Brittany is an Accountant & Blogger & Organ Donor Advocate
Brittany Elliser talks about her passion for romance novels and how she started a blog to not only express her passion but to better herself in the workplace! She also talks about her experience with her son’s liver transplant and becoming an organ donor advocate!
• Getting into romance novels
• How her blogging helps with her career
• Talking about her blog at work
• Becoming an organ donor advocate
• How an organization and an individual can both shape workplace culture
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Brittany with some of her favourite books by her favourite authors!
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Welcome to Episode 303 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “And”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiates you when you’re at work.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book is being published in September. It’ll be available on Amazon, Indigo, Bookshop and a few other websites, so check out whatsyourand.com for all the details. I know their pre-orders will be available very soon. I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s listening to the show and changing the cultures where they work because of it, and the book will really help to spread this message.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Brittany Elliser. She’s a senior tax manager with KPMG in the Baton Rouge office, and now she’s with me here today. Brittany, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Brittany: Yes, I am super excited.
John: This is going to be awesome. We met playing The Six Foot Game Show with Tax Forward, and the KPMG team was so much fun. I’m so glad that you were willing to come and be a part of this.
Brittany: I think you meant to say where we dominated.
John: You did dominate. You did dominate up until the final floor and then it was a close one. It was so close. You guys were so much fun that we had to bring you back again to do an exhibition game just because, man, what a crazy team. You guys were a blast, for real. I have 17 rapid-fire questions for you, and they’re probably questions I should have asked while we were playing the game but didn’t. So, here we go. Here’s an easy one, favorite color.
John: Oh, okay. How about a least favorite color?
John: There you go. I guess they’re pretty much opposites. What’s a typical breakfast?
Brittany: Breakfast tacos.
John: Oh, nice. Good answer. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Brittany: Leonardo DiCaprio will have my heart forever and always.
John: I’m guessing Titanic or was it —
Brittany: Old school Leo, Growing Pains.
John: Oh, Growing Pains, that cameo. Okay.
John: All right.
Brittany: You should see him regular towards the end.
John: Yeah, Kirk Cameron’s got nothing. I’m at the side guy. All right, all right. How about pens or pencils?
Brittany: Pens, very specifically, 0.5, Uni-Ball.
John: Oh, nice. All right, I like that. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
Brittany: Oh, either, yeah, both.
John: Okay, at the same time, your right and left hand just going nuts.
Brittany: I’m getting bored. I think I’m going to put down the other. I have stacks of them, literally.
John: Wow. Okay, okay. How about are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
Brittany: Night owl.
John: Night owl, okay. I guess living in Baton Rouge, I think it’s a requirement.
John: Right? Okay, how about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Brittany: Oh, neither.
John: Neither. Okay, okay. That works. Your computer, a PC or a Mac.
Brittany: I enjoy a Mac better, but I only own a PC.
John: Okay, maybe that’s something we’ll talk about later.
Brittany: Yeah. I used to have one and then work-life calls, and they’re not too compatible.
John: Exactly. I’m not even cool enough to even go into the Mac store, so you’re way ahead of me. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Brittany: Baskin-Robbins chocolate only.
John: Oh, okay, all right. Straight up chocolate, there you go, and Baskin-Robbins especially.
John: Okay, all right. How about a favorite band or musician?
Brittany: Incubus or 311. Don’t let me pick.
John: Going old school, no, that works. They’re going to go on tour together.
Brittany: They’ve always gone on tour together, pretty much.
John: There you go. Then it’s perfect. It’s called the Brittany Elliser Tour.
John: Why is everyone leaving halfway through? That’s hilarious. How about when it comes to taxes, corporate or individual?
Brittany: Neither. Nonprofit.
John: Nonprofit, okay, okay. How about cats or dogs?
John: Cats, interesting. All right, we’ve got four more, four more. Do you have a favorite number?
John: Is there a reason?
Brittany: It was my basketball number, growing up, for a long time, and I think it’s just a perfect middle number.
John: No, it’s a great number. How about heels or flats?
Brittany: Oh, flats, probably.
John: You’re like, shoes at home? Why are we —
Brittany: Yeah, remember I left, I said, at the office, from…
John: You did.
Brittany: I did.
John: That was the question in the game show.
Brittany: I was trying to say neither, but —
John: Name something you’ve left at the office, and you said, “My shoes.”
Brittany: Yeah, I’m known for walking around barefoot.
John: That was so funny. All right, two more. Do you have a favorite adult beverage?
Brittany: I am a beer connoisseur, self-proclaimed, so, either that or my seasonal drinks. I enjoy a seasonal beverage. I have a winter drink. I have a summer drink. I have a fall drink.
