Carisa Wisniewski, CPA

Office Managing Partner, Moss Adams LLP

Broomball, a curious game similar to ice hockey except players wear tennis shoes and use a broom to chase the ball around the ice rink, has nothing and everything to do with my career as a CPA. Obviously, broomball has nothing to do with accounting. But it was a broomball game that got me into accounting.


When I was in college at California State University at Fullerton, my best friend, who belonged to the college finance society, asked me to join her in the annual broomball game against the accounting society. The game was exhilarating, but I experienced an intellectual excitement as I overheard the students discuss their futures. I realized that being an accountant sounded like something I could be proud of, so I took my first accounting class soon after that game. In that class I realized how much I enjoyed seeing the financial puzzle fit together.


When I began considering career options, a young woman I had met through my accounting classes helped me navigate the interviewing processes to the Big Eight firm where she was employed. As a new auditor, I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up, because the learning curve was so steep and the pace so fast. I was in awe of the senior managers and partners. As time went by and I was called upon to mentor newer staff members, I was amazed at how much I had learned and realized I had found the career and the profession I truly loved.


My career has advanced because of the opportunities I have been given. I might have passed some of them up, had it not been for the guidance of my mentors. For example, to further my technical skills, my performance coach and mentor encouraged me to take a two-year assignment in the firm’s national office. That assignment necessitated moving my family to the East Coast. I am grateful my mentor didn’t censor this opportunity because I was a woman with a young family. Instead, he helped me explore the pros and cons of my choices. My family and I embraced the unique experience the firm provided me, and we grew closer and stronger from it.


I was given another opportunity when, a few years ago, I joined Moss Adams, which has 20 offices along the West Coast and is industry-focused. I took the opportunity to work with another partner who was leading the Technology and Life Sciences Practice, a passion of mine, in the Southern California region. Through that work, I was given the role to co-chair the Technology and Life Sciences firm-wide industry group. Instead of running a practice with people I interacted with every day, I managed a virtual practice.


The newest opportunity given to me was being appointed office managing partner (OMP) of the San Diego office, which has about 75 team members. Unfortunately, my new responsibilities do not enable me to pursue a second term as a member of the FASB and AICPA Private Company Financial Reporting Committee, because of its active travel schedule.


Being OMP requires a time commitment, but I believe it also requires work/ life balance, so I keep a focus on spending quality time with my family. My husband, Andy, and I play golf with our sons, who are now 15 and 13; we also water-ski together; and we are avid desert dirt bike riders.


When Andy got me into dirt bike riding about 25 years ago, I didn’t know it would become a lifelong passion! We introduced our kids to it when they were about 5, and it is not unusual for the four of us to take off on an afternoon ride or to travel a few hours outside of San Diego to camp and ride with our longtime group, whose membership includes four generations and a 94-year-old great-grandmother.


My career wasn’t something I planned; rather, people gave me opportunities as I went along, and I gratefully took them. As I lead the San Diego team, I hope to emulate my mentors and support others as they strive to take on new opportunities and challenges.


—As told to Linda Segall



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