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Rachel, McMaster University Continuing Education Payroll graduate Rachel, McMaster University Continuing Education Payroll graduate

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Journey of Achievement: A Payroll Certification Success Story 

Article: Dialogue Magazine Volume 42, Issue 1, January 2020

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In today’s hectic world, upskilling to advance your career can seem like a lot to add to your everyday life. But newcomer to Canada Katarzyna Kowalowska, or Kate as she’s known to friends and family, saw the long-term potential and did just that. 

Kate was leading a full and busy life, working a 9-to-5 job and caring for her family, but she knew she wanted more professionally. In 2018, she decided it was time to take her career to the next level by enrolling in the Payroll Compliance Practitioner (PCP) Certificate program offered by McMaster University Continuing Education in partnership with the Canadian Payroll Association. 

Prior to arriving in Canada, Kate lived in Europe and then the United States, working as a payroll administrator. When she moved to Canada, she realized the Canadian job market was different. To work in the payroll industry, she required a higher level of education.

After doing some research, Kate discovered she could take online courses through McMaster University Continuing Education and the Association to gain the skills she needed. She liked the idea of being able to take classes virtually, according to her schedule. “The classes were very convenient and accessible because they were online,” she says. “The course outline was provided at the beginning of the semester where the instructors advised us what was due and when. This was very important because it helped me balance the course workload with my busy schedule.” 

The other great benefit that Kate saw in the McMaster University Continuing Education program was that it would earn her a double honour: the courses count towards the Payroll Compliance Practitioner Certification from the Canadian Payroll Association and an academic certificate from the University. Kate explains, “McMaster is one of the best universities in Canada. The fact that it provides the opportunity for those pursuing a career in payroll to earn a McMaster University academic certificate in addition to completing their payroll certification drew me to the program.”

When asked about the program instructors, Kate says she has them to thank for her career advancement; not only are they highly knowledgeable about the subjects, they are great teachers. “My overall experience with my course instructors was great, with many providing their industry expertise to their lessons and approaching me each time with a positive mindset and friendly atmosphere.”

And when asked what she would tell others interested in taking this program, Kate says she is very happy with the experience—she has great pride in what she has learned and achieved, and in her profession. She explains, “This sort of education raises the status of my career, which makes me very proud of my accomplishments and makes me more confident."

Kate was able to complete the program and find Canadian employment quickly. She now works as an administrative payroll assistant at an accounting and tax company.

Kate thanks McMaster Continuing Education and the Canadian Payroll Association for helping her get to where she is in her career: “[They have] provided me with advanced payroll and business communication knowledge that I have applied to my work.”

And as she continues to develop her knowledge and skills, she is confident that she will continue to succeed. "Everything I learned in this program is essential to my future. The McMaster experience has helped me confidently approach my business community and expand my professional contacts.” ​

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Rachel Levy, McMaster University Continuing Education Payroll Graduate



Graduate finds path to self-confidence and success in Canadian Payroll Management


No matter the terrain - hiking trails, paved asphalt, and even through snow and mud - Rachel Levy has conquered many trails in the past few years.

Last year she spent 12 days on a road trip that took her from Calgary to Jasper, through Whistler and down to Vancouver. This past April, she visited Peru to hike the Inca trail. In the winter she carves snow tipped mountains as a ski instructor, and this summer, she’s training for her first half-marathon. But perhaps the most important adventure for Levy began in 2016 when she learned about the Canadian Payroll Management program at McMaster University Continuing Education.

After completing her Payroll Compliance Practitioner certificate through the Canadian Payroll Association, she felt that she was lacking sufficient managerial experience to take her payroll career to the next level.

“I’m in my early thirties, and I noticed that payroll managers within the industry had at least five years more experience than me,” said Levy, who works as a Senior Payroll & Benefits Specialist, “and I was hoping the McMaster certificate would bring me up to par.”

She first heard about the Payroll program at McMaster through the Canadian Payroll Association’s Dialogue magazine. After doing some research, she learned she could take courses online through McMaster and have them count towards her Certified Payroll Manager certification through the CPA, which would allow her to work towards her CPM credential, while simultaneously earning a university academic certificate.

With her roadmap in hand, she felt ready to embark on her academic adventure.

Levy was able to build a continuing education experience that worked for her. She completed the Introduction to Payroll Management and Applied Payroll Management courses through the Canadian Payroll Association and successfully finished the Organizational Behaviour, Compensation, and Managerial Accounting courses online through McMaster. The online courses offered weekly assignments while providing the flexibility she needed to be able to log on when she had free time.

In her role at SSENSE, a global fashion retailer located in Montreal, Levy manages the complete payroll and benefits cycle for nearly 1,000 hourly, salaried and commissioned employees in Quebec. This includes day-to-day operations, year-end summaries, tax forms, benefits reconciliation and retirement contribution remittance.

“The McMaster courses helped me gain a better understanding of how other components in an organization impact payroll, which allowed me to look at my own organization within a more holistic framework,” said Levy.

Levy also attributes her recent promotion to the Senior Specialist role to the knowledge and skills she gained in the program. She recently decided to jump into a major benefits initiative at her company, which has opened up a lot of opportunities.

“I’m very excited to be involved in all aspects of a benefits renewal plan for our organization,” she said, “it has the potential to include a massive plan redesign to better fit our growing populations’ needs.”

For those who haven’t been in a classroom for some time, the online learning experience can be daunting at first. Levy was initially hesitant about working with peers virtually to complete group projects, but found that working with others was also a great way to network with individuals from various cultural, educational, and professional backgrounds.

“I was extremely happy with the students that I collaborated with,” she said, “they were professional, organized and brought many different perspectives to each of the projects.”

Although Levy began her journey wondering if she was ready to take on a managerial position, this new path helped her gain applicable knowledge and skills, as well as confidence in herself.

“My self-confidence has grown exponentially,” said Levy, “I am being included in larger decision-making processes at SSENSE, and in turn, it’s continuing to boost my confidence.”

When asked what she would tell a friend who was considering a new path for themselves, Levy suggests that timing shouldn’t be the deciding factor.

“Stop considering it and just do it. There is never a ‘perfect’ time to make a big change in your life, but trust me—your future self will love you for having the courage to take the leap.”

McMaster’s Payroll Compliance Practitioner Certificate and Canadian Payroll Management Certificate were developed in affiliation with the Canadian Payroll Association to address the educational and professional development needs of participants, the hiring needs of employers, the mission of the Canadian Payroll Association and McMaster University Continuing Education.

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"My McMaster education is directly responsible for my advancement from a Payroll Coordinator with Queen’s University into my current leadership role with Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC).  Without the skills and experience that I had gained throughout this program, I would not have been given this opportunity that I have had today." 

 

"My experience with McMaster has given me the knowledge and confidence to operate in my new role, but also as a contributing member of my community.  A lot of what I learned through this program can be applicable to life in general and I have been able to see the benefits from this in many aspects of my life." - Caleigh W, Graduate, Canadian Payroll Management 

 

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"What sold me on McMaster, was the fact that I could obtain my CPM certification without having to attend in-person classes at a local university. As a busy mom of 2 schoolchildren working a full-time job, it was very important to me, to have the flexibility of studying on my own time but also having set deadlines for exams and assignments kept me focused on my goals." - Cara M, Graduate, Canadian Payroll Management