De Ann Doonan, CPP, encouraged Congress Xstream-goers with stories of her most memorable life lessons and her pursuit of excellence during her Tuesday Opening General Session presentation “Looking Back, Moving Forward.”
Doonan is the Executive Director of Global Payroll Services at Maxim Integrated Products in Austin, Texas. Her payroll career started in the mid-1980s as a part-time accounting clerk.
“Over the past 30 years, payroll has become considerably more complex,” Doonan said. “In my career, the role of payroll continues to expand. We can no longer calculate a payroll with only a Circular E and a 10-key and still be compliant.”
Attendees in the chat loved to hear Doonan's throwback to classic payroll tools.
"I have a 10-key, I use it to check Excel (I crack myself up!)" said Sam McAtee, CPP.
Over the years of Doonan’s ever-growing payroll career, she’s become responsible for leading project management, payroll and timekeeping implementation, automation, and much more. Doonan traces her pursuit of excellence as far back as her childhood.
“My dad taught me some of the best lessons, but I’m confident the summer of my seventh year was a year of monumental learning,” Doonan said.
Doonan recounted being on a family summer vacation and racing her father to the pier most Sundays. During one such race, she planned and strategized to find the best route and avoid painful sticker burrs.
“In the beginning, I lost a lot of those races, but by the end of the summer I was winning,” she said. “I learned some valuable lessons about planning, the importance of having a strategy, and that no matter the obstacle to continue to move forward.”
Doonan applies these childhood lessons of perseverance and strategy to her career. She worked for a North American tech company’s payroll department when a phone call with a new boss took a turn for the worse.
“He growled into the phone, ‘We have a problem in Brazil! We have 137 people in Brazil threatening to strike if we don’t get them paid. You need to go down to Brazil and fix payroll!’” Doonan said.
She gathered information and found the problems to fix in Brazil, being diligent to the people in need of help.
“A week into the process I had my first realization: No matter the country, payroll is payroll,” Doonan said. “There is complexity in compliance, and international time zones, and every country celebrates different holidays, which makes it super challenging, but always remember that at the root of our problems lays the same core issues.”
As Doonan told more stories about her lifetime and career, attendees took to the chat.
"I can't imagine being responsible to fix the problem she was faced with in Brazil. Holy smokes," said Laurie Jensen, CPP.
At the end of the presentation, Doonan stressed not only the importance of planning and strategy, but also to have compassion and empathy for others going through their own struggles and to never give up.
“To me, the golden rule for career success is to continue to move forward no matter how you stumble,” Doonan said. “There are moments in life when big lessons are learned. Our job is to recognize those moments and to learn from them.”
Attendees gave Doonan a virtual standing ovation with many thanks and positive vibes.
"Loving this presentation! Thanks De Ann!" said Gerard Hall, CPP.