John: Okay. What’s your summer drink, since it’s summer?
Brittany: It’s like a boat drink. It’s very tropical, pineapple, vodka, that kind of thing.
John: Yeah, that sounds like something I would drink. That’s great. All right, and the last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Brittany: Oh, it sounds weird to say my kids, but I have my kids. They’re my favorite.
John: That’s fine.
Brittany: That works.
John: You have kids. You have your kids.
John: That’s why I rephrase the question just in case people want to use family or something like that, that you obviously don’t own, and they will let you know that. It’s more the other way around probably.
John: Pretty much got you. So, yeah, let’s talk romance novels and then next level, blogging about it. How did you get started with that?
Brittany: It all started because I wanted to, this sounds cheesy, increase my, or perfect my writing. When I’m doing nonprofit taxes, it’s a lot of narratives and a lot of paragraphs that we have to write. So, I was like, I’m going to become a better writer. When I looked into it, I always love to read and I always love to read romance novels, I found this whole world of blogging about it. So, I told myself that I was going to start a blog on writing reviews of romance novels, and that’s how I got into it.
John: That’s fantastic. That’s great. You actually started the hobby in order to get better at what you do at work.
John: You reverse engineered my whole message.
Brittany: It’s weird because I’ve always been told I was a good writer, but when you get to writing different — not satires or not things for grades, it’s a different kind of writing, and not that reviews are what I write on a tax return, but just getting into it every day and having to structure paragraphs and write your thoughts down, I think is where it was really interesting to me.
John: No, that’s fantastic because it is a muscle that you need to exercise. The more you do, then the better you get at it, and then you can apply that skill in different ways. Although it would be fantastic if you did a review of the people that you were doing the tax return for, in the same way that you do the book characters. That’s so funny. That’s fantastic. So, romance novels were something that you’ve been into for even longer?
Brittany: Yeah. My grandmother was a librarian. My mom always had her books hidden in the little book cover sleeves. So I’ve had romance novels around me my entire life. I probably picked them up sooner than I should have, given the fact that I was reading them, probably, my mom not knowing that I was reading them. I’ve just always liked them. Now it’s just kind of a funny thing between all of our friends. Oh, Brittany’s reading her romance novels again.
John: Yeah, but they’re over there watching soap operas, so, whatever.
Brittany: Yeah, it’s the same thing.
John: Exactly, except for you’re a reader. There’s that.
Brittany: Yeah. I have always liked to read. It just became more and more — I just like romance, so I’m just going to read that.
John: Yeah, why not? That’s great. That’s really fantastic. Do you have a favorite author or one of your favorite books?
Brittany: Yes. I was obsessed with Karina Halle. That was my first author where I really dove into the whole book blogging world was really because of her. Now, I have so many. I couldn’t even name them all. There are so many. I’m lucky that I actually get to beta read for a lot of them now and work with them, so it’s pretty cool.
John: Yeah, because you’ve read a lot of them, and you can critique them. What’s the name of your blog, for everybody listening?
Brittany: It is called “The Book Boutique: Where Reading Is Always In Style.”
John: Right. You have a tagline. That’s so good. Are you sure you’re in tax? It’s way too creative.
Brittany: I’m too much of a creative person to be stuck doing taxes but, you know.
John: Just as long as you don’t use that creativity to do taxes, you’re fine.
Brittany: Yeah. No, no.
John: How cool is that? Well, I have a link at whatsyourand.com as well. People can go there and get the link from the show page. That’s super cool that people are actually sending you, hey, here’s a book, what do you think, type of a thing. That’s awesome. I should have sent my book to you. You should have been like, it needs a little more romance.
Brittany: Don’t worry.
John: Well, thank you. Yeah, it needs a new cover, a little more wind rolling on an ocean scene or something. I don’t know why I think that that’s the thing. I’ve seen one romance novel cover apparently.
Brittany: They’re all in my house, so I can give you lots of example.
John: I’ve got romance books. I’ve got Sudoku puzzles. I’ve got crossword puzzles. I don’t know, my kids are somewhere around here. My shoes, forget about it.
John: I think that’s so fantastic that you actually started it specifically to help your skills for work. Do you feel like you’ve gotten better?
Brittany: If you ask my boss, I would say she’s happy. I do think it’s helped me be more organized when I sit down to write a memo or something like that, so I do think it has helped really narrow down what I want to get out at the end of the day. It’s, like you said, practice makes perfect, and so I think it definitely has helped.
John: Yeah, and it’s something that you have talked about at work because, like you said, everybody knows. How did that come up? Because a lot of people that I talk with, and I was a little bit the same way, it’s like, well, am I supposed to share this or not, type of a thing. Is it something that ever crossed your mind?
