beer enthusiast and then you have this connection and you start bringing them in bottles and walking over to their area in their department every month, after you brew you want to bring them one, so you have that connection with the. And they start to say “Oh, there’s all these other home brewers in the company” and so you start to get to know them well. So that’s part of it and that’s a really cool thing actually to form these relationships with people you don’t work with day-in and day-out. They’re in other departments but then you have this common kind of interest and you stay in touch about it.

    But another thing about it is I remember back to that first training we did, when we were running around and not knowing what we’re doing. I’ll never forget what they taught us there was that being in audit, you’re going to have these clients and they’re strangers, at every job you do you’re going to kind of be working with people who are strangers. And one of the key things they taught us that I’ve never forgotten is that when you walk into someone’s office for the first time, you should always take a quick glance around, look at their desk, look at the walls, look for anything that looks like something personal to them, maybe a Pittsburgh Steelers helmet on the counter, on their table, or a picture of a vacation they had, or photo of Kirk Cameron.

    John: Right, that’s my office.

    Andrew: You try to make a connection with them then. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, Growing Pains, awesome! I love Kirk Cameron too,” or like whatever the thing you see in the offices.

    And the reason I say to do that is that you can kind of make that personal connection with the person, even if it’s something small like that, before getting into business topics, if you can just make a quick personal connection that will make a huge difference in terms of the success of the work that you’re going to do with them. So I never forgot that and that’s why actually I am intentional even about mentioning personal things like currently with my hobby of home brewing, I’m actually intentional to mention that to people at work because again, I know it’s important to kind of be talking about personal things with them or just things outside of work to form that connection with people.

    John: Oh, man, yeah! So I was mentioning your home brewing changed how your coworkers interact with you.

    Andrew: Yeah. Just recently actually, in the last couple of years, kind of the same time when I just joined my new job of being in Investment Risk, a new portfolio investment team had come onboard in our office here so it was very important that I formed a good working relationship with them because I was going to be supporting them and needed to really have a good relationship there.

    So I had worked into the conversation with them that I’m into home brewing, I worked it into some kind of conversation and they all showed a lot of interest about it, like, “Oh, that’s so cool.” So then I was like, “Oh, I’ll bring you in a bottle.” So I bring them in a couple bottles and they all seemed interested in it. So then whenever I’d brew I’d bring in some bottles for them and put it in their fridge and every few months when there was a slow Friday, he comes over and he kind of got us all together and has this going in the conference room and tastes my home brews and just hang out like a happy hour for a couple of hours.

    And so I chalk up a big part of really building extra strong relationships with this team to kind of my home brewing hobby. And a lot of conversations I’d had with them, they always have interest asking me like how it works and that we all just kind of hang out, tasting my home brews together, and kind of really getting away from business and talking about more personal things. So that’s definitely the one thing that I would say has been kind of the biggest benefit to me in my job from kind of mentioning my hobby.

    And I wouldn’t be surprised if down the road when, like what I was talking about earlier, once I’ve learned most there is to learn about it, if I start to not have as much interest and passion in the hobby, I could see myself staying in it longer just for the benefit that I have at work. A lot of people know that I do home brewing, when I see them in the halls they mention, “Hey, the Great American Beer Festival is next month, any tips on what brew you guys are going to do?” or they’ll “Hey, you have a new beer I could try?” And again, like I mentioned with the current team that I support, like it’s a thing now that they expect when they pull that fridge open, when is the next time, a slow Friday there’s going to be my home brews in there for us all to hang out.

    So I could see myself continuing to do this longer even if just for the reason of like the benefits at work, with the relationships and kind of this cool thing.

    John: Yeah.

    Andrew: Until a couple of years ago I didn’t have this hobby and I think this one’s an easy one to share with people, especially in this town where it’s kind of a popular thing. And craft beer’s kind of a popular thing now so it’s kind of maybe looked at as a cool hobby or whatever so it’s easy to share and talk about.

