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Professional Spotlight

Meet Lina Szaks, VP of Client Services Operations, Celergo


By Frank J. Mendelson, with Lina Szaks

Editor’s Note: Lina Szaks is the VP of Client Services Operations at Celergo who brings more than 10 years of experience to the team. Currently, she manages LATAM, U.S., and Hungary Service Centers, as well as the Global Implementation Team. While at Celergo, Szaks has been in every operations role, including Team Lead, Onboarding/Training Lead, and Global Service Delivery Management. Szaks’s focus is client satisfaction, from implementation to account management. Szaks is a specialist on expatriate payrolls and believes they are an art, not a science. She focuses on coaching, mentoring, and developing team members.


Is there a frequently asked question or function that you expect will no longer be part of the global payroll conversation?

A client often believes that when they move to an HCM platform, there is no need for human interaction. However, technology will not do everything. There will always be a need for human interaction. For example, HCMS cannot take a physical copy of a passport or a P45 form, as required in many countries during onboarding. A person will have to scan or copy such documents to prove they were seen by a human. They will then be appended to the file. It is a misnomer that HCMS will eliminate human interaction, especially when it comes to onboarding.

What would you advise for a company moving from a domestic to a global payroll in Latin America?

The first piece of advice is to work closely with the global payroll leaders and your headquarters well in advance, and proactively make sure all the local requirements are met—along with targeted timelines for the change. Latin America payroll requirements are some of the most difficult. Clearly mapping out local requirements and tying together your global goals and objectives will help to make sure everything is covered locally and that your employees will be paid correctly.


What are some of the considerations a company should ask to determine if there is a good fit with a prospective vendor?

Every customer needs to make a list of what they are looking for prior to going out in the marketplace to search. In my opinion, a global payroll vendor should have an emphasis on customer service. As much as we want to automate things, global payroll requires a level of global payroll expertise and strong communication on an ongoing basis. The platform under consideration should have strong reporting capabilities and the ability to integrate with HR.

Why and how did you become involved in global payroll?

I became involved in global payroll because it aligns with my interest in international business, which I focused upon in my studies. My father lives in Germany, and I was fortunate to travel the world with him and become acquainted with several different cultures. I personally speak three languages fluently and have a passion for the global environment.

What are some of pieces of learned wisdom from your on-the-job experience that you can share in regard to being effective, efficient, and a strategic business partner?

Listen to what is happening in the world and be aware of the aspects of cultural diversity. Cultural diversity can be extremely rewarding but can also present itself as a challenge when conducting global business. To align yourself as a strategic business partner, you need to be aware of the various world cultures and how to appropriately interact with them. Some cultures prefer a warm and fuzzy business approach, while other prefer a more professional and strict business approach. Applying yourself based on the business culture is key to be considered effective and efficient.

What were some of your early career lessons?

There are always two sides to every story! Make sure you listen carefully, document the facts, take out the emotion, and make a decision that is factual and accurate.

What are the most important qualities of effective leadership?

An effective leader to me is supportive both professionally and personally—someone who will guide you in the right direction without making all of the decisions for you. A good leader will empower you just enough to still understand what is happening and to step in when necessary to support you. A great leader is motivating, positive, honest, and direct based on each situation.

What is your management and leadership approach today?

I find myself to be supportive and empowering, yet involved. I try to make my staff excited, eager, and happy to come to work; regardless of personal or work stress. I am very people-focused. I encourage growth, development, and opportunity for my staff while progressing forward on our organizational goals.

How do you hire?

I look for a very broad skill set. I look for individuals who are passionate about global business and understand cultural diversity. You need cultural diversity and passion for the world. They must understand timelines and deadlines. I am looking for an individual who is well-organized, knows how to prioritize, is detailed, and has a financial business background. In global payroll, they must have a good understanding of time zones and stay on top of local requirements. Excellent customer service skills are required, as well as not being afraid to speak with people across the globe. In today’s fast-moving technology, we need tech-savvy individuals who are well-rounded and have a positive, get-it-done attitude.

How do you personally manage to balance work and pleasure?

Finding personal balance is the key to life. I make a conscious effort every day to balance out my work and my family. I have two beautiful girls and a loving husband who bring me pure joy. So, when I leave the workplace, I focus all my energy on them to help me prioritize my life and keep things in perspective. I also am a devout yogi and practice yoga at least three times a week, which really helps with “me time.”

FrankMendelsonFrank J. Mendelson is an Acquisitions Editor for the Global Payroll Management Institute. He has been working with the American Payroll Association since 2009 as an editor for
PAYTECH magazine, and has presented workshops at the Annual Congress on effective communication.