Brittany: I kept it a secret for a while. They knew that I had a blog, but nobody really knew what I was blogging about. Like my boss, I had my most inline boss person, she knew that I was starting a blog kind of thing. She was like, oh, yeah, that’s fun. Then somebody somewhere said something about romance novels, and I was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s what my blog is about,” and there was this whole, boom! Everybody’s like, what do you do? What do you do? What do you do? I was like, oh, my gosh, what did I open? Now, it’s just a known fact that when we travel for work and I’m on the plane, it’s like, don’t talk to me, I’m reading, please leave me alone.
John: It’s like, I’ve got a beta book that I’ve got to read here who needs my feedback. That’s awesome because I’ve never come across, in my life, another romance blogger. Then just Episode 301 was Jeannie Ruesch who writes romance books. It’s like, all of a sudden, my world —
Brittany: Romance is everywhere. It’s in the air.
John: Exactly, it is in the air. It’s gross August, why not? Do you find that it almost draws more people in because it is so unique and it’s not golf or something that’s pretty common?
Brittany: It’s definitely a conversation-starter. I will say that the romance community is humongous on Instagram. I feel like it’s huge because all of my friends — I’ve actually met my co-blogger through Instagram. We combined our blogs together. I think it’s this whole crazy community that’s humongous but then when I step back from it, I’m like, oh, a lot of people actually don’t know about it. So, it’s definitely an interesting conversation-starter, for sure.
John: Yeah, and even in the professional setting, why not? It’s not illegal.
John: Did it ever cross your mind, like, hey, I’m worried people might judge me or something?
Brittany: Yeah, I would say so. There’s definitely a stigma, if you ask any romance reader. We’re the smutty readers. We’re reading smutty books and things like that, and they have no substance to it. Actually, there’s a lot to it. A lot of the stories are actually very deep characters, deep connections and things like that. So, to me, proving them wrong is almost sort of fun because I’m like, well, you should check out this book because you will be very surprised.
John: Yeah, because it’s people like me that have seen one cover, and it’s like, whatever, some shirtless guy with long hair, and it’s blowing. It’s like, I don’t know, like a shampoo commercial or something. I don’t know. It’s clearly not normal. That’s for sure. That’s awesome. That’s really cool. Have you come across, through work, other romance novel fans?
Brittany: I heard that there was a person in the Houston office that used to write romance novels, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read her books.
Brittany: Yeah. I tried reaching out, but it never worked out. I was like, okay, I’m just going to drop it, in case it’s not her, but I tried two to three times.
John: Right. I guess if it’s not her, that would be weird if you keep ringing her. Maybe she’ll listen to the podcast, and we’ll see what we can do.
Brittany: Yeah. Now everybody’s like, Britney, you send me a rec. Brittney, you send me this. Now, it’s just known, go to Brittany, she can give you tons of books. I’m like, okay, sure.
John: See? Clearly, people are coming to you and asking for advice. That’s so cool because that’s a really fantastic byproduct of having this outside-of-work passion. Clearly, the work skill set was the reason you did it, but then to actually create stronger connections is pretty fantastic to hear.
Brittany: For sure.
John: That’s very cool. Before that, was there something else that you would share at work, or have you been just riding that train for a while?
Brittany: The only other thing I’m known for is being passionate about organ donation. That’s about it.
John: Which I’d love to talk about because your son — I mean, can you share a little bit more about that?
Brittany: Yeah. My son was born with a rare liver disease that we had no idea was going to come, and he ended up needing a transplant, a liver transplant at five months old, and that subsequently turned into two additional liver transplants afterwards. He’s coming up on his five-year anniversary. July 17th is the date of his last transplant. It’s just something that, I found, helps me make connections. I’m always open to talk about it. If I’m not talking about liver transplants or organ transplants or educating the population about organ donation, I’m talking about romance novels. So, those are my top two, I would say.
John: That’s awesome. If we could just get a romance novel about somebody that donates an organ.
Brittany: They have them actually.
John: Really? That’s so good, and they both love Incubus and 311. It’s just like, what is happening? You should write your own. We just wrote a book for you right now. We just did it. See how easy it is to write a book? No, it’s crazy hard. But that’s so powerful to hear. Three organ transplants in five years or less is insane. That’s impressive. He is way tougher than I could ever even act like I am. That’s impressive.
Brittany: He’s our no limits soldier, for sure. That’s what we call him.
John: Nice. I love that, so cool, and it’s so great that you’re out there advocating for that and an example of, here’s what the benefits are from this and how it affects someone in a family even, which is awesome. That’s really cool, really cool to hear. I guess one thing that I sit around and stew on a lot because I got time is how much is it on an organization to create a culture where people feel free to share these outside-of-work hobbies and passions? Or how much is it on the individual, if they’re not in a place like that, to just create a little circle amongst themselves?
