Discussing Work-Life Balance, Music, and Fixing Banks with Ed

AMA (Ask Me Anything) interview where Ed, a senior manager and former bank examiner, shares his career journey and experiences as a consultant in the bank regulatory space. During this episode, Christie and Ed give mentoring advice to a consultant that is seeking career guidance to create more of a work-life balance so that he could pursue his passion and hobby of being an amateur musician.

Listen to the Episode Here:

For this episode we will be doing a segment that I call AMA, Ask Me Anything. If this is your first time tuning in, AMA’s are when I have the wonderful opportunity to connect with a seasoned consultant, where they share their journey on the profession and give you advice. Also in this episode and our first career dilemma, we’re actually going to be discussing the topic of work-life balance. I actually have my first fan mail we received a couple of weeks back with a go getter wanting us to give them some advice. They’re looking to commit to a hobby as an amateur musician while working a demanding career and wanting to get some perspectives on that. Before we delve in this interview, I also wanted to share with my go-getters, we’re going to try something a little different in this episode.

We talked about being in refinement mode. With that, we are wanting to see what different formats are working. I’ve actually split this episode into two different formats. The first one, I’m going to narrate the first half of Ed’s AMA interview, and talk through different pieces of it. For the second half, we’ll continue the rest of the interview as we have in past AMA interviews. I would love to get your feedback, getting that side by side comparison in the same episode with different formats. I would love to get your perspective. Once you’ve listened to this episode, please stop. Drop me a line at MECEMuseUnplugged@Gmail.com.We are in refinement mode, so I want to make sure that we’re able to meet the different needs and try different things and see what works.

Interview with Ed

I asked Ed to provide a little bit of an introduction on his background.

I am a banking and capital markets regulatory compliance guy. I have been doing this for sixteen years. I’m a former examiner. I am a former industry guy. In the last five years I’ve been on the advisory side with a big four firm. My aspiration here is in the next year to become a partner at the firm.

What’s interesting about what shares as an examiner was actually surprising for me. I’ve known Ed for quite some time, but it didn’t know about that background. I asked them to then go ahead and give us a little bit more insights on what that role entail, particularly for those who may not be familiar with the regulatory space. Ed does a nice job in sharing what led him into consulting from being in the bank examiner space.

I worked for the Federal Reserve for five years right out of school. Effectively what I did is I examined banks from different types of size and complexity; everything from slightly larger $8 billion-asset on the west coast to smaller credit union type banks. What that entails are a bunch of different things. We’re viewing their lending process; we’re viewing their deposits process. We’re reviewing more from an enterprise perspective; their training, their awareness, their communication, and monitoring things of that nature. Fundamentally, what it boiled down to is you have some guidance, some kind of law or regulation that is the standard, and you’ll look at their process and procedures and you compare that to the standard and you identify gaps. Then of course you would provide findings and recommendations. The thing about it is that it’s coming from a federal examiner, so there’s a lot of authority there and banks feel compelled to want to fix it.

My entire career is interesting, but I always joke that I always wanted to be a regulatory compliance professional since I was in the sandbox. The reality is nobody chooses. In a lot of the times it’s just happenstance, opportunity, dumb luck, or whatever you want to call it. When I got out into the market, I graduated from college, my undergrad in 2002, and I was an economics major. I thought, “It would be really cool working at the Fed. How cool would that be?” Janet Yellen was actually my international economics professor while I was at Berkeley. I had this aspiration to work at the Fed because I thought it will be cool, I can use my economics there. When I got there, the reality was there’s so many different things that the Fed does. They discount window, they examine banks, they provide the policy, there’s a lot of clear checks, they move cash.

I did a management development rotation at the Fed. What I ended up having an interest in is we have a long regulation that had been drafted for these banks, basically the history of that. My dad was a big history of major and that was always something that I enjoy. I enjoy the history of things, like how things came to be. A lot of the regulation comes from civil rights, so back in the sixties, equal pay option, truth in lending, these are important things that are in place because people were being discriminated against. They couldn’t get a loan; they couldn’t get a home loan. If you’re a woman you are asked for your husband. I found that appealing in the sense like I felt like I was actually making a difference and that I was helping to make things better and that stuff was important.

