Iralma is a Consultant & Wellness Guru
Iralma Pozo talks about her passion for wellness and brewing tea, how it helps her in her career as a CPA, and much more!
• Getting into wellness
• How her passion for wellness has helped her at her career
• Bringing her own teas to work
• Lunch police
• Everyone should see themselves as a leader or contributing to something
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Welcome to Episode 423 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 in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
If you like what this show is about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want me to read it to you, that’s right, this voice reading the book, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. The book goes more in depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture, and I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
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, Iralma Pozo, the duchess of accounting. She’s an adjunct lecturer at John Jay College in New York City, and now she’s with me here today. Iralma, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Iralma: Thank you so much, John. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today.
John: Oh, this is going to be so awesome. I appreciate you reaching out as a listener, read the book, and was like, hey, I’d love to be on the show. I’m like, absolutely, this is going to be great. I appreciate that, so thank you. I have some rapid-fire questions here, get to know Iralma on a new level. Here we go. I’ll start you out with probably an easy one. Favorite color.
John: Purple. Solid answer, there you go. That’s a good answer. How about a least favorite color?
Iralma: I’m trying to think. It’s very difficult. Maybe lime green because it’s hit or miss sometimes.
John: Yeah, that’s true. It’s like, you don’t need all the attention. Everyone just sees it. How about cats or dogs?
Iralma: I would have said dogs before the pandemic, but now I want a whole safari.
John: All of the animals, you’re like Noah’s Ark. I love it. That’s awesome. How about do you have a favorite actor or actress?
Iralma: No, I enjoy them equally or dislike them equally.
John: Love it.
Iralma: Anything funny. Anything funny. It depends on what they’re doing.
John: Yeah, yeah. No, I love that answer. That’s so perfect. This is a fun one that somebody asked me and I like to turn it around. More socks or shoes.
Iralma: More shoes because I’m a hard stepper. When I walk into a room, it sounds like another person is coming in the room. I run through my shoes, so, more shoes than socks.
John: You go through them. I gotcha. All right. Plus, they’re cooler colors. They’re fancier. How about do you have a favorite day of the week?
Iralma: Payday? Just kidding because I’m a consultant, so payday could be any minute.
John: That’s awesome.
Iralma: I like Saturdays, but I like all the days. Any day is a good day.
John: All right. Yeah, any day that we’re up. That works. All right, how about puzzles, Sudoku, crossword or jigsaw?
John: Sudoku. Nice. All right, there you go. The accountant in you, loves the numbers, I see. How about when it comes to books, audio version, e-book or real book?
Iralma: It depends because if I was married, I would have gotten divorced over my book purchase. During the pandemic, I had to hide them away. It really depends. I do love audio books when I have a commute, but I like to sit down with a book and just get lost in it.
John: Right. Yeah, and feel the pages. Yeah, totally. How about do you have a favorite number?
Iralma: Favorite number, a trillion? No, just kidding.
John: A trillion.
Iralma: Sometimes five, sometimes ten.
John: Okay. Is there a reason?
Iralma: Sometimes I like to get five opinions on something before I make a decision.
John: Yeah. I like that. That sounds great. I wasn’t sure if it was because you’re on the five train there in New York, or maybe not, but either way. Sometimes that’s a good reason to like a number. How about your first concert?
Iralma: First concert, oh, boy. Did we have concerts back then? I’m just kidding. I’ll leave the jokes to you. I’m trying to think which one it was one. I think it was one of the salsa concerts.
John: Oh, very cool. That’s awesome. That’s fantastic. As the accountant, I’ve got to ask you here, balance sheet or income statement.
Iralma: Where’s the money?
John: Where’s the money?
Iralma: I’d say income statement.
John: Income statement. All right, there you go. There you go. Would you say more diamonds or pearls?
Iralma: I like wearing pearls but wouldn’t mind getting diamonds.
John: I’m not going to turn either of them down, right? How about Star Wars or Star Trek?
Iralma: I’m not allowed to answer that question because I accidentally confused both of them the other day.
John: Oh. That’s awesome.
Iralma: I had an issue as a child, taking naps during the shows.
John: Oh, okay. Okay. That’s awesome. Very good. Very good. We’ve got four more. Your computer, more of a PC or a Mac?
Iralma: Oh, man, I answered that the other day. It depends what I’m doing. If I’m doing my nice creative work, I love Mac, but if I’m doing accounting work, I need a PC because these programs don’t work on these Macs.
John: On Macs, right, yeah, pretty much. So you’ve got both. I’m impressed. I’m impressed. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Iralma: I love chocolate, but I don’t like to eat chocolate on its own, when it comes to ice cream.