    But as I think about it, I definitely believe even if it wasn’t a hobby like in the past when I didn’t have a hobby that maybe was as easy or as obvious to talk about at work or maybe that I even thought was kind of silly or almost an embarrassing thing to share at work, I could not feel confident talking about it. Even those things I found like I had a really silly hobby I’ve been in to for the last four years of doing air guitar competitions.

    John: Yeah, but you’re really good at it.

    Andrew: It’s not the kind of thing that you would think it’s easier to talk to a new portfolio about, hey, craft beer than about competitive air guitar, right?

    John: Right, and now you’ve totally redeemed yourself in the eyes of 6th Grade Andrew.

    Andrew: There we go. That’s right. And I guess we still haven’t like mentioned that necessarily to the portfolio team but for my direct team that I work with, I have told all of my direct team as well as the last couple bosses I had and my current boss about my air guitar competition thing, and that actually is almost even the fact that it is silly and something that some people probably wouldn’t share is actually even more powerful, I think. Because what I noticed was, for example, one of the guys on my team a few months ago I sent him the link showing him the competition that I had won and that “Hey, I’m going to the Midwest regionals in Chicago, I have my flight next weekend,” and just holy silly thing but that’s what I was in to for a couple of years.

    And what happened was he then sent a link back to me showing his dance team, his hip hop dance team from college, that was his thing that he was totally into in college and I had worked with him for a few years, he had never mentioned that to any of us. And the fact that I shared this kind of silly thing about me made him feel confident and free to then share this thing that he is very passionate about dancing and it had been a big part of his life but I think he had been kind of worried about sharing with people, like letting them see him dance now that he’s an older professional. And yeah, it was such a cool thing and no one else…

    And so after he shared with me, things started being more open with other people about it and we’ve had conversations since then about him saying, “Hey, I’m thinking about I should get back into dance, like maybe some do some kind of dance class in the evenings and get back into it. I used to love it so much.” But I mean, the fact that we shared those kinds of vulnerable what could be considered more silly or maybe not even silly but just more things where you kind of are opening up more about personally who you are. Not that I am all about air guitar but yeah, it just really made our relationship friendship stronger and just more open. And that helps you so much too in your day-to-day job once you know someone better and have that relationship with them.

    So that was kind of a good lesson I learned is just kind of the more personal thing you share a lot of times can be even more powerful.

    John: Yeah. And I mean what I was going to ask you too is what are some barriers do you think that keep us from sharing or others from sharing what they do, any words of encouragement for others.

    Andrew: Yeah. I think it’s natural for us to have kind of a separation between who we are at home and who we are at work. And we do that with a lot of your time’s spent at work is almost like a different personality I think than what you have at home and people are more guarded, especially these days I think when you move around companies more maybe or whatever. But I just think it was a natural thing probably of people having that separation of who they are at home and who they are at work.

    And so I think that’s kind of the starting point. Some of that’s just trying to protect ourselves not to be vulnerable at work, there’s a lot of different reasons, I guess, are beyond what I know in terms of why that exists and why people have a little bit different personalities than they do at work than at home. And there’s good reasons for it, too, I guess, when you’re in an office you’re going to act differently than you would with your two-year old when you’re playing on the carpet. So there’s definitely good reasons for it and everything.

    But there’s definitely a value and a time and a place for I think being yourself at work as well and letting people know who you really are. And again, like I’ve seen through my career now, 15 years, just the power of that and your work and your relationships at work and your job — everything will be more successful if you have those strong relationships. And the way to get those is if you’re not just that business generic person day-in and day-out but if you’re really sharing who you are however that may be, if it’s just some you enjoy the Broncos and it’s just about that or if it’s something more personal and silly about you or whatever that may be.

    But I’ve definitely learned that over the years, there’s definitely value in that although I think all of us naturally are just — we don’t want to be vulnerable with it and we want to have that work personality.

