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Just the beginning possibilities are endless for CalCPA's YEP of the year.

Determination, vision and hard work--qualities Abel Barragan credits his parents for passing on to him--have lead the senior accountant with Bartlett, Pringle and Wolf, LLP to be named CalCPA YEP of the Year. Along with his daily work, Barragan is co-chair of the CalCPA Channel Counties YEP Committee and can sometimes to be spotted on the pitch coaching and playing soccer. We caught up to the up-and-corner to discuss everything from mentoring to challenges unique to YEPs to professional expectations.

CalCPA: Tell US about your family, growing up and your schooling.

BARRAGAN: I'm blessed to have an amazingly supportive family. My parents were born and raised in Mexico, moved to the United Stales when they were teenagers and met and fell in love in a small church in Ojai. My dad was 21 and completing his last year of high school at Villanova Preparatory when I was born.

Growing up. we were never as fiscally stable as we are now. but I fell 1 was the richest kid on the block having parents like mine our will never meet anyone as devoted to the well-being of her husband and children as my mom. If I can describe my dad in one word, it would be perseverance. My dad taught me thai any thing is possible with .1 little determination and hard work. I have two younger sisters: Natalia, who is a brilliant and talented eighth-grader, and Stacy, who's in her third year at California Stale University. Los Angeles, where she's studying to be a registered nurse.

Growing up, my mom would probably tell you I was always on die go. If I wasn't working or looking I or work. I would be playing sports or volunteering lor the local teen center and youth Inundation. I'm a first-generation Mexican-American, and I was the first of my family to complete college. I graduated from University of California, Santa Barbara in 2011 wilh a degree in economics and accounting.

CalCPA: When and why did you decide to enter into accounting?

BARRAGAN: My first exposure lo financial statements and financial planning was as a sophomore in high school when I was on the Ojai Valley Youth foundation Strategic Planning Committee. Since then. I wanted lo be involved in business and financial planning.

CalCPA: What were your expectations going into the profession?

BARRAGAN: I was not very involved with the accounting association at UCSB, so mv idea ol the public accounting profession was that it was very conservative, old fashioned and unfulfilling. I thought it was a very uptight; always wear a tie sort of job.

CalCPA: Were those expectations accurate or were you surprised with anthing?

BARRAGAN: No, my expectations were not accurate. I was surprised with how rapidly the profession is growing and evolving. Every day is a new challenge and learning opportunity. Accounting firms are really involved in their community, and it's something to admire and appreciate. It also turns out those in the profession are not as dry as 1 imagined; accountants know how to have fun.

CalCPA: What has been your biggest challenge since joining Bartlett. Pringle & Wolf, LLP?

BARRAGAN: Keeping oil' the "tax season 10." Before joining the linn, I was a waiter at the Ojai Valley Inn <S: Spa for more than six years, so the transition from being on my feet for a six-hour shift to silling behind a desk for eight to 12 hours has been difficult. In terms of technical challenges. I would say not many. I was prepared coining out of 1 (ISB, and the firm has done a great job in training me and providing me resources to address any issues.

CalCPA: Have yon had any notable mentors?

BARRAGAN: I am thankful for the many notable mentors throughout my life, I irst. I could not ask for better role models than my parents. I hey Ye always encouraged and supported me. and always held me to the highest of expectations. At my firm, 1 owe a special thanks to Jake Sheffield. who was my mentor for my first two years and has been vital lo my growth and development. Jake listened to my goals--even those that seemed unrealistic--and would help me define the roadmap to accomplish them. I laving a mentor that believed in my career and me has been critical to my development. Jake's interactions with clients and his diligence in his work product has set the bar high for me.

CalCPA: Is mentoring important?

BARRGAK Mentoring is essential. It's a complement to training. The leaning we do is primarily about functional things. Mentoring is much more about coaching and counseling. It's more about the qualitative and subjective parts of our careers. Mentors are there to help you deal with frustration, to give you constructive criticism and lo push yon beyond your comfort zone--among many other things. Mentoring is a professional development tool that can help you navigate organizational culture, solve problems and advance your career. It's also a great way for firms to make sure their personnel are ready to manage and lead.

CalCPA: Do you do any mentoring yourself in the workplace?

BARRAGAN: I'm a "buddy" for new hires and interns. I always make myself available and provide positive feedback tor people just starting. I like to believe that my "buddies" are comfortable asking me questions or seeking feedback on their performance. I want them to know that I'm here lo help I hem. I feel it's important to set the tone early. I strongly believe thai, if the people around you are doing well and are advancing their career, then dial's a better measure of your own success and of the linn's.

CalCPA: Are there parallels between your work and the time you spend managing, coaching and playing for your soccer team in Oxnard?

BARRAGAN: The biggest parallel is the role that teamwork and communication play. Most people would be surprised on how vital teamwork is in an accounting firm. 1 believe thai communication has profound effects in terms ol how people can learn from each other and how they can achieve their goals.

CalCPA: Who's your favorite to win the FIEA World Gup in Brazil this year?

