Need a Google Sheets operator that passes the string contained in a referenced cell

I would like to replace the explicit “Brandon” with a reference to the adjacent cell but I need an operator that I can wrap around J40 (the cell to be referenced) that passes the string contained in that cell such that the “* *” can still act on it within the context of the countif function.

Put simply I need the ???? in "*????(J40)*"

two cells in a google sheets document