#PayLikeAPro: Christine Stolpe

“Pay like a Pro” is a new interview series by Payzaar where we are talking to a variety of industry experts to share their personal perspective on a number of different topics around payroll technology, ranging from trends they observe, challenges they had to overcome, visions they have for the industry, career advice they would give others, etc.

In this edition we’re happy to feature Christine Stolpe who has held a variety of international payroll roles at companies like Roku, Talend, Lomentum and 3 Bridge Networks.

Christine Stolpe

Passionate about furthering an understanding of payroll, Christine Stolpe, CPP has been working in some fashion of payroll for the past 25 years and enjoys watching the profession blossom through business intelligence, social media and personal fortitude.  A member of APA since 2011, Christine is on the Social Networking and GRTF Retirement Accounts Committees. She is Secretary for the California Payroll Conference (CPC), Treasurer of the Silicon Valley Chapter (SVAPA) and has also served at National APA on the Board of Advisors representing Region 4.  She was one of the first fifty recipients of the APA’s Global Payroll Management Certification in October 2011, and has attended every annual Congress since then.  Through furthering her own education and skill sets by attending APA educational offerings, Christine has developed a taste for helping others.  She has developed training sessions about practical applications in the payroll profession, volunteered to participate in the Money Matters presentations throughout her community’s high school system during National Payroll Week, and looks forward to continuing to grow her network of resources, colleagues and friends both in the APA and SVAPA.

“At the end of every paycheck, regardless of the currency it is written in, is a person. And in global payroll, the person on the other end of the paycheck may be on the other side of the world, in another time zone, speaking another language.”

1. How and why did you personally get into the world of global payroll, up to and including your current role?

My original involvement in global payroll started as a back-up plan for someone else. My manager asked me to start doing a high-level flux review each month of the Latin America payroll numbers. The deeper I dug into any variances, the more I realized that payrolls outside of the US, while similar in very many ways, are just different enough to be a new skill set for me to learn. Once my eyes were opened to how many learning opportunities there were about global payroll, I got more involved in the GPMI and even launched the very first chapter in Northern California. Through relationship building with colleagues and vendors, I developed my current consultancy plan to provide my clients with winning payroll strategies. My role in the world of global payroll is always to learn how to speak the payroll language in other countries, even if I can’t speak the native language.

2. What are the biggest challenges you see in global payroll today (for your specific organization or in general) and how are you tackling these challenges?

Today’s biggest challenges for global payroll are people. At the end of every paycheck, regardless of the currency it is written in, is a person. And in global payroll, the person on the other end of the paycheck may be on the other side of the world, in another time zone, speaking another language. Automation is awesome. I love how much time it frees up for other projects. At the same time, I worry about how much customer-facing automation is being proposed. This is how we communicate with our customers when they turn to us for the help we are hired to provide, and we should think carefully about how many “bots” we put in our places.

3. How are you keeping up with the industry trends?

Hahahahahahahaha! Okay… now that I’ve gotten that out of my system… The internet. I subscribe to payroll associations, join LinkedIn groups, watch my Twitter feed, and read online publications. Specifically, my favorite (and most valuable) follows include the American Payroll Association, Global Payroll Management Institute, Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals, Canadian Payroll Association, Australian Payroll Association, Celergo, HR.com, and the tax authorities for any country that I support.  I have also found great value in following the different vendors throughout the world as many will put information in front of as many payroll professionals as possible, whether regulatory or marketing in nature, in order to make their jobs easier too!

Even with the entire internet at my fingertips, I still do not believe that I am keeping up with trends as quickly as they are changing. Information travels instantly now. The bigger the Internet gets, the smaller the world becomes.

4. What key lessons have you learned along the way and how have they helped you to develop and grow in your career? What advice would you offer to payroll professionals based on your own experiences and why?

I have gathered a lot of mantras over the years from some of the most amazing co-workers, managers, mentors and friends, and these mantras have gotten me through some of the more difficult career situations. The best ones are a) dress for the job you want, not the job you have; b) be the person nobody can get along without so they never want to be without you, and c) manage the process and your team will follow. The first two are self-explanatory, but the third took some time to sink in for me. It’s tied to emotional maturity, which (gasp) came later in life for me, and is fancy way of saying that managing people is part of a manager’s job, but when the managing is focused on the team’s result and not directly on the individuals themselves, then the team will more likely follow their leader and focus on end results as well.

Based on my own experiences in global payroll, the advice I offer my colleagues is to allow other cultures to drive some of your processes. There is a widely accepted assumption that US-based persons will take over a global payroll project and attempt to drive it as a typical US-based project. Successful payrolls are being run all over the world without me. We know that changes are coming, as does the rest of the world, but not everyone is going to be as on-board as we are, so it is best to proceed with patience, perception, and perseverance.

5. Payroll is often a function that is a bit overlooked in many companies. How can we create more awareness for the payroll profession within the broader corporate context?

Does your company have an intranet? A newsletter? A regular communication of any regular cadence? While the company is trotting out the next big push from Marketing, how about we remind everyone that Labor Day weekend is coming up, so all the time cards are going to be due a day early? And by the way, did you know that Labor Day is the first day of National Payroll Week? Payroll Teams need to know who owns the company-wide communications. If it’s the CEO, then email the CEO every month with “fun facts from Payroll” so the content is there should there be an empty spot in the next newsletter. If the email is sent on the same day every month, the CEO may not become your number one fan, but there also won’t be as much of that over-communication fear on your part.

6. If you were not working as a payroll professional, what would you be doing with yourself?

I would be making a living from the stage if I weren’t a payroll professional. Whether as a public speaker or a performer, I have always enjoyed the opportunity to be in front of large audiences to entertain or educate. I started doing community theatre when I was 7 years old, and I fell in love with performing. To close my eyes and lose myself in the character, feel what she would be feeling in that moment, and then sing with that emotion in me… it is an amazingly surreal experience and one that I have enjoyed to my core.

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