From music to the underground

Manina Von Boltenstern’s career path from HMV to a mining giant

Music and entertainment retailer HMV Canada had only 30 stores and 300 employees when Manina Von Boltenstern started in the company’s payroll department in 1990.

“HMV was a young company,” says Von Boltenstern. “I was lucky enough to get in on the ground floor.”

It was at HMV that the foundation of Von Boltenstern’s career was laid.

The retail environment of the company meant there was a prevailing expectation to provide consistent customer service, no matter what department an employee worked in. “I took this to heart and have ever and always considered customer service as a prime goal in my various payroll roles,” she says. “Customers in the payroll field are not limited to employees, but also the employer and departments that payroll deals with.”

The payroll profession was quite different back then, says Von Boltenstern, now the Canadian payroll supervisor at international mining and mineral drilling services and products manufacturer, Boart Longyear.

“Back then, it was a lot of manual work, a lot of manual tracking. There was a lot less technology involved,” she says. “That has been the biggest change is computers and software programs and payroll service providers and that has actually made things a lot easier and a lot cleaner with fewer opportunities for error.

HMV also provided the funding for Von Boltenstern to become a certified Canadian Payroll Manager (CPM) through the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA).

“The executive were very supportive of the employees who were willing to accept challenges in their roles,” she says.

For more than nine years, Von Boltenstern worked as a payroll manager with HMV, watching the company grow to 300 stores with a staff of more than 3,000. She eventually became the company’s national payroll supervisor and overlooked payroll for employees in Canada and the United States.

While Von Boltenstern looks back fondly at her time with HMV, she also remembers how her increasing list of responsibilities led to less and less time spent at home with family.

“HMV was a fast growing company and I was at a point in my life where I had a family to think about with two children under 10 years,” she says. “Although, I have a very supportive husband, I was working excessive hours to build my career and keep up with the growth.”

Von Boltenstern decided to move on from HMV and take a payroll manager position in the Toronto office of Orlando-based soft drink bottling and distributing company Cott.

“Cott provided me with a more balanced work-family life while giving me the opportunity to learn a new industry and gain experience with unionized environments,” she says. Von Boltenstern was with Cott for nearly five years before taking a fiveyear stint with Mississauga, Ont.-based coffee and tea manufacturer Mother Parker’s Tea and Coffee.

After that, she was with Hugo Boss Canada for just over one year.

“Both Mother Parker’s and Hugo Boss were opportunities to expand my career and experiences that each in their own presented a variety of opportunities and career challenges respective of their different industry types,” she says. “Hugo Boss gave me the opportunity to get into the fashion field of retail and learn a whole new perspective of the retail environment.”

While at Hugo Boss, Von Boltenstern became suspicious of regular visits from U.S. managers. It was activity similar to what she had seen when HMV was considering moving its U.S. offices to Canada.

“My experiences and instincts told me that there was a plan to close to Canadian office,” she says.

Von Boltenstern then applied for the payroll supervisor role at Boart Longyear.

“My instincts were correct and Hugo Boss closed the Canadian head office about six months after I joined Boart Longyear.” Von Boltenstern now oversees the payroll for 1,800 Canadian employees from the company’s Mississauga, Ont., office. It’s a new kind of role for her because she’s no longer required to do direct payroll processing.

Instead, she does a lot of planning, auditing and database management. “Boart Longyear is another opportunity in the life of my career that is completely different from any other role that I have had in the past,” she says.

“Boart Longyear has also given me the opportunity to learn and experience the payroll requirements for status (Aboriginal Peoples), ‘inpats’ (foreign employees coming to Canada) and ‘expats’ (Canadian employees working abroad).”

Besides her day job, Von Boltenstern has been volunteering with the CPA for the past six years as a subject matter expert — payroll professionals the CPA turns to for knowledge and experience when developing projects.

Her work as a subject matter expert led to a 2012 Board of Directors Award from the CPA. She won the award with a team of subject matter experts who dedicated numerous hours to ensure CPA online course materials and programs were of the highest quality before being given to students.

“I was extremely proud to be recognized and acknowledged as part of a team that is so dedicated to providing a high level of knowledge to up-and-coming new professionals,” she says.

Von Boltenstern also serves as an online instructor for the CPA’s payroll compliance practitioner courses for new enrollees to the program. The role normally has her oversee four 13-week courses averaging 20 students per class on an ongoing basis.

“The role as an online instructor gives me the opportunity to learn and expand into a new field of learning and experiences, while sharing my experiences with others,” she says. Von Boltenstern admits her responsibilities take up quite a bit of time.

“It’s pretty much a 10-hour day between my full-time job and doing my online training,” she says. “It is, at times, a bit of a challenge, but it’s about being organized to make the most of your time as effective as possible.

Von Boltenstern offers the following insight to any ambitious payroll professionals.

“To be a payroll professional, it’s not just knowing the Canadian payroll legislation, both federally and provincial. It’s about knowing the employees, employer and customer service to all stakeholders,” she says. “It’s about integrity, learning, a big sense of humour and searching for challenge and opportunity and not being satisfied just doing the job.”

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