Outside of that, what I enjoyed doing that was everything was always different. You go to different banks, you start a project, you examine a bank, your teams are different, the people that you interact with are different. I liked that every six months, things change. I wasn’t the type of folk that wanted to be in a place where I worked with the same individual, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I couldn’t see myself not having that variability, which quite frankly is naturally what we do in advisory. As a consultant, you’re used to traveling, you’re used to moving around, working with different teams, solving different problems. It keeps it interesting. I feel like I’m always launched. The transition from examiner to moving into industry, the next big thing that I did was that I did was basically work on the bank’s IPL and help in compliance there.

Then moving to advisory, a natural evolution of things. Learning the fundamentals as an examiner and learning how to apply it to a business, how they actually operationalize this stuff. Instead of trying to get findings and recommendations, how do they actually do this if you were running a business to now as an advisor, helping to tie it all together. When you look at compliance, is it really the examiner’s hat, or can you think of it from, “How do we make money? As a business owner, how would we use compliance in our benefit?” That’s been the evolution of my fifteen-year journey.

What’s also interesting I find with Ed’s background is being a bank examiner sounds familiar to consulting. There are a different assessments people do and having the background and doing research and providing recommendations and suggestions. I thought that was an interesting parallel. Ed then elaborated further on the similarities of the two professions.

They have this mentality that everybody is a client. You’re used to the matrix hierarchy. You have multiple bosses, but if you come at it from that perspective, whether you’re in industry or consulting or whatever do in life, the idea that folks that you’re interacting with are maybe a good opportunity to learn or to teach, then a lot of the time it takes a lot of the monotony out of the job and there’s something else that you’re gaining out of that relationship. If you go in with an open mind, quite frankly an open heart about some of these things, you’re going to gain quite a bit. That’s embedded in the advisory consulting background.

Given that Ed does provide advice, given his background, being both in industry and then coming over into consulting and enjoying this type of work, I asked Ed to give advice to what I call a career consultant. These are individuals like myself that grew up doing consulting work either at one firm or they’ve been on a linear path from the beginning and never had that broader industry experience. I asked him to share what are some blind spots that an individual like that should consider as they continue to progress through their career.

The one thing that I always argue about it at the top of mind for me is that folks that are career consultants are strong at being a consultant. They’ve got great people skills and know how to marshal resources. They’re able to lead. They’ve got all these great soft skills and an ability to socialize and speak. As a career consultant, don’t lose sight of the fact that you haven’t operationalized your recommendation. When you go to a client and say, “You should do X, Y, and Z,” you haven’t actually done the work, so to speak and actually implemented your recommendation to actually see what the outcome of it is. There is a lot of value in having had the business side of it, having to actually operationalize some of what we’re recommending, because then you see all the downstream effects. Then you actually see the politics of getting something done. It’s easy to mandate that quarterback and say, “Do this, and do that.” The reality is in life there’s a lot of gray. When you’re working in the industry, you have to navigate that gray, and you have to do it every day, sometimes you have to do it year over year with the same people. It’s not that simple. That a person who comes in to consulting or having some banking or some industry experience actually have a lot to add as an advisor because they can empathize with the clients. They can understand and provide better recommendations based on their experience in the industry of what is truly going to work.

Ed also shares a personal challenge that helped shape how he does business. He goes into a little bit of a story there, but he also shares some of his greatest achievements, which are awesome.

The biggest struggle that I had is I am definitely an A-type personality. I am the type of person that get up at 4:15 every day, I go to the gym every day, I set high standards for things, I’m a go, go, go, wanting to move things quickly. The reality is not everybody operates like that. In fact, the majority of folks don’t operate that way, and it’s good because we don’t want that. That would be bad for society, but we want the ying and yang. We want to have that, but when you start to lead people, we start managing people. You have to take a step back and say, “Not everybody is like that.” You have to understand that everybody’s got a different way in which they learn, a different way in which they approached things, not better, not bad, not good, it’s just different.

