Episode 71 – Lauren Thiel

Lauren shows coworkers to just be yourself


Lauren Thiel follows the motto “Always be yourself, unless you can be Beyonce!” As a little girl, Lauren’s parents enrolled her in dance class in hopes that it would teach her discipline. What they didn’t realize, she was now heading down a path where dance was a going to be a part of her life forever. After getting her degree in Accounting, she was able to use her business skills to help a friend start Bey Dance, a fun, inclusive and divalicious dance school inspired by Beyonce’s music and dancing.

In this episode, we talk about how her dancing has increased her self-confidence and made her a better presenter. Lauren feels it’s important to remember that your firm or company hired you for you, so if you don’t share a bit of your whole self at work, you’re denying your firm, your coworkers, your clients, and your career, from seeing the full potential you can bring. In Lauren’s words, “I mostly do accounting — but it’s about being much more than that.”

Lauren Thiel is a senior accountant with KPMG. She ‘s also the founder of The Real Thiel, where she acts as an accountant for creatives, and the co-founder of Bey Dance Pty Ltd.

She double-majored at the University of South Australia, graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) and a Bachelor of Tourism and Event Management.

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Dancing at the Adelaide Fringe with Bey Dance (photo by Amy Rose Photography)

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    I can’t hold back any longer. I’m so excited to introduce you to this week’s guest, Lauren Thiel. A senior accountant at KPMG in Adelaide, Australia. She’s also the founder of The Real Thiel where on the side she acts as an accountant for creatives.

    Lauren, thanks so much for taking the time with me today. It seems like you really, really like accounting. Is that something you’ve always wanted to do from when you were little?

    Lauren: Oh, no. I did not want to do accounting. I hate accounting. I tried really hard to be anything but an accountant. I’ve grown up, right. My dad was an accountant by trade and was then was the chief operating officer for a retail company in Australia. My mom is a visual artist. I’ve grown up literally right between this two worlds. And mom’s world is much more shiny and covered in glitter and one that I would be much more interested in.

    I’ve tried my hand on dancing, singing, acting, psychology at university, tourism and event management. And then it was in the last subject of that degree that I had to do accounting for business. Like the most basic subject for — you know, just to be able to read a profit and loss state, basically. And I hated it and I called my dad and I went, “How could you do this for your life? I don’t understand anything.” He said to me, “Do what you’ve always done. Just read the textbook. Do your best. Give it your all. And you’re done.” You finish a degree and you move on. And I did that. I literally read the textbook. And I actually read it and I went, “Oh, my gosh. This is the language of the whole world. How does everybody not know this? Literally, money makes the world go round and I can speak money.” In two weeks, I signed up for a double degree. I called dad, “Who do we know? What’s an accounting firm? Where should I work?” Got out literally a yellow page which is like the old school foreign book in Australia. Looked up all the accounting firms and went, “Right. I want to work at KPMG. That’s a big one.” And the rest is history.

    John: Wow. Look at you. Congratulation. That’s pretty fantastic. I mean, to go from hating it to big fuller. I mean look at you that’s impressive.

    Lauren: Thank you. Yeah. Yeah.

    When I do something, I don’t do it enough.

    John: Right. Yeah. Wow.

    I mean that is funny though because I explained it to some people that doing the Big Four here in the US anyway is mostly for people who do hate accounting. It’s like, “What’s the fastest way out of accounting? Go Big Four.” I’m like, “That doesn’t even make sense.”

    Lauren: That’s very true, though.

    John: All my friends who I was good friends with, they were Big Four. One is a lifeguard in L.A. One is a minister at a church. There’s me. We don’t even look at financials anymore let alone do accounting.

    Lauren: Yeah. You quickly figure out whether you are built for it or you’re not. I think that’s work. They’re an excellent training ground. They expect a lot from you so they challenge you but they also teach you to how to give the greatest level of quality, I suppose because they have the resources to train you and that expectation is what their reputation is. And you’re a part of that. But at the same time, you soon figure out whether you can cut it or not and whether it’s a right fit the other way too. I think it’s important to look at it both ways.

    John: For sure. Definitely. Sometimes, you’re a little bit too outside the box or a little bit too creative or a little bit too ambitious. And they’re like, “Slow down. You know, we’ve got rules here.”

    Lauren: Yeah. That’s arguably me. I feel like the shiny star that’s trying to fit a little bit into a square. But I think my particular firm and office are very — not even accepting. I think they’re quite welcoming of the sparkle that I bring with me.

