Protea Conversations: Rae Paulson
Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced accounting at an affordable price. Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the work force after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were overlooked. Over 80% of both Protea’s leadership and accounting teams are women.
We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.
Protea Conversations focuses on successful woman in business and their achievements. The hope is that these conversations will create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges women face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.
This month we want to present a conversation with Rae Paulson. Rae has been in public accounting since 2005 where her experience includes responsibility for all phases of audit and review engagement execution, assisting clients with technical accounting issues, the implementation of corporate accounting policies and procedures, best practices, internal controls, accounting for transactions, and more.
Rae is a member of Moss Adams’ Wine Industry and Food, Beverage and Agriculture groups. She graduated from St. Mary’s College of California with a Bachelor of Science degree and received her MBA from Sonoma State University. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and California Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Rae was raised in Sonoma County and still lives here, with my boyfriend of 23 years and our 2-year-old black lab, Louie. In her free time she likes getting outdoors to burn off energy with Louie, and hosting dinners for family and friends.
How did you decide to become a CPA and decide to go into the world of assurance?
I always liked both math and science. As an undergraduate at St. Mary’s, I got a degree in Health Science, and while I loved the major and the classes, I did not end up being passionate about the career options that I had. After that I decided to go back to school and test the waters before fully forging ahead with my final plan. I enrolled in introductory accounting classes at the SRJC, and took a job working as a bookkeeper I loved the classes and the subject matter, and the work I was doing in the related field of bookkeeping, so enrolled in the MBA program at Sonoma State where I got my Masters degree and rounded out my accounting education, to later be eligible to sit for the CPA exam and start a career in public accounting.
What was the decision to join Moss Adams and what has kept you at the firm for 15+ years?
I worked for a smaller firm in Marin County for over a year while I finished up my education and after graduating. Sonoma County is my home, so the decision to join Moss Adams had to do with the appeal of joining the largest local accounting firm that could afford all the opportunity and experience I could want out of a long-term career, coupled with reducing commute time. I knew a few people who worked at Moss Adams before I joined, and having been a softball player, including through college at St. Mary’s, my friends at Moss recruited me to help out on the softball team. Getting to know many of the people from the office from staff to Managing Partner in that casual environment made the decision to join Moss Adams an easy one. While I mention opportunity and experience, as I believed (and still do) Moss Adams could provide all the career path opportunity of the largest CPA firms, while it sounds cliché, it was the people at Moss Adams that brought me to the firm, and is the reason I’m still here today over 15 years later. It is a large group (approximately 100 people in the North Bay), diverse enough in personalities, work style, hobbies and interests to find many different people you connect with in different ways and like working in teams with, but still retains a small enough feel to know everyone personally and have a comfortable, close-knit feeling across the office group, which is important to me.
What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?
Being a CPA is not a stress-free job. It is deadline driven, and involves continuous learning, change, progression, and challenge. While I would not have been satisfied with a more complacent career path, I have definitely had room to improve on how I handle stress, learning to worry less, communicate more, enlist the help of others when needed, and be proactive, to minimize the stresses that are largely inherent in this profession. Personally, dealing with the other side of all of the above outside of work, and finding balance that works for myself and my family, takes conscious effort. There is always endless opportunity at work to take on projects, learn something new, serve additional clients, but those opportunities and pressures have to be balanced with being happy and fulfilled in our non-work lives as well.
What are your short-term goals of your career and yourself?
At this stage my clear short-term goal is making Partner. This is a plan I have been actively working toward with advisors and mentors within Moss Adams and is my next big short-term career goal.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?
An important reminder I’ve received is that we are part of a large firm, and we have lots of help, expertise, and resources, so when things get a little over loaded, we are all a team and we WILL get it done and will get it done in a way that will keep our clients well-served but also be sustainable to myself and others.
What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?
The above! In recent years I have had several positive examples of pulling in other resources, moving around projects, and seeing successful examples of work getting done but not all falling on, or staying on, my own shoulders to finish things out that get behind or where a curveball is thrown in to the mix. It would have been a huge relief earlier on in my career if I had asked for help more and had experiences like this.
What advice do you give to others to help them be better leaders?
Give and gain respect by genuinely caring about and supporting your team, while also remaining consistent and fair about what it takes to meet expectations and to be a successful part of the team.
As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Vital Voices (https://www.vitalvoices.org/). Vital Voices Global Partnership is a global movement that invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges. They are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality. They scale and accelerate impact through long term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity, and visibility. Over the last 22 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change-makers across 182 countries who are collectively daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.
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