Brittany: I think it’s a mixture, although where I work is very — it’s all about, what can we bring to the table? I think the more diverse an office is, the better results you’re going to get, honestly. I definitely think everyone in our office — I mean, we are Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We are one of the smaller offices of the whole country, but I think we have a very good diverse group, and that, I think, we all bring that to the table. There’s not one of us who doesn’t know what’s not going on in someone else’s life and what they’re passionate about. It’s pretty cool because we get big office culture with little office feels.
John: Yeah, and that’s awesome. I think that diverse, it’s not just race and gender, it’s other things as well of who you are as a person. That’s awesome. That’s so cool to hear that you have that there.
Brittany: We have a professional water skier, the number one women’s professional water skier in our office.
John: What? That is so cool.
Brittany: Yeah, because she was on the cover of our homepage for a while and stuff. She’s pretty awesome.
John: If you’re a professional water skier, done and done, or a romance novel blogger, also equally cool. I love it. I just think it’s so fantastic. When I heard it, I was like, that is so unique and so cool. Especially, you own it. You’re like, yeah, that’s what I do. What do you want to talk about? You need some tips? What kind of book do you want? Historical? What do you want? In the future? That’s super cool. Is there anything specific that your office does to encourage this? Or is it just because you feel like maybe it’s a smaller office, so the dynamics are just there?
Brittany: I think we’re really big on, I hate saying it, but work-life balance. I hate that term, but they really are very big on finding your passion and then doing what makes you happy at the end of the day and giving us time to figure out what we are passionate about and then actually giving us the time to do it.
John: That’s fantastic. That’s refreshing to hear because in my research, let’s say, 8% of people, that passion is work.
John: But for 92% of us, it is not work, and that’s totally okay. Both sides, totally okay. Just because you’re good at what you do and you’re good at tax, especially for nonprofits, I just found out earlier, but that doesn’t mean that that’s what lights you up. If there are other things that do, then that’s really cool to hear that they let you do the other things as well.
Brittany: I think going through everything with my son allowed that to really flourish. It was a big eye-opening for me of what makes me happy at the end of the day, so I think that built into it a little bit, too, honestly.
John: Yeah, that’s super powerful because when everything’s good, whatever, you don’t really think about stuff, and then all of a sudden, yeah, when things get a little bit different then it’s like, ooh, man, yeah, this is what’s actually important to me.
John: That’s cool. Do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that might think that they have a hobby or a passion that has nothing to do with their job?
Brittany: I would say, let your freak flag fly.
John: There you go. There you go.
Brittany: Do what makes you happy. Stay weird.
John: There you go. I need to change the title of my book. Dang it. Everyone would be angry. They’re like, “That’s not what the book’s about. I bought this book because of the cover.” No, but that’s exactly it is — actually the last title of the last chapter is Make Professionalism Weird.
John: For real. Because what you bring to the table is unique and different than everyone else with that Accounting degree or whatever degree people have.
Brittany: I think they all say it. We’re all like, “Well, we’re all a little bit weird.” So, I’m like, “So own it.” Yeah, I’m weird.
John: Exactly. The cool thing is that when everyone’s weird, then all of a sudden, we’re all weird together. It’s like the Land of Misfit Toys or something where it’s, all of a sudden, the cool place, type of thing. So, Brittany, this was so much fun. Before I let you go, since I rudely started out the show, peppering you with questions, it’s only fair that I allow you to now be the host of the show. You can now rapid-fire question me, so, whatever you’ve got.
Brittany: Did you download Tiktok in quarantine?
John: I didn’t, but I have watched some. I have a friend who has warned me that it’s a rabbit hole that you will never come out of. I didn’t want to go down it because I probably would have missed talking to you because I would have been just watching the next Tiktok, but, yeah, I did not.
Brittany: What’s your favorite book?
John: My favorite book.
Brittany: Yeah, any genre, any anything.
John: Yeah, so my favorite book is called “The War of Art.” It’s a play on The Art of War. It’s The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and it’s for creatives. It just talks about, every day is this constant inner critic that tries to trip you up from creating something great. It tries to sidetrack you to go down other paths that don’t matter. It’s so good. Yeah, I really like that book, The War of Art. It’s fantastic. It’s not very romantical, if that’s even a word. I don’t even know.
John: It’s not a lot of romance. Absolutely. Well, this has been so much fun, Brittany. Thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Brittany: No problem. Glad I can join. It was super fun.
John: Absolutely, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Brittany outside of work or maybe connect with her on social media or get a link to her blog, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there, and while you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.