    John: That’s awesome. That’s great.

    Lauren: Yeah. It is. I’m very thankful.

    John: Yeah. Are there some things that the firm there does to encourage people like you and other to let their star shine, if you will, to use your analogy?

    Lauren: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s about talking about and about celebrating your other hobbies, or passions or interest. For me, it has been dance, primarily. Anything in the performing arts, really. And for other people, it might be their sportsmanship. In fact, we’ve got one guy who plays in our Australian football league. We’ve got a guy who’s a pilot. We’ve had people from the army. We’ve had, you know, super geniuses. And I think it’s just that the firm know about those things that make each of us really, I suppose, a special person or an asset, if you like. A little accounting pun for you there.

    John: Well, there you go. Hello.

    Lauren: And so they talk about it. They celebrate it. We get memos if something happens in someone’s life. And if you can use it to contribute to the firm, then not only do they allow it. They get really excited by that.

    So for me, it’s about going, “Right. Lauren has this potentially useless degree in tourism and event management because she’s an accountant. Why on earth would you have that double. But hey, great party planner.” I offer get called on for our social club events, for our welcome events for new graduates. Generally, “Hey, Lauren, are you out?” “It’s two in the morning. Of course, I am.”

    John: Right. “Of course, I am.”

    Lauren: Yeah. Exactly.

    John: That’s awesome. That’s so great.

    I mean just how they let you openly talk about it but then they also realize that some of these skills come in handy for the firm and they have nothing to do with accounting per se. Yeah. That’s great. That’s really cool.

    The pilot’s flying the partners around. The football club guy is like ramming everybody in the walls.

    Lauren: Not quite.

    John: Right. I know. I’m teasing.

    But that’s so great. So you were into dance and performing arts? How did you get into that? From being a little girl and then you were just good and then kept going?

    Lauren: Yeah. I think my parents sent me to ballet school to try to teach me discipline when I was about three. And they accidentally just gave me an ego. It doesn’t work. It’s almost like give me a role and I’ll try and break it except for accounting and tax rules. I love to follow those.

    John: Small commercial there for the co-workers listening.

    Lauren: Yeah. If the tax agents are listening, we’ll be fine. We’re above board. Do not come and investigate. No, I’m kidding.

    John: It’s Thauren Liel which is her name.

    Lauren: Exactly. But really, I sort of followed it. I love being on the stage. I love performing. Obviously, I love talking. I pursued dance and I stepped away from it for a few years. I come back to it It’s always been a semi-professional hobby for me until a couple of years ago, one of my best friends started a dance school called Bey Dance. And we teach people to dance like Beyoncé.

    John: That’s so great.

    Lauren: Yeah. It’s so fantastic. And I can’t take any credit for the idea. I just saw her idea and went, “Hey girl, I’ve got some business skills and maybe some stuff I can offer you. How about we join forces and really build this?” I came on board as a co-founder of sorts. And we built it together. That was a couple of years ago. I stayed on board for about a year and a half. I have now exited the business but it is absolutely thriving. And it’s so rewarding to see that building something, I suppose from the ground up but also seeing someone else’s idea offering this skill I have. This accounting and business and support and being able to see it grow. And that’s’ what I’m really about.

    I’m not the idea person. I’m not going to pretend to be. But I’m really passionate about helping other people achieve their dreams. So my dream is essentially the dream maker.

    John: Right. There you go. You’re the Tinkerbelle, that’s you.

    Lauren: Oh, I love that. I love that. Yes.

    John: You’re welcome.

    Lauren: I can use it now. Thank you.

    John: I went to the website and I was like, “Who doesn’t want to be Beyoncé. I mean, are you serious?” Even I would like it. There need to be dudes in this video. I mean what’s up?

    Lauren: Yes.

    We’ve just started getting some dudes coming to classes in Adelaide. We’ve got quite a few in Melbourne as well. So it’s really great. And you know the thing I love about what Bey Dance does is that it’s more than just dance, it’s actually genuinely a community of people and friends now. And it’s very welcoming and it’s very empowering. For me, that means more than not just dancing but it’s about something bigger.

    John: Right. Right.

    Yeah. I mean that’s so great. In how you’re able to help fuel that dream and just grow it to something bigger as opposed to just a couple of people in my garage to, “No. No. This is a movement.”

    Lauren: Yeah. Who would have thought that accounting could be more like Beyoncé.

    John: Yeah. That also should be in the brochures. “You want to be like Beyoncé. Be an accountant.” And then a little ding. “Here we go. Buckle up Adelaide because you’re getting ready to get a lot of new accountants. They’re all coming to you. They’re moving.”

