Katelynn Minott: Digital Nomad, Expat Superstar Accountant, and Mother of Three
Katelynn is the first to admit that she lives a full and fascinating life. From her South American home office, as a partner at accounting firm Bright!Tax, Katelynn manages a team of remote-working accountants who together help thousands of other Americans expats living overseas to keep up to date with their U.S. filing obligations from wherever they are in the world. Over the last decade, Katelynn has helped grow the business from a humble startup into a multi award-winning, international accounting powerhouse, while also raising three young children, and still finding time to travel and explore South America. In this interview, she tells us about the challenges that she’s faced and overcome, working remotely as a Digital Nomad and raising a family abroad.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your situation, and your work?
My name is Katelynn Minott. I grew up in the Boston area however I became enthralled with living abroad after spending time in Chile on an exchange program during my university studies to become an accountant. After beginning my career with PwC, I found myself impatient with the timeline that the Big 4 accounting firm indicated for a potential international rotation though, so I took one of the biggest risks of my professional career and departed to follow my dreams abroad.
Once settled in Chile, I made it a priority to balance my personal interests and passion for travel with my career. Shortly after my move, I made the acquaintance of Greg Dewald, a lifelong entrepreneur, who was residing on the other side of the Andes Mountains in Argentina. Greg had recently founded Bright!Tax, and we began what is now a 10 year friendship and business relationship. America taxes all US citizens on their worldwide income, including expats, and Bright!tax specializes in addressing the needs of internationally based Americans. Together, and thanks to our exceptional team, we have grown the business to a several million dollar powerhouse with thousands of American clients based in almost every country in the world.
We have achieved this through a relentless focus on providing the highest quality, personalized experience to all of our American expat clients. This philosophy has always been at the core of the business, and informs all our business decisions.
How have you found building both a career and a family while living as an expat?
As an expat, building a career as a CPA serving Americans abroad is extremely rewarding, as I can relate in a very personal way to the needs of my clients. I experience many of the same challenges in my personal life (with immigration, embassies, reporting the birth of children abroad, tax questions, etc), that my clients bring to me in a professional setting. Not only can I offer technical advice, but also a sense of reassurance and firsthand experience for those who are perhaps alarmed, confused or anxious about their tax situation as an American living abroad.
Growing a family abroad undoubtedly has its challenges, particularly as my extended family is several plane rides away and therefore not readily available as a support network. That being said, living abroad has made us a very tightly knit family unit, and provided experiences that we could never dream of having lived within our comfort zone back at home.
As I have the flexibility to work from anywhere there is an internet signal, we’ve been able to explore South America (not recently of course!), visiting Argentina, Colombia, and Uruguay, and, at the start of 2020, relocating to Brazil. Travelling and living abroad has opened up my children’s eyes to the diverse world that lies before them, as they’ve had an opportunity to experience different cultures, languages, socioeconomic situations, and traditions, not to mention climates and everyday routines.
How has expat life changed over the last year, and what further changes to you envisage in the future?
We relocated to Brazil just before the pandemic set in, and like the rest of the world we have experienced restrictions in terms of socializing, and school closings for nearly all of 2020. Thankfully, my children’s school was very organized in moving to online learning when it had to.
As a firm we are fortunate in that all of our employees work remotely, and we have always been that way. As such, we have been fortunate in not having had to transition to a remote work environment due to the pandemic. As almost all of our team members are expats themselves, we were able to continue our service seamlessly. Within the firm, we have stepped up internal communications and support, to accommodate changes in our employees’ lives, such as diminished support networks, illness, and other unexpected impacts of the pandemic.
In terms of the future, I think that once travel restrictions loosen again we will see a significant uptick in interest in living abroad. As more firms have discovered the benefits of letting their team work remotely, surely the workforce will take advantage of the flexibility and fulfilling lifestyle that is permitted working remotely as a Digital Nomad while traveling abroad.
What advice would you offer those looking to embrace the expat lifestyle?
Living abroad is an absolutely life changing experience. It opens your eyes to a whole new perspective on the world, and leads to a lot of reflection about lifestyle, values and priorities, on both an individual and global levels. If you have – or can find – the opportunity to start your expat adventure and you are a resilient self-starter, then you will thrive. The world is your playground!
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
While living abroad, particularly in countries with vibrant and exciting lifestyles, you might think that it would be easy to get side tracked and distracted from your professional responsibilities. Tax accounting, as an industry tends to be high pressure and fast paced, given frequent deadlines and client demands. Working remotely as a Digital Nomad abroad, I have found it very important to set clear hours for work and for play (which these days is mostly in the form of chasing after my kids!). This allows me to meet the needs of my clients and our firm, while also designating time to live my life, travel, explore, and spend time with my family, all of which I feel blessed to enjoy abroad.