    John: I totally agree. And it’s important that everyone knows that it doesn’t have to be something like home brewing or comedy to be able to share it at work. At an event I did just last week, there’s this lady who’s crazy about knitting.

    Andrew: Yeah. And I wouldn’t want to put out there that people have to have some exciting because until two years before, if you would have called me like three years ago to do this, I wouldn’t have had like a good cool hobby to talk about like that, where now it’s a lot easier, like most hobbies aren’t going to be like that where you’re bringing people in stuff to try, if your hobby inwards like… I mean this hobby’s worth almost getting in to just for work because it’s such a cool connecting thing in so many different ways. And most everyone you talk to is like really interested in it and wants to learn more about it. It’s kind of a thing right now, going around, people say they’ve always wanted to home brew and stuff.

    But I don’t want people to think, that’s why I try to throw in there something else like even if it’s something because most people’s hobbies won’t be like that. Someone may collect Precious Moments figurines or something. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m just joking around. But any hobby, it doesn’t have to be–

    John: Right, like Kirk Cameron pictures.

    Andrew: Yeah.

    John: But absolutely, that’s what you do and that’s who I am and who knows, like you said, with your coworker who was in a dance team and it’s like “Hey, there’s somebody else that does something in the same vein” and so then it really just opens things up and creates those stronger relationships that you can then leverage when work needs to be done as well.

    Andrew: Exactly.

    John: So it seems like we really got to know Andrew today but I feel like we don’t really get to know you until we run through my 17 questions, so here we go.

    Andrew: Only 17?

    John: Only 17 rapid fire, really fast. Mac or PC?

    Andrew: PC.

    John: Balance sheet or income statement?

    Andrew: Balance sheet.

    John: Favorite cereal?

    Andrew: Grape-Nuts.

    John: Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Andrew: Star Wars all day.

    John: Jeans or khakis?

    Andrew: Jeans.

    John: Favorite number?

    Andrew: Twenty-four.

    John: Planes, trains, or automobiles?

    Andrew: Trains.

    John: Favorite sports team?

    Andrew: UCLA.

    John: Boxers or briefs?

    Andrew: Briefs.

    John: Crossword puzzle or Sudoku?

    Andrew: Crossword puzzle.

    John: Favorite color?

    Andrew: Magenta.

    John: Least favorite color?

    Andrew: Orange.

    John: Movie that makes you cry?

    Andrew: Dumb and Dumber.

    John: Yeah, crying, cry from laughing so hard. Favorite ice cream flavor?

    Andrew: Mint chocolate chip.

    John: Your favorite comedian?

    Andrew: Oh, come on, that’s too easy. John Garrett all day!

    John: Oh, nice! Pens or pencils?

    Andrew: Oh, pens.

    John: And favorite thing you own?

    Andrew: Man, I got to go with my Bible. It’s the only thing I can’t be without.

    John: That’s a good answer, man, good answer. Well there we go, we got to know Andrew so thanks a lot, man, I really appreciate it.

    Andrew: Oh, 17, that was fast all right.

    John: Yes. See, I don’t mess around.

    Andrew: You don’t.

    John: And neither do you, Andrew. You had such great insight and words of encouragement for everyone and I’m glad to hear that things are doing well. And good luck in your next air guitar competition and more home brewing. And I can’t wait to get out there to Denver to try some when I’m out there. So thank you so much for talking to everyone.

    Andrew: Thank you, John, it was great catching up and look forward to you being out here soon.

    John: Well, there you go. Now you know a CPA who does air guitar competitions and home brewing. Man, that is so awesome. And you could check out pictures of Andrew in action doing both of these at greenapplepodcast.com. From there you can listen live or even link over to iTunes or Stitcher. And if you’re enjoying what you’ve heard and find value in the message that we’re trying to spread here, please share it with your friends. Everybody, go to greenapplepodcast.com. And if you’re listening on iTunes or Stitcher, please just rate it and leave a quick review so others will know what they’re getting in to.

    Okay, I won’t keep you any longer so you can go out and be a green apple.


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