    So that’s great. Even going back to your dance career, were there any performances that were just really cool or ones that you remember that really stood out?

    Lauren: Yeah. I think there was one very, very early on in my career. I think I was about five and I fell over in the stage in front of maybe 300 people. And as a kid the whole audience jumps. They go, “Is she going to get up? Is she going to cry?” And it had been drilled into my head, “The show must go on.” I got up, proud and I kept dancing. And the reason this stuck in my mind not because I did but I then later sat in the audience and watched one of the older girls fall over the stage and not get up. And I thought to myself, “Well done, Lauren, you fantastic performer.” Later I found out she had broken her ankle. Fair enough she didn’t get up. I still think it was a creative idea. That was a little less intimidating. So maybe remembering people in a different journey from mine. We don’t know their struggles because they broke their ankles.

    John: Right.

    Lauren: One of my favorite performance as an adult and with Bey Dance was last year. We were asked to perform with the Adelaide Fringe at the Fringe Artists Bar and that was really such an honor to be invited to perform for other artists. It’s not open to the general public and we got to perform the flawless act. I woke up like this and I’m flawless. It’s my favorite dance and it’s so strong. It was just incredible to stand there and go, “Yeah. This is what I do. I love this.”

    John: That’s awesome. Yeah, very cool. Kind of the cherry on top for all the hard work to get validated by other artists is pretty huge.

    Lauren: Exactly.

    John: That’s great. That’s so awesome.

    Would you say that dance and performing arts, other than maybe looking at a co-worker as they broke their ankle, has that developed a skill set or something that you’re able that you bring to the office?

    Lauren: Yeah. Definitely. I think a close link could be found in the performance side of things. I think I am much better at presenting myself about self-confidence, speaking in front of other people because I’m used to being on a stage. I’m used to being vulnerable. Often, we’re wearing a leotard in front of a thousand people. It doesn’t really bother me what I look like standing up there. It doesn’t bother me if I make a mistake because I know you just move on. And so I think there are a lot of those performance skills that are really transferable and you wouldn’t necessarily think about that.

    And then the other side, I think is the fun factor of going, you know what actually be in that moment and enjoy it because before you know it, it’s going to be gone. Like a dance is only for three minutes and often you know you might only be in this moment, in this career for six months. Appreciate what that is because time moves so fast. You might only get that chance to speak at the university to the new graduates or whatever for such a short period of time. Really be present. Really be in that moment. Think about what you’re doing and give your best in that and I think I have actually learned that from performance.

    John: That’s huge. Yeah. Absolutely. That frame of mind is really huge.

    And I never thought about it that way. Dance is only three minutes, so you just got to be laser focused for that.

    Lauren: Yeah. You got one shot.

    John: Yeah. You got one shot. There’s no do over.

    Lauren: One shot. One opportunity.

    John: Right.

    Lauren: It’s everything you’ve ever wanted. Eminem.

    John: Right. Beyoncé, Eminem, bringing all the flashbacks back.

    Lauren: RnB.

    John: Yeah. Exactly,

    So clearly you discuss this at work. They celebrate it. You openly talk about it. How does it come about? Are partners talking about their things too? How is that going down?

    Lauren: I don’t know of any partners dancing like Beyoncé.

    John: Right. There should be though.

    Lauren: I agree. I agree.

    Barbara: That’s a prerequisite for being a partner.

    Lauren: Definitely.

    I think honestly, it came out because I started really more solidly working with Bey Dance the same week that I started with KPMG. So it came up because they have their risk management profile that you have to go through and report any shares you have. I sat there, “Oh, my gosh. I’ve only been her for three days and already I have already broken the rules because I’m a company director. What am I going to do? Are they going to fire me?” I had to go in to the partner’s office and be like, “So, I own shares in this dance school.” They were like, “That’s fine. That’s better.”

    John: Right. Exactly. They’re like, “What is it called again?” Okay Never heard of it.

    Lauren: Once we had a conversation about it and they heard about it and they were actually really excited and I had the opportunity to use it quite practically for my colleagues. So we had our grad welcome event and it was a karaoke night and I had someone else sing single ladies for me and I did the dance. So that happened. That was my initiation which I passed because I was still there. And at another time, for one of our social club events, I actually brought in some of the dancers from Bey Dance and we performed in front of the entire firm in fringe dresses and booty shaking. That was quite the experience.

