Cindy Southam - A Very Important Payroll Professional

The Canadian Payroll Association

In the September/October 2015 of Dialogue Magazine, they featured an interview with Cindy Southam of Essential Energy Services and we thought that the interview was so good that we asked if we could republish it for you to see... Enjoy.

Payroll is not just pushing a button. It is a highly skilled, technical job that should be taken very seriously.

When did you first get into payroll?
Payroll has been part of every position in my career — though I used to focus mainly on accounting, taking on roles as Accounting Manager and Controller. Each position allowed me to learn a new industry and make positive changes to internal processes. Then I spent a week in San Antonio taking the American Payroll Association’s payroll management course. This started me down the path to specializing in payroll.

What made you decide to get certified?
When I decided that payroll was going to be my focus, I thought it important to get certified. When I accepted a position at Essential Energy and moved back to Calgary, I knew this would be the time. Being certified has given me a lot of confidence in both my work and home life.

What do you like best/least about payroll?
I’m not sure there is any specific aspect of payroll that I like or dislike. It’s a package: contact with people, resolving issues, reconciliations, interactions with multiple departments and stakeholders, and, of course, processing pay accurately and on time! It doesn’t happen very often, but that occasional “thank you” from an employee is really nice.

When did you become involved with the Canadian Payroll Association?
I have been involved with the Calgary branch for many years. Back in 2002, I was Branch Chair and part of the National Conference Committee. I dropped out of the branch for a few years and rejoined when I moved back to Calgary. I volunteer at Professional Development Seminars throughout the year and speak at Mount Royal University’s program information sessions twice a year. I am currently the Branch Vice-Chair and I’ve been enjoying the responsibilities.

Bringing all the payrolls in-house, and hiring and training a new team of payroll professionals, was a big win as well.

What payroll accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my accomplishments at Essential Energy. I was hired to complete a very large implementation project in a very short period of time, and I knew little about the software or the industry. Out of the 11 business units to convert, we managed seven in three months and the remaining four over the next year as their business schedules allowed. Bringing all the payrolls in-house, and hiring and training a new team of payroll professionals, was a big win as well.

Is there a time in your payroll career you’d rather forget?
Not a particular time, but certainly a task: all that manual data entry! Unless you have a fully integrated time management/ payroll/financial system, there will be manual entry tasks to perform.

What do you think are the top payroll compliance challenges facing payroll practitioners today?
Keeping up with legislative changes is a top priority. Essential Energy operates in several provinces. Interpreting the federal and provincial budgets to get an idea of what changes could happen, and then analyzing the legislation before the changes go into practice, is a daunting task. Mid-year tax updates are doubly hard, as we must determine if the changes are going to affect any of the provinces we operate in, and if so, how.

What made you decide to co-chair the Calgary 2016 conference?
When I learned Calgary was going to host the 2016 conference, I started thinking about what position I wanted to take on. Once the email came requesting volunteers, my application was probably the first one turned in! What a great opportunity to give back to an association that has given me so much over the years, and learn some great leadership skills as well!

Is there anything else you would like to highlight?
Payroll is not just pushing a button. It is a highly skilled, technical job that should be taken very seriously. Payroll professionals have the enormous responsibility to produce timely and accurate pay for employees. But it is not all black and white. There are always grey areas, and that’s where we rely on the Association’s Payroll InfoLine to help us.

About Cindy

Cindy Southam, CPM, is a Business Applications Analyst at Essential Energy Services Ltd., where she works as a payroll specialist on a team of IT professionals, utilizing her skills and knowledge of payroll, HR and accounting to support system users. Cindy began with Essential Energy in 2008 and has been involved in projects like redeveloping payroll systems, converting existing systems across multiple business units and bringing externally processed payrolls in-house. Cindy is the Co-Chair of the Canadian Payroll Association’s 2016 Annual Conference and Trade Show in Calgary. Cindy is also teaching the Payroll Compliance Legislation course at Mount Royal University.

This article is provided courtesy of The Canadian Payroll Association. For more information, including membership, certification, and professional development, please visit

About the Author

The Canadian Payroll Association

The Canadian Payroll Association has been representing employers’ payroll interests since 1978. As the authoritative source of Canadian payroll knowledge, the Canadian Payroll Association influences the operational, compliance and technology policies and processes of payroll service bureaus, software providers, hundreds of thousands of small, medium and large employers, as well as federal and provincial tax authorities.

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