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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.