Iralma: It has to be something with chocolate and something else. I just started eating sorbets.
John: Oh, okay. There you go. No, I like it. Yeah, I’m a big fan of chunks. How much can we get into the ice cream at one time, so, like brownies or chocolate chunks or whatever?
John: Cake, yes. Now we’re talking. Two more. Heels or flats?
Iralma: Stilettos or sneakers, how about that?
John: Okay, stilettos or sneakers, there you go. Or both.
Iralma: Both. It depends. I’ll carry my sneakers to where I’m going.
John: Right? Sometimes you wear the sneakers and then put the stilettos on if you get there. That works. I’ve seen that. The last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Iralma: My brain. I’m just kidding. It’s what makes all the money.
John: That’s a good answer. That’s a solid answer. Right.
Iralma: I’m trying to think because I’m trying to become a minimalist, but I’m not doing a great job at it.
John: Sure. Well, you’re trying. At least you’re there. There’s an effort there. Is there anything that is really cool or sentimental or…
Iralma: God forbid, the whole house was burning, what would I leave with?
John: Besides your brain, of course.
Iralma: Sadly, I’m not too materialistic, and I can feel like I can replace most things. I would have to take my laptop or something just to keep doing work or something. I’ll take some of my books. I don’t mean the ones that I wrote. I mean, some of the books that I have in the house.
John: Right, yeah. No, absolutely. Absolutely. No, that’s awesome. Let’s chat wellness and, of course, the writing, like you said, with the books. How did you get started on this wellness path, in general?
Iralma: I think I tried some teas. My mother’s always big on teas. Oh, drink this tea if your stomach hurts and drink this if you can’t sleep. I used to be always annoyed as a child because I always had to drink tea if I complained about anything. When I started my first accounting job, my boss was a big piece of work. I don’t note him anywhere on my resume because my resume is like a Forbes Magazine. It’s so long. He used to be very interesting and had a very nice temper. It was just a weird atmosphere because I was trying to become a CPA. I wanted to get into accounting right away. Everybody knew I was going to leave as soon as I passed the exam, which didn’t take long for me, thank goodness.
I used to feel very stressed out there. I was very shy, and my stomach would be hurting. I’m like, you know what, I used to drink chamomile or something because these Tums, I can’t keep popping Tums like it’s M&Ms or something. I started drinking some tea there and enjoying it. I actually kind of like this after lunch. I’ve never been a big juice drinker. Always, as a child, we had some iced tea that my parents put together, but they don’t like to have a lot of sugar. They were like take whatever people put together and then put their own things in it and make it into a lemon — it kind of was pushed upon me to have tea, and I just started enjoying tea. Because coffee always gave me a big crash and I just didn’t enjoy it as much.
John: I completely missed the coffee train myself as well. I just never picked up on it, but teas, I agree. It is interesting how there are so many kinds of teas and, like you said, your mom’s got almost like a pharmacy. It’s like, what hurts? Okay, take this tea.
Iralma: If she ever tells me to drink oregano tea again, I’m just going to flip out. I don’t tell her if my stomach hurts. I just go and have yogurt or something. I started seeing, oh, it’s kind of nice to have something warm in your stomach. I like scents, putting together things, like if you’re not feeling well, putting something together, putting some apples in it or cinnamon, and just the way the house smells. That also is one of the reasons.
Then, I have a sensitive stomach. If I try to drink all these painkillers, it doesn’t work, so I’m back to tea. Mentally taking care of myself, that alone alleviates anything that’s going on. I really don’t like medicine. I joke that the only place I like to see a doctor is on a date. I really don’t like medicine. I know it has its function in society, but I don’t like to take things that are going to make me sick for four days so that I can feel better in five.
Iralma: So, trying to take care of my sensitive stomach. I was very energetic in the past, so this is me on my 20% energy. When I was younger, I would be the person that people had to drink coffee to be around. They’re like, please let me have my coffee before you. I was like, get away, sunshine, go away. I sometimes drank tea to tame my energy before going to meetings with grouchy people.
John: Okay. I can totally see that. Plus, I imagine that — is there a part of it that takes you back to childhood at all or the good memories of childhood rather than your mom making you drink so many kinds?
Iralma: When I would travel back to visit my parents and then my aunts would get up at the crack of dawn with the roosters, even though they had no roosters in the house. They’d have tea ready for people, and I’m like, you know I would like to sleep first, but I’ll drink this, and what is in here? Just having those memories of them preparing something that was refreshing and didn’t taste as bitter and bold as my mom used to make. It wasn’t a punishment. It was like, oh, start your day off with some tea, and just taking a break and having something refreshing before you even start your day.