For somebody like myself when I was younger, I would think, “Why are they so lazy?” The reality is that’s not the best. It’s the ability to empathize with an individual and say, “There are different ways to approach this or different ways to address it. It became pertinent to me when I worked abroad. I worked in Asia and in Latin America for five years. When I worked in Asia, they never said yes or no, they said maybe. It was a lot slower and a lot different the way in which they conduct business. If you take a step back and see that they have been doing this for thousands of years, in the US it’s 240 years old, in the east it’s been around forever. Clearly they have figured out a way to do business that works and maybe there are things we can learn from them. Maybe there are things that I can learn while I am here.

What I learned then is that when you’re managing folks and you got this A type personality is that you have to be cognizant of that, and that not everybody is motivated in the same way or chronically appreciate that type of motivation and having to empathize with that individual. I still gravitate towards A-type personalities, I still like having those types of friends, but it helped me a lot in terms of managing people letting that go, having that self-awareness, being aware that that is me and that sometimes that can honestly be construed as being a jerk. Being aware of that and not trying to change who you are, but trying to soften it or being aware of that and communicating to your team, “I got this interesting quirk. This is one of the things that I’ve been told in the past,” and being transparent with them and so they can understand where you’re coming from. That was definitely a big challenge for me, because managing people, there’s got to be a lot of empathizing with the individual.

MECE 014 | Work-Life Balance
Work-Life Balance: Not everybody is motivated in the same way or chronically appreciate that type of motivation and having to empathize with that individual.

In terms of my greatest achievement, I’m a proud father so the first thing I think of are my kids. That’s my greatest achievement, the fact that I’ve got two great kids and a happy family. For me in my mind that’s the right person that comes to my head is I’m a father first, everything else is second. I can’t afford to suck at that. In terms of from a professional service perspective, there are three things that stick out in my head. One is that at the Fed, I helped to develop and implement the enterprise risk management white paper that’s now published. This was back in 2002. That was one of the first big major thing that I saw that had been published and out and available to everybody in the United States. Obviously I wasn’t one of several hundred people that worked on that paper.

That was important to me working on and going out to the IPO was huge because it’s still the largest IPO in history. I got a lot of value out of that and did a lot of works there. The thing that’s most lately in the last five years, going into business from four people and $1.4 million to 30 people and $16 million. The reason for that is because we have now 30 individuals and continuing to grow and we’re showing that this has legs and I’m excited because I think this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

That is cool that you have that reassurance that you found something that excites you, I can even hear it in your voice and your energy as you talk through it. I want to go back to the challenge you mentioned. What type of advice would you give to someone that is still on the fence? They may be doing work that doesn’t excite them the way you described. What advice would you give them if they’re thinking about different career paths and ideas?

For those folks that are not very strong in the market and they’ve got a couple of years and then they don’t know what they want to do, a lot of it has to do with opportunity and happenstance and sheer dumb luck, but one thing I will say is if you don’t know what you’re going to like or dislike, you may think in your head, “I could never see myself doing this,” but the reality is you don’t know until you try it. We go through a lot of phases in our life, where we think we want something and then we ended up with something else and it goes through this process, and you don’t know what you like or dislike. People change over time, but what you don’t like today might not actually be what you don’t like later.

I would say when presented with a good opportunity and you are iffy about it, I would say, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Ask yourself that. If I take the job or if I do this and I don’t like it, then I go find another job. What’s the absolute worst thing that can happen? Sometimes it’s important to take that leap of faith and go for it. There are always options to do other things if you don’t like it. One thing that you can do that can damage you is that you overanalyze things. You get stuck in that analysis paralysis thing.

