Women’s Leadership Series: Brittany Russo

This article is part of a series of posts from National Life’s Women’s Inclusion Network. WIN is a concentration of bright and forward-thinking women (and men!) who collaborate on the leadership development, diversification, and empowerment of National Life’s female field affiliates and home office employees.

Brittany graduated from Norwich University with both; a B.S. in Business Management and an M.B.A. focused in Project Management. Upon the completion of her B.S. Brittany started working for The National Life Group as an Internal Sales Associate and has since transitioned into a Director of Sales. Her goal is to help the agents representing National Life Group reinforce their clients financial security with her unlimited resources, professional capability and personal care.

Brittany leads the Women’s Inclusion Network at National life. She is driven to take the unemployment rates left to us by the COVID-19 Pandemic and turn them into opportunities in the financial services industry for under or unemployed women.

Although raised in Vermont, Brittany currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband Michael. Weekends are often spent adventuring, having family BBQ’s or at a Dodgers game.

It’s been almost a year of working remote within the COVID-19 Pandemic… How are you doing?

Very well, actually! It took a while to get used to, my role at the company is all about being in front of my relationships but I find that I am with them now more than I was before. I truly love the fact that I can be with agents in Texas during the day and then home for dinner with my husband at night. That was a luxury that I didn’t have before.

The pandemic has affected us all in unique ways, what would you say was the “Rose” and the “Thorn” of this past year?

My rose is two part, I get to see ALL my friends (agents) more regularly on zoom AND I get to see my husband every single day. Most people don’t know that Field Leaders can spend weeks away from their loved ones. So the idea of being home every night and asking my husband how his day was… I mean, I just have no words for being able to do that.

My thorn? I MISS MY RELATIONSHIPS. I am a people person, not a desk person. I like to shake hands, present on stage and watch people succeed in this industry. I miss hugging, high-fiving and getting to know all of the amazing people who represent NLG.

What did you want to be when you “grew up”?

An interior designer. My mother is extremely artistic and creative, but when I realized that that gene didn’t make it to me, I knew I had to play to my strength. I have always had an ease with communication. My mom tells a story about my confidence as a child. She would take me to the bank and I would just walk up and down the waiting line to talk everyone’s ear off! She was convinced that with my love of communication I would either be a politician or a lawyer. And here I am in sales.

What was your education and career pathway that brought you to where you are now?

I graduated from Norwich University with my B.S. in Business Marketing and my M.B.A. in Project Management. I actually found my way to National Life because I had a classmate who became one of my best friends and her husband was an actuary here. He suggested that I apply for the sales desk because I loved to talk so much, and I had industry training from New York Life. Everything happens for a reason!

What do you like most about what you do at National Life?

THE PEOPLE.

I love all of my internal partners; the WIN team, Internal Sales Associates, Contracting Specialists, Case Managers, Underwriters and my amazing Client Partner.. just to name a few.

I love all my relationships. The agents and agencies that I get to help service are top notch… in fact my husband and I invited a handful of them to our wedding. We really are family at NLG.

Has the financial services / insurance industry landscape changed during your career? If so, what changes have you seen…

Although I have not been in the industry very long, I would say that a lot has changed in the decade that I took the leap of faith to become an agent. When I first became a field leader many successful agents and their sons did not take me seriously. I have a vivid memory of a meeting with an agent who actively brushed off my business planning and instead asked me to join him in his courtside seats to watch the Lakers play later that week. Things like that don’t happen anymore. I am looked at as a strong businesswoman and have actually had many male counterparts demand respect on my behalf so that I am taken seriously. Its very refreshing to see that level of support. 

You are the new leader of National Life’s Women’s Inclusion Network, can you tell us about what that role means to you?

I am so excited to lead WIN this year. Selfishly I hope this year never ends, I have so many BIG ideas for WIN and the community that we can create. As I look at the team, I am honored to share this journey with such a powerhouse of women and of course Mike. I hope that the achievements of this year create a foundation for WIN to flourish in the coming years. I want to be able to look back and say that I helped take our team to the next level.

In honor of women’s history month, is there a woman who has inspired you in your life?

Hands down my mother. She was a teenager when she had my brother and then 11 months later, me.

She was 17 years old and basically raising twins. She did everything possible to make sure that we were not a statistic. She wanted a better life for us. She also raised me to believe in myself and embrace my strengths as a strong woman.

At National Life, Jennifer Warfield (VP of Independent Distribution) has inspired me beyond words. She is the NLG definition of leadership. 

What advice would you give to young women who are just beginning their careers?

Don’t try to be one of the guys. It sounds crazy and when that advice was given to me it felt a little sexist.. why can’t I do and act the way they do?! But when I embraced my difference and focused on being myself my career started to gain this unstoppable momentum. So ladies, always be yourself. You will not find another Brittany at any other carrier, and this is exactly what makes me memorable to our field.

What leadership quality do you most admire and aspire to?

Leading with emotion and not letting emotion lead you. Being vulnerable and connecting with one another on a deeper level can create a strength that is unmatched. Having vulnerability and empathy as you lead a team is paramount to the future of leadership in general. But there is a delicate balance. To be connected to your emotion and to know when to pocket the emotion is important. Leaders cannot afford to let one bad meeting ruin their scope of the entire day.

Sometimes I have to level set and remind myself, a bad 5 minutes does not mean you are having a bad day.

Do you have a cause or a favorite “Do good” passion?

Special needs. I feel very blessed to marry into a family with a member of the special needs community, my brother in law is the light of my life. He shows you how truly wonderful life can be. For my 30th birthday, I chose to raise money for Nicholas and his program. I was humbled by all of the people in my life who came together to help Nicholas’s program of special needs adults succeed.

What attracted you to National Life and what would you tell someone who is considering an opportunity with us?

At first it was the location. I grew up in Danville and went to college in Northfield, so Montpelier was a great place to land as I started my adult life. What has kept me at NLG for the last decade and for as many more decades as Mehran will let me stay around, is the family I have at the company. While I have no blood relation to anyone, I have watched many coworkers get married, have children, expand their careers, go back to school, become lawyers, grow their families, buy their first home and so on. My internal partners are literally that. PARTNERS. They aren’t home office people. The success of my agencies happens from the hard work of everyone on the team.

We have shown the strength of our family pact through the COVID crisis and the recent weather storms in Texas. We rallied and really showed up for each other.

Any other words of wisdom that you’d like to share?

Confidence is key. I am NOT the life insurance guru that some of my agents have coined me to be. In fact, I am actually in a lot of cellphones as “NLG Brittany- Life Insurance Queen” haha

But what I do know, I know VERY well. I take that confidence into conversations on topics that I know very little about, because in the back of my mind I am very confident that I have the resources and support of my internal partners to help me through. When the conversation hits a point where I am no longer helpful I very politely and confidently say “That is a great question Lizzie, however I do not know the answer. Would it be okay if I got my friend from Advanced Markets on the line to help us out?” I have built stronger relationships and deeper trust by owning up to the things I don’t know, rather than making up fluff in the moment.

Thank you, Brittany!

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