BARRAGAN Germany. They might have the toughest group with Ghana, the limed Slates and Portugal hut, with the form and talent Germain is producing, it's hard not lo see diem as favorites.

CalCPA: What Other things (ill your free time?

BARRAGAN: If I'm not playing soccer or working. 1 like visiting a few local Santa Barbara establishments, namely the Sportsman and die Neighborhood for "Bar Olympics." It could also be called team building with my co-workers after a long clay during tax season. I'm also an avid fan of the TV shows "The Walking Dead" and "Game of Thrones," and I love going lo the movies.

CalCPA: When and why did you gel invoked with CalCPA?

BARRAGAN: I got involved with CalCPA two years ago. thanks to my co-worker Katie Rhew. Katie was the chapter's YEP Committee chair, and pretty much "volun-told" 11 if that I was going to be her co-chair. Our firm is really active in our local chapter, so co-chairing and taking over the YEP role was a natural progression that my firm fully supported.

CalCPA: What role has CalCPA played in your professional life?

BARRAGAN: At first. I associated CalCPA is the sponsor of a lot of CPE events I attended. However, alter sitting on the YEP Committee it has become so much more. It has pushed me to learn new skills, such as event planning, networking and facilitating the networking of others. Public speaking is daunting to anyone--especially to me--but when you're in a leadership position, you're forced to speak in from of large groups. Thanks lo CalCPA. I'm overcoming my fear of public speaking. von give me note cards and podium. 1 feel like can tackle the world.

CalCPA: What does being named the statew ide YEP of die Year mean to you?

BARRAGAN: Emerging is a powerful word because it essentially groups you with because it essentially who you know are going to be leaders in their linn and community. By calling die group youug and emerging professionals, you know that, when you attend an event sponsored by the group, you'll be around individuals that have the same career aspirations and goals you have.

CalCPA: What, if any. are the professional challenges unique to YEPs?

BARRAGAN: Determining what's next, or what options and opportunities are available after they gel their CPA license. YEPs are consistently seeking ways to develop and grow. I'm hoping thai our YEP events provide that sort of guidance in a fun networking environment.

CalCPA: What are your priorities/goals when Irving lo organize a YEP event?

BARRAGAN If someone is going to lake the time to come to one of my events, I want them lo leave with a new outlook, skill or friend. I try lo incorporate professional and personal development speakers into my events. I waul attendees to look back al lite event and be thankful lot their free glass of wine, but also for the je en sais quoi. Essentially. I want my events lo have that X actor.

CalCPA: What do YEPs need the most from their firms?

BARRAGAN: Guidance and mentoring. I also think firms need lo involve YEPs more in internal discussions and decision making. II YEPs are the future of their linns, they should have more of an input.

CalCPA: From CalCPA?

BARRAGAN: YEPs would benefit more from CalCPA if ii would oiler more nontechnical CPE and workshops related to professional development. These should cover such things as leadership skills. professional conduct and behavior, how to effectively network, or work-life balance. I hope that's something the YEP Committee can help deliver.

CalCPA: Is there is a YEP stereotype? If so. what is it and how can it be extinguished?

BARRAGAN: I don't think so. There is the standard definition of a YEP per CalCPA, which is a CPA candidate or a newly licensed CPA live years into their career. While that's the definition. I think a YEP can be any professional who is determined lo develop his professional skills.

CalCPA: What does being named the statew ide YEP of die Year mean to you?

BARRAGAN: I'm at a loss for words. I feel so undeserving of this award. It's simply added pressure and: expectations, of which I hope 1 can live up lo and represent CalCPA in a positive way. BARRAGAN: I don't think so. Then is the standard definition of a YEP per C!alCPA, which is a CPA candidate or a newly licensed CPA live years into their career. While that's the definition. I ihink a YEP can be any professional who is determined lo develop his professional skills.

CalCPA: What does being named the statew ide YEP of die Year mean to you?

BARRAGAN: Till at a loss for words. I feel so undeserving of litis award. It's simply added pressure and: expectations, of w hich I hope 1 can live up lo and represent CalCPA in a positive way.

CalCPA: Where do you picture yourself 10 years from now ?

BARRAGAN: Thai is a tough question. I don't know. I just turned 25 and, for the first time. I'm not sure what 1 will be doing live to 10 years from now. Growing up you always had a roadmap that took you from point A to point 15: Complete your A-G requirements lo go to college, finish college and get a job. Now the only roadmap lo follow is die one I make, which can lake me in any direction I choose.

CalCPA: What advice do you have lor YEPs jusi joining a firm and starling their careers?

BARRAGAN: Value hard work. Great thing's come out of hard work. It's not always what sou get for it that matters, but for what and who von become because of that hard work.

Congratulations to our other YEP of the Year nominees:

Megan Boldizsar

Orange County/Long Beach Chapter

Charles Burak

East Bay Chapter

Bryan Carpenter

San Diego Chapter

Nic Giosa

Fresno Chapter

Great things come out of hard work. It's not always what you get for it that matters, but for what and who you become because of that hard work.
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Author:Barragan, Abel
Publication:California CPA
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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