My analogy for that is this. Coaches coach and players play. Kobe Bryant, he’s done all of the training and all of the practice, and he goes out and plays. He doesn’t even think about what he’s doing. He’s just in the moment. I think that’s important about life. If you’ve done your homework, you have done the analysis, just make a decision, it’ll be fine. One of the things you’ll hear people say is, “Don’t look back, look forward,” and keep going forward. People are going to make mistakes, and you keep moving forward. Do not live in the past, do not go back, keep going forward, and in the end you’ll look back and look think, “What was I thinking?”

That is so spot on type of guidance. For listeners out there who may have been waiting for a sign to make a decision, this is your sign. Definitely take a chance. You said that so nicely. Like I mentioned, going back to the challenge that you overcame, you hit on a good important concept. In my book, I talk about what it takes to be a great consultant. Outside of the technical skills, what are some of the key elements, and I think it is that empathy that you mentioned and being able to have differing worldview and having that level of self-awareness is critical not only for the team. You talked about it from a teaming perspective, I think even for clients. For leadership types of interactions, it’s important to understand and empathize with the other side. I completely agree with you that sometimes as consultants, especially if someone’s newer in their career, they may be looking at it one dimensional. That’s a good lesson that you learn around the empathy piece. Thank you for sharing that. My last question of the day is actually little bit of a light one. What would you say is your favorite ‘90s song? I know it’s random.

What if for whatever reason, what happens if I was born in 2000’s? Then what would you ask me?

Forget the ‘90s. What’s your favorite all time song? What’s in your iTunes or SoundCloud? Give us your top five. What’s your tunes right now?

Kendrick Lamar all day long. DNA, I love that song. It’s probably one of the most influential track since Pac. It’s that guy. I got this interesting type of music. I would say I listen to everything except for country and bluegrass, I can’t do it. I would say that I’m 60% hip hop rap, I just grew up with it, and then I like classic rock a lot, like ‘70s classic rock. The last piece of it, they think I’m weird but I liked classical music. I don’t have no clue who might be or whatever, but I do a lot of classical music. I have an interesting aesthetic and it’s pretty funny. When you mentioned ‘90s, the first thing that popped in my head was Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl. That was the first thing that jumped in my head. You see this bubblegum pop soundtrack LP in the middle 2000s. That was basically like a ‘90s track, but I just remembered that Hollaback Song. My wife is into it. She plays it all the time and now it’s stuck in my head.

Is Hollaback Girl ‘90s? I can’t remember. It’s definitely early 2000.

It was like 2005-ish, but it was her ‘90s bubblegum pop album that is like a throwback to the nineties because if you listen to it you’re like, “I could see how Madonna might do some of this.” Kendrick Lamar right now.

Kendrick Lamar. It is on fire. I hope the radio doesn’t kill the song honestly, because you know how they can kill a song and overplay it. The DNA song is cool, so I agree. It has a really catchy hook. You talk about the classical music. Are you one of those that like to listen to music while you’re working or doing certain things, or are you just pulled into classical and have favorite artists and tracks and that sort?

I have to listen to music. I listen to music probably every day. I would be on probably two or three hours a day, easy. That’s the first thing I do when I wake up, I get my Pandora up, I play my music, I get my kids up. I’m playing music while I get my kids ready. I’ve got music when I work, when I go to the gym. I love music. I don’t know what it is. I almost feel like if I haven’t listened to two to three hours of music, it’s like I almost crave it. It might be something about the fact that I always have to have something going on in my brain. I only sleep four or five hours a day, but constantly want to keep myself thinking.

I’m the same way. I feel like if there’s a soundtrack to my life, I have so many tracks. People may have not caught this because it’s a new show, but every single segment of the show I have a different song for it, like a different jingle, and I made this whole soundtrack. It’s so funny for the podcast, because it’s the same. Music is such a big part of my life as well, so I totally agree with you. This is great, Ed. I don’t know if you’ve got any last thought or things you want to share for someone who’s entering into consulting for the first time and thinking about it, just from where you said. In a couple years, you’re definitely going to be an executive later. Any words of wisdom you’d have before we pivot?