John: Yeah, and you’re like, hey, can you teach my mom how you do this, because that would be awesome. That is super cool, and then also, something that’s part of your heritage. There are so many different things that they put in the tea, were you ever able to find out what your favorite kinds are? Or are you experimenting yourself, besides putting the apples and the cinnamon in there?
Iralma: If I had the dream kitchen, I would have been making Kombucha during the pandemic, but I didn’t. I like Kombucha because it has all these probiotics in it. Everything has to have a purpose. I don’t want stuff just to have stuff, but occasionally I’ll have things that are just for whatever reason. I like lavender tea which is kind of scary to drink because you never know if it’s going to make you so relaxed that your day is over, or if it’s going to make you relaxed enough to finish a few things.
John: Right? Okay. There you go.
Iralma: I always drink green tea because of the benefits that they say that green tea brings in your life. I ended up making green tea as the base and adding other things.
John: Oh, there you go.
Iralma: I do have to be careful sometimes because, occasionally, I’ll boil things that I shouldn’t boil, to add them to tea. I had some berries instead of — normal people make tarts and things when their berries are about to expire. I boiled some of them and added them to my green tea. I’m not sure how that affects you, but I’m very lucky I don’t have any blood pressure problems, so I can experiment a little bit.
John: All right. That’s cool, and it’s fun to play with. You try it. Either you like it or you don’t. If you do then you can do it again. I think that’s really cool. That’s awesome, really fun, and especially like traveling to go — have you traveled to other places for teas?
Iralma: I’m hoping when people hear this episode, they’ll send me a subscription to, what is this, I think it’s Tea Drops? There are subscriptions that you can try different teas from different places.
John: Oh, yeah.
Iralma: When I go to different restaurants, I try the tea that they have there. If I go to an Indian restaurant, I’ll try some of the tea that they have there, or I’ll just make an excuse to try something different anywhere I go, just walk in some place to try. I do want to start maybe more purposeful and going out there and traveling to try different teas. I don’t know if I should add one to the mix.
John: Right. Well, it depends if it’s before or after dinner. I don’t know. Yeah, you figure it out. That’s really cool. Do you feel at all, just wellness in general, or even the tea and experimenting with the different recipes, give you a skill set at all that translates to work?
Iralma: I think it does. For example, I’ve become a little obsessed with ginger. I think I need to measure ginger when I use it.
John: Yeah, there’s definitely too much ginger. That’s for sure.
Iralma: I really need to watch myself with ginger because I think I love ginger too much. I’ll buy it granulated. I’ll buy it fresh. I’ll try to put into everything that I do as well. I buy the powder, the ground, organic, ginger-infused, ginger and turmeric and things that reduce inflammation. As you know, our profession is very demanding and, at times, stressful. Some of the stress is good. Some of the stress is learning how to manage yourself and manage up and stay focused on what you’re supposed to be doing and not taking on things you’re not supposed to. Life happens and things happen. Things like turmeric which have a lot of anti-inflammatory — this is not FDA… Do I have to make that disclosure?
John: No, no, no.
Iralma: I’m not making any FDA statements or whatever you call it, all right?
John: Exactly. Yeah, there’s a lot of healing benefits from it, for sure.
Iralma: There are a lot of healing benefits. I find that it’s very important to be able to show up at your best, whatever your best is at the moment. If you’ve been sitting all day, or you haven’t been feeling well, or stress has caught up to you, and you’re suffering from inflammation of any sort; it’s good to manage that. Because if you don’t show up to work as your best self, you’re not going to have the best time, and your best is going to change over time. Just being able to give yourself that permission to explore new things — I feel like, to be successful in our profession, to be able to retain people, to get people to be interested in joining our profession, we have to create a safe space for people where… Maybe, let’s say, you were running a firm, and you wanted to give people 10% of their time can be used experimenting on whatever, like the tech companies do, right? They tell you, go and create something. We own it, but go ahead and play over there and do what you want. You have to give permission to explore. Otherwise, they don’t really get invested in what they’re doing. They may lose interest, or you may miss out on something great.
John: No, I love it. I totally agree. If you’re not living your best life, then you’re not going to be doing your best work. Living your best life is pursuing those passions is a big part of that. If I told you that you could never drink tea again, you would probably not be very happy with me. If I was like, you never have to do another tax return again, you’d be like, where do I sign? I’ll do that right now.
Iralma: What do you mean I can’t do a tax return?
