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UW Finance Transformation

UWFT VOICES: Paula Ross, Director, UW Finance Transformation

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UW Finance Transformation

Superheroes Welcome in the WAA&R Room

August 21, 2020

Paula Ross is an 11-year University of Washington professional. She began in 2009 as HR Director at the UW School of Law. Five years later, she transitioned to the UW’s HR/Payroll (HR/P) Modernization program where she helped implement Workday®. She then became Director of Workday Application Management, before joining UW Finance Transformation earlier this year as director of Workday Application Alignment and Reporting (WAA&R).

Paula is a self-proclaimed “recovering HR professional.” When she joined the HR/P implementation in 2014, she was giving into a strong interest in the UW’s journey to standardize human resources and payroll processes through an integrated Workday cloud-based platform. Using this system gives the UW visibility into their total workforce and provides a better user experience to keep everyone informed and engaged in Workday modules that include absence management, benefits, payroll, time-tracking, and more.

So it only made sense for Paula to continue that work with the rollout of Workday’s Financials module as part of the UW Finance Transformation (UWFT) program to redesign and modernize all the financial policies, processes and systems throughout the enterprise. As director of UWFT’s WAA&R workstream, Paula oversees all critical platform integration components, which consist of HR/payroll remediation, application alignment (user experience, accessibility, mobile), security, and reporting.

Paula’s top priorities for the WAA&R team are to:

  • Facilitate comprehension of the integrated nature of the Workday platform between HR and Finance
  • Help employees who interact with the HR/P components of the Workday platform understand how finance transformation will change aspects of their work via a new foundation data model
  • Deploy the Workday Mobile app for HR and Finance business processes
  • Ensure the security model is fully fleshed out
  • Enable end user knowledge of the future state of financial reporting, the data they are seeing and how to access reports

Paula’s deepest gratification with the HR/P implementation was its self-service model for employees to access and update their information and for managers and administrators to easily access consolidated worker information. She has similar enthusiasm for this type of transparent financial data and analytics stemming from UWFT and integration into a One Workday where the UW will have one holistic platform with HR, finance and planning all in alignment.

She is also keenly aware that there were lessons learned from HR/P that can be carried over to UWFT for an even smoother implementation. One of the biggest areas of importance she cited for this focus is on the Workday security model and its impacts on reporting.

Paula also came out of the HR/P implementation with a personal transformation – an affinity for superheroes. During that implementation, her team had decided on a superhero theme for their identity. Paula wasn’t attracted to the typical prosaic choices of Wonder Woman or Supergirl and wanted to avoid being a cliché. That led her to adopting an image from the family of classic comic book, sound-effect expressions that include “ZONK!,” “WHAM!” and “BOFF!” Paula chose “POW!” as her hero identity. She made it a part of her email address as an icon and it stuck. Paula’s “POW!” identity is also a perfect match for her WAA&R team who call themselves the “Avengers” of the program. They have a saying, “We’re bringin’ it to the world,” to which Paula adds “We’re gonna sock it to ‘em and give them something great.”

Whether she knows because of her superpowers or it’s her knowledge of Workday, to listen to Paula is to hear how much she believes in and is an evangelist for the Workday platform. “It will be transformational to us as an institution. There is so much more we can do and imagine with Workday and I’m excited to see where we can go.”

To learn more about Paula, we asked some questions about her life, inspirations and thoughts about change:

What is your first instinct when you see changes coming on the horizon? My first instinct is to want to understand the “why” behind the change and look for opportunities to leverage that change in different ways.

What is the biggest change you’ve ever experienced? Professionally, it was navigating the initial implementation of Workday at the UW. Personally, it was becoming a mom.

What is the best example of transformation/change you have witnessed or noted in history? I’m going to date myself, but the use of the internet by everyday people. It transformed almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives.

What is the biggest lesson you learned through the HR/P implementation? You can have the best technology solution, but if you don’t bring people along for the journey, even the simplest business process can be a challenge.

What tips do you have for people facing change? 1) Be resilient. 2) Be flexible. Change is hard, but in most cases it gets us to a better place. 

What do you consider the most overrated or underrated virtue? Humility is one of the most underrated virtues from my perspective. If someone presents themselves as humble, they are more approachable, and people will tend to open up more and be more participatory.

Which superpower would you most like to have? The ability to cure every type of cancer.

Name a talent you wish you had? Singing.

Do you have a most treasured possession or a cherished collection?  A journal my mom started for her grandkids prior to her passing away.

What do you most value in your friends or colleagues? Honesty.

What are your passions? I love historical fiction and fantasy, whether reading or watching shows.

How do you spend your time when you’re not at work? I spend my time with family including our two little dogs, Cooper and Gladys. I love playing cards, watching movies, travel and golf (although I am pretty terrible at golf!).

What is your personal motto? Embrace your nerdiness!

What excites you about the UWFT program? I’m excited to be able to leverage more of the integrated nature of the Workday platform.

What song or lyric best captures you or your feelings about the UWFT program? “Get the Party Started” by P!nk.

What does the statement “WE is greater than ME?” mean to you? It means that there are lots of people all around me that are way smarter than I am. I get the opportunity to see them in action and learn alongside them.

To learn more about the WAA&R workstream, visit the Change Network.

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