Maria Lamas, PCP
Calgary Philharmonic Society – Calgary, AB
Maria Lamas is a payroll professional whose career took flight in an unusual way.
Fresh out of CEGEP and not sure of her next move, she took a summer job as a flight attendant. It was supposed to be temporary, but lasted two decades. “After 20 years, I quit my summer job,” she jokes.
Based on a career counsellor’s advice, her next move was to become an accountant and taking an assistant controller role in a manufacturing plant. When the other controller on staff quit within Maria’s first two months on the job, Maria was suddenly responsible for payroll. “With one week of payroll training, I decided I needed education in the area so I got my PCP designation.” It took a full year to hire a payroll person, and during that year, Maria learned that she really liked the role.
“It’s so detailed and can be very complicated,” she says, noting that she loves the minutiae of legislation and tracking the changes in labour laws. “Employees are always asking how they get paid, so there’s also a social part that I like.”
Her career grew into leadership roles that took her from the factory to an educational non-profit, then an environmental organization and now, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra where she is Director of Finance and Administration.
And what is the first thing she looks at, no matter where she works? Payroll. “I love to look under the hood and payroll explains a lot about how an organization works,” she says. She cites the example of the orchestra: “We’re paying musicians, international artists, non-residence tax – just to start. And there are so many variations in pay: when the 2nd violin steps up to 1st violin, we use a different code. Musicians are unionized so you have to have a payroll person at the table during labour negotiations to understand the impact of even a one per cent raise.”
When she is not at work, Maria often explores the world on a bicycle. She is a long-distance cyclist, who has camped and toured across California and Vancouver Island.
“I’m very much into nature so the biking piece is like meditating,” she says. “And once you get to your destination, you’re one with nature, you do your own thing at your own time.”
Maria clearly knows how to change gears, but she also knows that some things never change: “If you do payroll right, there is a level of trust that people have with you and that trust is shared with the business as a whole.”