John: It’s just something that lights you up, is the tea. It’s easy for us to forget the other side of us. Do you talk about the wellness and teas and what you’re experimenting with throughout your career, with colleagues or clients?
Iralma: I don’t want to say I’m a tea snob, but if someone gives me certain brands, they’re too… I don’t like them. I used to bring my own. I used to bring my own tea to work. If I walked into a pantry and they had very bad quality green tea, I would bring my own box, in my bag, of course. I’m not going to share with the world.
John: Sure. Yeah, yeah.
Iralma: Sometimes I would bring the granulated ginger tea, and if I heard somebody coughing, I’d give it to them.
John: Oh, there you go.
Iralma: One time, a colleague tasted it, and she couldn’t get the taste of ginger out of her mouth, a week, so she would go around avoiding me if she had any kind of cough because she didn’t want me to offer her anything again. I have offered people tea, and they thought I was crazy. So, I’m always careful not to offer people too many things.
John: You’re like, my mom says this is good, trust me.
Iralma: I once went a little bit overboard. I made someone a homemade cough syrup. My blender broke when I was making it, so all the pulp of the stuff was in there. I told her, you just have to strain it. She looked at me like, you’re crazy.
John: Right. I’m not straining it in.
Iralma: I’m not doing it, this is too much work, and take this back. She took it, and she felt better the next day. Or she drank a lot of over-the-counter stuff to make sure she wouldn’t cough in front of me. People come to me and tell me how stressed they are. I used to be the lunch police and watched people and told them I wasn’t going to talk to them if they didn’t have lunch first. I used to be very hangry, so people always carried snacks when they were around me. They never ate them. They just offered them to me because they noticed that I was a little bit grouchy when I was hungry.
I always have a set lunchtime, and I would invite some people to take a walk with me afterwards. Now that I work in academia, I don’t work there full time, so I don’t have colleagues to take walks with. Working as an independent consultant, I don’t have that structure, but before, I used to take a walk after lunch with people. That prompted some conversations, and people will share things with me about things that they thought were off. Obviously, I didn’t try to be a fake functional doctor or something, but it’s very important for people to feel good when they’re showing up. I try not to probe too much into people’s business. I do try to remind them like, hey, you do need to take care of yourself. That sleep when you die thing doesn’t really work very well because you’ll die sooner. Everyone needs a minimum amount of sleep, and you can only handle so much stress.
With our profession becoming so… I think it’s more demanding, but we have all the technology and all these opportunities. You can’t do high level work for 50 hours a week. That work is supposed to be done, 15, 30 hours. If people don’t recognize that and they try to do all this high level work for the same amount of time they did the low level work, they’re going to really burn themselves out.
John: Definitely, definitely. I think it’s awesome, you care. You care about your colleagues. You’re showing them that you care, but you’re also sharing a little bit of your “and”. It’s like, hey, I’m really into this. Drink this or try this, and see if it works or whatever. I think that’s fantastic. How much do you feel like it’s on an organization to create a safe space, if you will, or create that space for people to be able to share those outside-of-work hobbies and passions? Or how much is it on the individual, like how you did, of like, hey, I’m just going to share it, type of thing?
Iralma: I think it’s a combination. Like they say, walk the factory floor. Everyone has to see themselves as a leader or as someone who’s contributing. It can’t be like a partner of a firm is setting up a program or initiative, and then the managers are like, I don’t care if it’s Friday. I need this by Monday, and today’s Thursday. You have to do this. You have to have the front line managers have some kind of training on how they’re going — and actually change the way you incentivize people. Because if you’re going to give people bonus based only on productivity or whatever the case may be.
John: Hours worked.
Iralma: Yes. Because I’ve worked with people who I didn’t like, and I worked very fast before them. I stayed up all night finishing their work just not to deal with them. When I work with them, it looks like they’re doing such a great job managing me. In reality, I just don’t like working with them so much that I will sacrifice my sleep to get the project done and not deal with them. I’m not happy when I work with this manager, but it doesn’t look that way by the way that this person is being rewarded for managing a team. You can’t just look at numbers. You have to look at, are people happy when you walk through the office? People who’ve been working together for three years, is there any laughter in the office?
I think that a lot of times, people gravitate to people they know or they like or they trust, but there has to be some type of formal — you can’t push meetings on people. Nobody really likes those, I shouldn’t say nobody likes them, but those team building activities. There has to be a way that you meet with the person who manages you regularly. Then if they have their favorite people, you don’t feel like you’re left out. You still have access to the person you report to. They’re not running away to just have lunch with their buddies, and they’re sponsoring them for all the jobs. Everyone has to take responsibility. There has to be structure and then everyone has to have their own accountability.