    John: Yeah. And you’re still there.

    Lauren: I am and I love it. That’s the thing.

    John: Yeah. That’s the thing. A lot of times in our own head we think, “Oh, they’re not going to like this. This is bad. Whatever.” And then you do it and it’s the exact opposite and it actually propels you.

    Lauren: Yeah. I love it.

    This is the thing, John. You know what, so I’m an accountant but I’m also X, Y, Z. I know these other accountants and I have beers with them on Fridays and I know they’re either a lad or they got this funny story or they have this many interesting hobbies on the side. And half of the time, they just don’t talk about it or they don’t reveal that side of themselves or they pretend, I don’t know why, but to be more proper or whatever. I just go, “You know what, no. You hired me because of who I am. On paper, yes, but also the human being that I am.” I like to interact with people who are more honest, more candid, more open about who they are and what they like. I assume my clients are going to appreciate about me and my colleagues will appreciate that about me. That’s exactly what I have found.

    John: Yeah. That’s so great. I love that quote. “You hired me because of who I am.” And who you are is much more than your job. And I think a lot of times people limit that because when you ask someone, what do you do? “I’m an accountant.” I guess the better question is who are you? So who are you? And people would still say, “I’m an accountant.”

    Lauren: Exactly. I hate. It.

    John: That’s part of you. That’s certainly a part of you but there’s so many other parts of you that you’re hiding and that if you do it over time, I believe those parts go dormant and then eventually they’re extinct to where all you have is accounting. And it’s like, “Wow.”

    Lauren: You don’t have anything to fall back anymore if that happens.

    John: Oh, totally.

    And then you go to retire and you’ve got nothing.

    Lauren: Yeah. I mean I mostly do accounting but I think it’s about being more of believing in more of being interested in more. You know?

    John: Right. Yeah.

    Lauren: I mean even if I spend fifteen hours a day doing accounting, you can still be about more than just accounting.

    John: Right.

    Lauren: Or you can at least make accounting more interesting. Like so many people, they meet me in three in the morning in glitter shorts on a dance floor and they go, “You’re an accountant? Are you sure? What are you eating?” It’s about breaking the mold and going, “Yeah. I bet your accountant is just on the other club over there. They just don’t tell you about it.”

    John: Yeah. And I’m always so curious why that is that everyone — it’s almost like they put on a veneer or like a suite of what a super accountant is. But you’re not. Even partners don’t know everything.

    I remember when I started, I guess I was just too, I don’t know if authentic is the word or ignorant. I don’t know what. Like if I didn’t know something, I would just say, “Hey. I don’t really know what this is. Can you explain it to me?” You just have to do it once and I got it. But other people I think were, “Oh, I’m supposed to know everything because it’s my first real job. They’re paying me like real money”. You know, if I don’t know something, they’re going to fire me. I’m like, “They’re going to fire me for me for a hundred other things besides this. Trust me. This is the least of my worries. Trust me.”

    I’m always perplexed by that and why that is. I guess it’s somewhat comforting but alarming to hear that it’s an epidemic in Australia as well. It’s crossed over.

    Lauren: Yeah. But it’s infectious to make the change, I think. The more that we have people being themselves loudly and proudly, whatever that is, I think more other people who potentially are not quite as ridiculously as confident have that little encouragement to be more true to themselves everywhere, even at work.

    John: Yeah. And I love how KPMG there in Adelaide is doing that or at least encouraging that and creating that culture where it’s on you if you don’t open up and share. I think that’s fantastic and that’s so cool. And you clearly have grabbed the bull by the horns and run with it. The bull is riding with you now. “Look out.”

    Lauren: Yeah. I like that.

    John: That’s so cool. Do you have any words of encouragement to share with anyone who is maybe on the barrier or some of those people who are a little bit afraid to share?

    Lauren: Yeah. I think it’s just about one knowing really, truly for yourself what it is that you’re about and what you’re interested in because that is sort of step one. And then I think also, test the waters. Find where the line is. Have faith is and trust that they have hired you for you. So don’t think you have to fit this weird cookie cutter accountant mold. Each of us are different and we’re each bringing something unique to the table and that’s a valuable thing. And by denying your firm, you’re denying your client and you’re denying your colleagues if you hide that.

    John: Right. Wow. That’s so powerful. Look out everybody. She’s coming.

    Lauren: You put me on the spot. I had to think of something profound.

    John: Yeah. I know that was your inner Beyoncé coming out. Wow. Sasha Fierce look out, there she is. It’s coming.

