6 min read — Published 2 months ago

How Peter Tamed the 'Anger' of Payroll Tax Compliance

We interviewed Peter Vaselkiv, Business Operations Lead at Kolena, who reclaimed hundreds of hours to focus on growth instead of state compliance.

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State Payroll Tax Compliance Background

Tell us about Kolena

Kolena is a ML testing company that evaluates models and helps enhance model reliability and accuracy.

Right now, in the AI space, model accuracy metrics can be misleading, and often fail to show the whole picture. If you compare two different models, one might be more accurate overall, but when you focus on specific metrics, the "higher" performing model may be less accurate in mission-critical scenarios.

Kolena enables AI teams to specifically dial into these data points to triage. 

In the real world, there might be a self-driving car that is operating with a model with 98% accuracy in identifying all road conditions, but might really struggle with specific data points, like front-end views of red cars or road hazards.

Identifying these model failures can have life-altering impacts. For example, imagine the impact if a model was only able to identify pedestrians in 75% of cases. 

We help AI teams understand the performance of different models, and enable them to test for granular details to identify which parts aren't performing. 

Our platform helps these teams identify and solve those problems significantly faster; weeks instead of months.

Peter Vaselkiv, Business Operations Lead at KolenaPeter Vaselkiv, Business Operations Lead at Kolena

Describe why you love your role

We've all heard so much about the rise of AI and ML, and it is starting to impact our everyday lives. There are so many amazing applications for this technology, and it's amazing to work for a company that is making advancements in the field. 

The opportunity to get on the ground floor of a company that is really doing something different in the space is really exciting

Regarding business operations, I do the standard stuff you would think about - process development, HR management, payroll -  but my role also has a project management component, and I've had the opportunity to work on some of our most exciting initiatives.

I'm really enjoying working on a variety of different projects. One of the great things about working for a startup is that you get to wear a lot of different hats and learn something new every day.

What words would you use to describe managing state payroll tax compliance manually?

I would say definitely confused, definitely doubtful, and definitely angry and irritated.

When I used to run business operations before the pandemic, it was for a company where everyone worked in the same office in Baltimore.

So that one state alone, just working with the Maryland government, was difficult.

Now at a remote company where we have people all around the country, that work has been multiplied tenfold and the amount of inefficiency in state government is exhausting. 

Nobody has the time to be a full-time ops person and also be on the phone with state governments all day and managing 15 different sets of compliance laws.

It's incredibly stressful and it's one of those things you feel like you cannot master on your own, at least while managing your primary work.

So it just feels like you're always behind or always missing something that's going to come up and sneak up and bite you.

When you don't understand how each state operates, it is incredibly frustrating to wait on the phone to connect with the right person and then finding out you've been on hold with the wrong department before being transferred, and starting the waiting process all over again. It definitely causes anger and irritation.

What’s been the impact of using AbstractOps to eliminate those feelings?

Yeah, I think the simplest way I can put it is the best thing about AbstractOps is that I don't have to think about this at all. I haven't thought about state compliance in a long time. 

I have this comfort knowing that if I get a letter and I don't understand it, I have a partner that I can ask and they can jump right in and help me solve it.

Then obviously, the ability to quickly register with states is incredibly important for remote teams because we are hiring people all the time and all around the country.

So just to be able to quickly execute a simple workflow in the AbstractOps portal to start a new state registration or deregistration ticket has been really helpful.

Just the process of getting someone registered - if you don't have any background on how the state operates could be anywhere from 10 to 20 hours just trying to figure out who the right people to talk to are, what the right forms are, and where to file them. 

After all that, it could cost you anywhere from 5 to 10 hours a month in compliance upkeep.

With AbstractOps, in any given  state, I’m maybe spending one or two hours a year.

As someone just starting a new role I get to spend time that I would be using on state compliance to focus on settling into my new role 

That’s been hugely crucial for me to onboard faster.

Focusing on some of the key projects I'm leading would probably be 10 times more stressful if I was having to manage state compliance too. 

How important is state compliance assistance when considering HR tools, such a payroll provider?

On a scale of one to five, I would honestly say a four or five. 

Compliance is such a crucial part of payroll, and mistakes end up costing you a lot more time in the long run, and a lot more money.

So it's crucially important to me, and crucially important to Kolena as well.

Additional notes from the AbstractOps team

We don’t believe time savings are all that important - it’s what you do with the time that drives a person’s company and career forward.

In Peter’s case the impact is pretty drastic: 5 - 10 hours per state per month - multiplied by 15 states - down to 1 - 2 hours per state per year

That’s several months of human-hours spent focused on learning and growth, versus simply figuring out obscure state laws to avoid fines.

If you’re tired of sitting in the rut of state compliance  and want to focus on your future,  start the AbstractOps product demo here.

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Kristin Bass

Kristin Bass has helped over 100 companies navigate the confusing world of state compliance. Prior to her role as the CEO of AbstractOps, she worked as an Operations Analyst at FIS Global. She holds an MBA from East Carolina University and has a deep love for animals, especially her two labrador retrievers.

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