The one thing I would say is don’t get lost. Sometimes we get so headstrong like, “I’m going to do this, I’m going to become a manager, I’m going to become whatever.” There’s life happening all around you. Don’t forget to stop and live in the moment. It’s a short life. The robustness with which you tackle your professional life, you should do the same on your personal life. If you’re going to go 100 on business, you should go 100 on personal life too because you can’t have one over the other. There’s a lot to this life and it’s important to keep that in mind. What you do in work, when you come home, it’s about your family. You just have to have that balance.

That was a nice segue to the advice you’ll give to this episode’s question. What I do is with each AMA, I do have either my mentees or other individuals reach out to me with questions and I ask folks like yourself to help me in giving this person advice. Would you mind if I share a specific scenario with you and see if we can give this person some advice? It’s actually on the theme of work life balance, so it works out. I was so excited; I got my first email. For those out there that may have a career question or looking for any specific guidance, drop us a line at MECEMuseUnplugged@Gmail.com. It was so funny. I actually launched the podcast and I just got my first email from my fan. I was so excited when I got it. I was like, “Wow.” I’m going to read it to you and then we can bounce off some ideas that we can share with this person.

The person that wrote me, his name is Jason, said, “Christie, I love your show. Thank you for creating it. I think it’s super unique. I’m used to consulting and would like to join an amateur band to rock out on the weekends. It was a passion of mine in college and I want to go back to the music.” Music and work life is the theme. This person said, “What I’ve realized in my role, I’m not able to have time for myself as I want to, and I want to make a good impression. Given that you’ve got a lot of experience, Christie, what are some of the best ways consultants can manage having a hobby while working a demanding traveling full-time consulting role?” Given this scenario, what would be some things you may want to share with this person? I feel like you have said a lot of it, which you just shared. Anything else that comes to mind?

Let’s break it down and operationalize it. Put it on your calendar. I have dinners and breakfasts with my family and so I put that on the calendar. I know it sounds weird, I always go to block out an hour to do it, but if you don’t, they’re seeing it as if it’s not risky. If you don’t write it down, it’s not going to get done. Put it on your calendar and say, “Friday from whatever, from 3:00 to 5:00, this is what I’m doing.” I’m going to find out a way to do my work early. You come in 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM to do your work and then from 3:00 to 5:00 you go rock out, but you’ve got to get a calendar and you got to stick to it and do it. I have a rule of thumb that any dollar that I make, I save $0.40. Automatics, that’s going to happen. I’m going to save the $0.40, because you pay yourself first. That’s the idea behind it. In this case, you’ve got to pay yourself. The other thing is to think about it this way, if you feel like, “This may take away from my work,” the reality that it’s not. What’s happening is it’s going to make you a happier, better, and more productive person, because you have time to zone out and do your thing. You go to work a lot happier and in a better mood, more efficient and more effective. That’s the way you have to think about it as well.

I like to put it on your calendar because it does start with that pay yourself first mentality. I completely agree with you. I’m going to add a couple more things. It’s actually along the lines of put it on your calendar. Taking that idea a step further, I’ll probably also say Jason, just make sure you communicate and being transparent with people around you so they know what’s happening. Sometimes what happens with consultants, they may want to do certain things in their personal life where they’re fearful of what people might think or may think that they’re not holding their own weight. Back to your point, putting it on your calendar but taking that stuff, talking to your team, talking to your manager, talking to folks around you if it’s your leadership and being transparent that this is an important part of your life that you should continue. Figuring out what’s the work around so that you still commit to your team, you commit to your client work. Everyone knows what’s happening with you. That transparency can sometimes actually help alleviate some of the perception or optics that sometimes people are afraid that having a life outside of work may make them seem not as productive. What are your thoughts? You have large teams. Any anything to add to that?