    Lauren: Always be yourself unless you can be Beyoncé.

    John: Is that on your —

    Lauren: That’s my favorite.

    John: That’s awesome. That’s so funny. And she’s taken. This has been so great. Well before I get into the airplane and come over there and join the dance troupe, I do have my seventeen rapid fire questions that I would like to run with you to make sure that you’re up to par. I mean because it’s a long flight. It’s a really long flight. So here we go. Fire this up. Here we go.

    Lauren: I’m so nervous.

    John: You should be.

    Here we go. Let’s start with an easy one. Do you have a favorite animal?

    Lauren: My actual favorite animal is a duck.

    John: A duck? Really? How did that come about?

    Lauren: Like the white ducks with the orange beaks.

    John: All right. That’s a good answer.

    How about pens or pencils?

    Lauren: Pen. I’m committed.

    John: Wow. Look at you. Are you more Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Lauren: Oh, Star Trek.

    John: Okay. All right the next one. Sudoku or crossword puzzle?

    Lauren: Uh, crossword.

    John: Crossword. Wow.

    Lauren: Yeah.

    John: Yeah. Do you have a favorite color?

    Lauren: Pink.

    John: Pink. Yeah. I should have known.

    Lauren: Yeah. I’m the legally blonde of accounting.

    John: Yeah. Perfect. How about a least favorite color?

    Lauren: Gray.

    John: Gray. All right. Yeah. Because it’s not even black. Talk about not being committed. I mean, gosh. Diamonds or pearls?

    Lauren: Pearls.

    John: Pearls. All right.

    Do you have a favorite number?

    Lauren: Two.

    John: Two? Is there a reason?

    Lauren: It’s my birthday.

    John: Oh, okay. All right. That’s a good answer. Here we go. Favorite Disney character of all of them?

    Lauren: Sleeping Beauty.

    John: Yeah. I think that counts.

    Lauren: Yeah.

    John: Yeah. I think so. All the princesses are for sure. How about when it comes to accounting, a balance sheet or income statement?

    Lauren: Balance sheet. It’s all about your assets.

    John: Oh, hello. There we go Beyoncé. Do you have a movie that makes you cry?

    Lauren: I have so many. All of them. Just many.

    John: All of them, Right. Perfect. What do you typically eat for breakfast?

    Lauren: I have three eggs with a smashed pumpkin on one piece of toast.

    John: Wow. That’s impressive. Yeah. Is that a knife and fork or you pick that up? How does that work?

    Lauren: No. Knife and fork.

    John: Oh, okay. I was going to say. All right. When it comes to computers, are you more of a PC or a Mac?

    Lauren: PC.

    John: PC. Yeah. Me too. When it comes to your mouse, right click or left click?

    Lauren: Doesn’t that depend on what you’re doing?

    John: Yeah. But which one is your favorite?

    Lauren: To the left, to the left.

    John: To the left. I see where this is all coming from. I had no idea that Beyoncé songs were woven into our lives everywhere.

    Lauren: Perfect.

    John: Yeah. We’ve got three more. Do you have a favorite actor or actress?

    Lauren: Meryl Streep.

    John: Meryl Streep. Yeah. She’s been around. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?

    Lauren: Night owl, 100%.

    John: Yeah. I was going to say — that was an easy one.

    Lauren: It’s 12:11 A.M. in the morning at the moment.

    John: Oh, my goodness gracious. We need to speed this up.

    Lauren: No. No. I’ve got so much energy. This is my jam. This is good.

    John: That’s awesome. Very cool. And the last one, what’s the favorite thing you own or the favorite thing you have?

    Lauren: Favorite thing I have. Something I really enjoy is my knitting needles because I find great joy. And apparently, it’s a really common thing that accountants like knitting because it’s numbers and patterns and you achieve something at the end.

    John: Wow. Look at you. Knitting needles. That’s so great. Well, thank you so much. Lauren. This was really, really awesome.

    Lauren: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. My very first podcast ever.

    John: Seriously, how fun was that. And I honestly didn’t realize I knew so many Beyoncé references. I particular loved how Lauren said that she mostly does accounting but it’s about being much more than that. Remember that your firm or company hired you for you. If you don’t share a bit of your whole self at work, then you’re denying your firm, you’re denying your coworkers, your clients and even your career from seeing the full potential that you can bring. If you would like to see some pictures of Lauren and her Bey Dance group, go to greenapplepodcast.com. And while you’re there, please click the big green button and do my anonymous research survey.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with your friends so that 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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