Jim Kohl, Namely’s senior managed services manager, discovered his passion for payroll in an unlikely place: at a comedy club. After getting in a few laughs, Jim spent a decade working for a payroll solutions provider before finding his way to Namely. And that “barley” touches the surface. Aside from his love of comedy and payroll, Jim is a beer enthusiast and artist, having designed over 90 beer labels for four different breweries.
We sat down with Jim to talk about his role and passions outside of work. Here’s what he had to say:
How did you end up in your role at Namely?
After college, I worked at a comedy club in New Brunswick called the Stress Factory. I quickly got tired of being a waiter, so I transitioned into back office work. I started out booking comedians and their hotels until the club’s owner asked if I could take over payroll, too. The way I got into the payroll world was just happenstance, but I ultimately found my way to a team that needed me.
Eventually, I realized that I needed benefits. I got a job at a payroll solutions provider, where I worked for almost 10 years. In 2012, I met and trained Dominick Della Valle. After he left the company to move to Namely, he recommended that I apply, too. I thought “why not?” and interviewed. Seeing the work environment and the office layout sealed the deal. It was so different from my former office, and it made me excited to be a part of Namely. In November 2015, I took the job and started working here.
What’s your favorite thing about your role?
I love my team. We’ve built a great team of people who are focused on what needs to get done. It’s one thing to make Namely a better place, but to be able to also enjoy the person sitting next to you is really special. It’s inspiring to come in every day and be able to not only joke with your team, but also be a better professional because of them.
What does your average workweek look like?
At my old job, I would go into the office every day at 8 a.m., have a one-hour lunch break, and leave every day at 5 p.m. Working at Namely, every day is different. I help monitor my team’s workload and help identify tax and payroll trends. My work expands well beyond our team. We collaborate with so many teams, from finance to customer service and everything in between. We’re the subject matter experts and it’s our job to make those teams as successful as possible.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Namely?
The people would be my number one answer, but I know everyone says that and I want to be different. My favorite thing about working at Namely is the opportunity to work for a company that’s growing in such an exciting way. It’s inspiring to be a part of Namely and know that every day you play a role in making it amazing.
What’s your favorite office snack?
La Croix is my favorite. I down three or four of them a day. My favorite flavor is tangerine, without a doubt. It’s out-of-control good.
If you weren’t in this role, what would you be doing?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I drew a daily comic strip in college called Daily Happy Hour. I drew that for about ten years and it was picked up by a couple of nightlife magazines and college newspapers.
One of the bars I used to frequent held homebrew competitions. One night, one of their judges bailed and a bartender asked if I would step in. I accepted and ended up sitting next to the owner of the Bolero Snort Brewery, who saw me doodling in between tastings. He said he needed help with his labels, and I agreed to help him out in exchange for some equity in his brewery. Since then, I’ve designed 93 labels across three or four breweries.
If I didn’t work at Namely, I would probably be more involved in the brewery. I might take on a sales role to get the beer brand out there and continue to design label art. It’s fun to have two passions, payroll and art—but I don’t think I could pick one or the other.
What's something your co-workers don't know about you?
I feel like everybody knows I draw in my spare time, but if they didn’t already—I am a published artist. You can go to a beer store right now and buy my artwork!
Aside from that, I’m a fisherman. Deep sea fishing is my favorite. I love that you can’t get a phone signal out at sea—it’s just you and the water.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to do your job?
Stay hungry for knowledge. You’re never going to know everything, so listen and learn. Creativity and critical thinking are so important to the role. Have a lot of patience. Know that every day you have the opportunity to make Namely better because payroll is such a big piece of what our company does.
What was your best day at work?
In January 2016, there were only three of us on the payroll team. We had so many W-2s to post that we were worried about not meeting our deadline. The team and I stayed late and fought our way through. The night before the deadline, we got them all uploaded. It felt so good to be a part of a team that came together to work towards the same goal. I had come from a company that was so established that you couldn’t really see the impact of your actions, but at Namely, everything we do means something. That was the day I realized that my team and I can have a lasting impact here.
Who has inspired you to get to this point in your career?
My team inspires me constantly. They’re all such hard-working, dedicated, smart people. I’m a better person because of them. Loren Downey took a chance by making me a first-time manager, and the reason I’m successful is because I was given that opportunity.
At Namely, our coworkers are one of the top reasons we love what we do. The Meet Namelyseries spotlights real Namely employees across the company. Stay tuned for more from the series to learn how we put HR for humans into practice.