First off, anybody that has worked with a leader that is smart and empathetic is going to be cool with this. They’ll say, “I get it,” but have you ever run into somebody who was like, “I’m not sure about this.” Nobody’s going to advocate as strongly on your behalf as you are. You’ve got to have to say, “Prioritize what’s important to you.” If this is important to you and you want to do this, do it. Find a way. The transparency is so important but also come with options on how you’re going to change your schedule or how that’s not going to impact your job or how to make them more productive. There is no way for that individual to say “I shouldn’t do this,” if you’re coming with all these different things as to why these are all positives. That person should be signing off on this immediately.

Going back to the point around putting it on your calendar, another spin off to that. This is working with your team and that transparency, but also figuring out when are there moments that matter that may conflict with your hobby that you definitely need to be on board on and be a little bit flexible. For example, if you’re on-boarding on a new project, you’re ramping up on a new project, if you’re looking at your calendar, that may not be a good week to have a session, because you need to focus on wrapping up and getting prepared. If there’s big client meeting happening or if you’re involved in a proposal, it’s again working with your teams to figure out what are the moments that matter that there may be a conflict that you can work through and being realistically flexible about that. Not to say that you’re not able to do those things, but just being mindful that sometimes you have to be flexible given the nature of our work, and sometimes the nature of how volatile our schedules can be based on our client needs. Do you have a hobby?

If I had to say what my hobby was, at this point I would say that it’s going to the gym. I like to keep fit and I like health and fitness quite a bit, so I would argue that that’s my hobby.

Like you said, you get that in regardless. I know a lot of other consultants that the gym is number one for them. They either end or start your day with it. You’ve been able to make it work, which is great.

MECE 014 | Work-Life Balance
Work-Life Balance: Anybody who says they don’t have time to go to a gym is full of shenanigan. You have time.

Anybody who says they don’t have time to go to a gym is full of shenanigan. You have time. I got two kids, a wife, a job, a house, and I still find time. I woke up last time at 4:15 AM to go to the gym before I went to work. You got to want it, that it’s important to you, that it’s a priority to you. I’m a firm believer that a healthy body is a healthy mind. It’s the same thing. It’s important.

On that healthy body, healthy mind, Jason, if music is your thing and you want to rock out, hopefully these tips can help you start to create that and just being confident and having those conversations. As mentioned, being flexible and put it on your calendar. This is such a pleasure connecting with you. Thank you so much for being with us.

Thanks for having me. It’s a blast. I love this stuff. Maybe I’d become a recurring person on your podcast. That’d be cool.

I would love it. I’m going to have to find other types of questions. The ‘90s question didn’t work. I’ll have to find other questions, but would love to have you again. Thank you. Thank you Jason by the way, my first fan mail, I love it. If you have other questions and thoughts or want to be a guest on the show, feel free to drop us a line at MECEMuseUnplugged@Gmail.com. I want to thank Ed for being on the show and go getters, thank you for listening. Here’s to your journey to greatness.

Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode. This pop-up podcast was inspired by my book the MECE Muse: 100+ Selected Practices, Unwritten Rules, and Habits of Great Consultants. I have people asking me many questions about this book, but the one question that comes up constantly is, “Christie, you have such a demanding career. How did you find time to write this book?” Honestly the answer is simple. I fought to become the mentor that I wish I had earlier in my career. In the beginning of my career, I didn’t have many mentors and mental maps of what success looks like, and I struggled with that in a lot of different ways. What’s nice about struggles is that I overcame them. I grew stronger and more competent, and I’m so excited where I am in my career. I want to share what I’ve learned and be able to help you.

I wrote the book with my years of experience, but I also had an amazing opportunity to connect with over 50 or so consulting partners and leaders across the industry, sharing their stories, their antidotes, and their resources on how you could be a great consultant yourself. Do me a favor. Pick up your phone right now. Go to www.MeceMuse.com. If you scroll down, you’ll see a little box to sign up for the book notification. Go ahead and sign up for it. I’d love to hear your feedback on my book as well as the podcast. Thanks again for listening, and here’s to your journey to greatness.

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