Senior manager, Burr Pilger Mayer, Inc. (BPM), 110 Stony Point Rd., Ste. 210, Santa Rosa 95401; 1432A Main St., St. Helena 94574; 707-524-6588, bpmcpa.com

Age: 36

Professional background: CPA

Education: B.S.E., accounting, St. Mary’s College of California

[caption id="attachment_94206" align="alignright" width="210"] Michelle Ausburn[/caption]

Tell us about yourself and your company: I grew up on the Central Coast of California and have lived in the North Bay since 2002.  My current practice focuses on assurance services for wineries, vineyards, negociants, food and beverage manufacturers, agriculture, and real estate, both publicly-held and private.  If you have to be an auditor, I can’t imagine more fun industries to work in.

In 2012, I joined BPM, one of the largest Bay Area based full-service accounting and consulting firms with six offices including Santa Rosa and St. Helena.  BPM has the depth and breadth of services equivalent to a national or international firm and is extremely client-service oriented - we refer to our delivery model as “big firm know-how…small firm know-you.”  It’s a strong differentiator for us in the North Bay.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?:  I was involved in a client project outside the normal scope of my day-to-day that was both intellectually and emotionally challenging.  We played a crucial role in the project and there were many tight deadlines, which caused tension and stress at times.  However, it was also very collaborative and fun, and I really enjoying having the opportunity to work with other professionals throughout the firm and in the industry.  Ultimately, it was a great learning experience and very rewarding to see our client succeed, in part as a result of our efforts.

 What is the achievement you are most proud of?:  Being one of the first in my family to attend (and graduate from) college and following through with my goal of becoming a CPA.

 What is your biggest challenge today?: Individually, it’s spending more time on the things I want to do vs. have to do, and remembering to slow down in my constant state of busy.  At work, it’s creating opportunities to keep our young, high-performing staff engaged in the profession.

Words that best describe you: Dependable, practical, candid.

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?:  Understanding how valuable time is and learning to make better decisions about how I spend it.   I had to consciously acknowledge what my core values are and now try to focus my time on things that support those values.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?: As technology continues to evolve and improve, certain aspects of my job will become easier and more efficient.  It will take a more concerted effort to develop, maintain, and grow the personal relationships that the success of our profession and firm is built on.

Who was your most important mentor? And tell us a little bit about that person: I have two.  One is a former high school teacher and swim coach who has been my good friend for over 20 years.  It has been inspiring to watch how her career has evolved:  she is an educator, former small business owner and now, political figure.  She is a true example of a lifetime learner.  I don’t see her often enough.  The other is Carol O’Hara, Managing Partner of BPM’s North Bay offices, whom I first met in 2011 and now work with on a daily basis.  She is determined and has high standards but is fair and realistic. She also has compassion – a rare find in the business world today.  She’s a very easy person to connect with. 

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?:

Develop a supportive network of people in both your personal and professional life, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: My dad was a huge influence on my decision to pursue a career in business.  I was young when he started his own trucking company and I now understand as an adult how worrying that must have been with a family to support.  He worked extremely hard and what seemed like around the clock.  He has an incredible work ethic, and developing relationships with his customers and others in the community came naturally to him.  He truly enjoyed what he did and did it well.  He sold his business five years ago.

Current reading:  I spend my reading time with my kids. The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and Little Owl Lost by Chris Haughton are the current favorites.

Most want to meet: Bill Maher.

Stress relievers: Quiet time -- it’s hard to come by!

Favorite hobbies:   Ski trips with the family.