John: Yeah, a little bit of structure, but then you can get creative within that.
John: I like to refer to it as build the sandbox and then let everybody play inside. Here’s the borders, don’t go outside, everything inside, awesome. Because we’re so permission-based for so much that we do. Well they didn’t say we could. Yeah, they also didn’t say we couldn’t, so what’s up with that? Try. Well, no one’s talking about their hobbies. That doesn’t mean that you can’t. You can just ask or just be genuinely interested in the people around you. It’s amazing the magic that happens.
Iralma: Oh, yes, just asking people a question that makes them light up. If your colleague leaves early because they had to go to a game for their child, and you ask them, did they win? They’re going to remember you asked them that, if you build a rapport with the person. You have to have personality, and you have to be personable. You don’t have to be investigating people, but be a person when you’re at work. Be a person without violating any rules or laws or whatever you call it.
John: Yeah, exactly. As long as it’s not illegal or taboo then I love — I mean, that’s such a great final thought for everybody listening, is just be a person when you’re at work. It’s simple but not easy. Just be a person. I love that, Iralma. That’s awesome. Before I wrap this up though, I feel like it’s only fair that I turn the tables and make this the first episode of the Iralma Pozo podcast, thanks for having me on as a guest, since I rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning. I’m all yours. You can ask me whatever you want.
Iralma: Okay, I’m just making these questions up as I go. Who’s your favorite comedian?
John: My favorite comedian, wow. There are a lot, for sure, a lot. I would say probably right now, I’m a big fan of Brian Regan. He’s really funny, also a very, very nice guy. Yeah, Brian Regan is really, really funny. Over time, there’s Bob Newhart who was an accountant as well. He was hilarious, or still is. There’s the Chris Rocks and the Jerry Seinfelds and the Jay Lenos and Ellen DeGeneres. Their stand-up is amazing. It’s just not everybody sees the stand-up pieces. They see them in movies or TV shows or whatever, but it’s different, so, a lot of that. Even people that I’m friends with, like Ryan Hamilton and Tommy Johnagin, so funny. Hopefully that’s enough names for people to go Google, but, yeah, Brian, Regan’s hilarious and always so funny for me.
Iralma: All right, so I heard somewhere that you like ice cream.
John: Oh, yeah, all about it.
Iralma: If you had to pick between almond ice cream and rice ice cream.
Iralma: Did you just say, oh?
John: Why would you do this to me?
Iralma: Okay, I’m just kidding.
John: I would say almond, I guess, because I’ve never even heard of rice ice cream. I guess I need to look into that.
Iralma: Don’t look into it. That was one of my wellness experiments where I was trying to reduce dairy so that I could just eat cheese until I die, but not many other types of dairy.
Iralma: The rice ice cream, I said, you know what? I will run. I will exercise. I will do anything I need to do because this feels like the biggest punishment that I’ve ever had in my life. I will not eat rice ice cream.
John: It doesn’t even sound right. It doesn’t sound right.
Iralma: Really, rice with beans ice cream?
John: Right? Yeah, exactly. You’re like, that’s not what rice is for. This is wrong, and you know what it probably is? It’s probably sneaky cauliflower rice, which isn’t even rice. It’s probably cauliflower rice ice cream, and that’s even worse.
Iralma: Don’t get me started because I’m a little bit obsessed with cauliflower pizza, but I only like the one that’s the original brand because the other ones are not that great.
John: Right, right. Yeah, I’m going to go almond on that. I’m going to go almond, for sure, on that one.
Iralma: If you were an accountant starting out in comedy, let’s say that I wanted to start being funny and recording myself, TikTok, YouTube or Twitter.
John: Oh. I guess, nowadays, it seems like TikTok is pretty hot. I know it’s that because I’m not on it. That’s why I know it’s cool. The other two I am on, and that means that old people are on it.
Iralma: Hey, hey, none of that. I’m a Gen Xer. Okay?
John: Right? No, but I’m just saying, in today’s world, it seems like TikTok is the thing that people are gravitating towards, so I would say, if you’re starting out and recording and whatever, then I would go there. Well, thank you so much, Iralma, for being a part of this and just for being so supportive and, yeah, just being part of What’s Your “And”? and living it every day. Thank you so much for being here.
Iralma: Thank you.
John: Yeah, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Iralma in action or some of her teas or outside-of-work fun, connect with her on social media, or maybe get her new TikTok account that she’s about to open, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to get the book.
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.