Lead(H)er Profile - Sharon Butler, EVP of Global Education at Flywire banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Sharon Butler, EVP of Global Education at Flywire

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Sharon Butler, EVP of Global Education at Flywire

Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts. I was one of four children, two sisters and one brother. My extended family also lived in town, so I always had lots of family around. I was incredibly active and curious. I played a sport every season, was active in my Church, joined lots of clubs and always had a job whether it was chores around the house, babysitting for neighbors or working in my small town’s coffee shop. I loved being busy and involved. I also played the clarinet in our marching band and took part in my high school’s theatre productions.  My childhood was full of laughter and love.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

In college I studied communication and business. My first job out of college was with Roche Pharmaceuticals. I was a Professional Medical Rep. I would travel around my territory meeting with doctors and pharmacists sharing the features and benefits of my company’s prescription medications. It was a wonderful foundation and experience. I had great sales development support and learned how to maximize even the smallest opportunities to engage and add value. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I have always been in sales. I left the pharmaceutical industry after 6 years to move back home to be near my family and was recruited by my first manager to join a wireless tech company called SkyTel. This was a huge change for me, I went from what was really a promotional product role to more of a quota-based sales role where I learned very quickly that activity equals output in sales and building your funnel of business was the only way to survive. I also learned very quickly how important engagement and follow-up was for building trust and referral opportunities. Even though the pressure for delivering monthly results was very high, and the role was demanding, I loved that I was in control of my earnings and that the more successful I was at helping clients achieve their goals the more I could grow our portfolio of business. I loved hunting and engaging, and I especially loved winning new business. No doubt it was the competitive nature of the sale and the strategy needed to win that excited me, just like playing competitive sports. 

I advanced into leadership roles, taking on more and more responsibility, but after several years in the business I decided I needed a change and began a process of exploring opportunities at other companies. By this time my husband and I had started our family and although it would have been easier to stay in my current role, I have never been one to take the easy way out and I knew I wanted another challenge. This is when I found the Education industry.

I took a Regional Director role at a company called Tuition Management Systems. I loved the idea of focusing on a specific vertical and understanding the unique challenges within the Education industry. It was an incredibly great fit for me because I loved building relationships with the University and College staff and helping them figure out how to automate and optimize their Student Financial Service operations. I loved my role and the company and had no intention of leaving until one day I took a call from an entrepreneur from MIT. He was an international student who had a bad payment experience and was looking to partner with someone who had experience and relationships in Higher Education. Since he was given my name by industry friends, I decided to meet him for a coffee.  

During our coffee I learned about the challenges he faced as an international student and how difficult and costly it was for him to make a payment. He had an idea that we could create a more cost effective and better solution for the students and while he shared, I realized we could do the same for our institutions. It was a two-sided problem that was growing, and it had to be solved. One thing led to another and before I knew it I had left my comfortable job to go off and help start Flywire! Some 11 years later, we've built a multi-vertical company, formed strong relationships with our clients, developed innovative technology, become market experts, and cultivated a unique global company culture focused on customer success. We now have more than 600 FlyMates representing over 40 nationalities located in 12 offices around the world and on May 26, 2021, Flywire became a publicly traded company! 

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I am the EVP of Global Education at Flywire. Currently I lead our sales and account management teams globally. I set our strategic vision and priorities to ensure we continue to deliver the most important and complex payments for our clients and their payers. 

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally? Was it always your goal to be in this position?

No way!  I always had big dreams and I was always very driven.  I loved sales and leadership, so advancing there was always the goal, but I could never have imagined that at a time in my life where I had two very young children, I would leave a secure job with a great career path to go off and start a company and then take it global.  It’s been the hardest and most rewarding journey of my life.  

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

I would tell them to be open minded and take chances. Don't always play it safe. Go for the opportunity that excites you the most because your passion will fuel your path. Whatever job you're doing, give it your all. Ask a lot of questions, be curious and take notice of what others are doing. We don't always know exactly what we want when we start our journey so it's important to be aware and learn about various roles within an organization. Always be willing to raise your hand to help or take on new responsibilities because experience and exposure is the key to learning about yourself and finding your path. There is nothing more rewarding than doing what you love, even when it takes an enormous amount of work and dedication. There really is no magic career button. Let the journey and self-discovery guide you.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

The skills needed to lead a global sales team are wide ranging. The foundation is centered around good communication, planning and leading the vision of success. That vision needs to be communicated and to get alignment and support from internal teams to help move the vision to the execution stage to accomplish revenue targets. Once that is done it is all about the execution of the plan and being ready to knock down walls to help your team deliver. The primary skills used to do all of this are strategist, teacher, motivator, advocate and creative problem solver. Other responsibilities include forecasting, budgeting, recruiting, hiring and staying plugged into market needs and changes.

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

I love the people and culture at Flywire. We call ourselves FlyMates and it is incredibly rewarding to work with people who care so much about what they do and our clients. Even though our teams are spread across the globe, the collaboration is inspiring. I always know I have the support and commitment to ensure my team can hit their goals and our customers will be satisfied. It's an incredible feeling to work with people that feel like family and who will always deliver. I also love seeing fellow FlyMates develop and grow, advancing their own careers. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Taking Flywire public on May 26, 2021, which was also my son's 17th birthday.

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

I enjoy mentoring other entrepreneurs and sales professionals. I am also the go-to for a network of friends when they need someone to donate their time or fundraise for an important cause.


What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Family time. Cheering on my boys at their sporting events. Taking hikes with my husband and dog, Edgar, getting together with my siblings and their families playing games and laughing. We love board games in the winter and pickleball tournaments in the nicer weather.

How do you manage stress?

I hug my dog Edgar, find something to laugh about, take a few minutes to meditate by popping on a Headspace wind down. Go for a walk and prioritize my to-do list, for some reason that list gives me comfort.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Too many! Two cups in the morning and usually a large cold brew with almond milk in the afternoon for a little pick me up.

Any book or podcast recommendations?

I love the podcast, “How I Built This.” It’s fun to hear about other entrepreneurs’ journeys. For fun, I love to laugh and get a kick out of “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” podcast. As for reading, I always joke with my friends that my library reflects someone who is either trying to figure themselves out or make themselves better. I love to read personal development books. I am currently learning more about the power of meditation and reading a book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Don’t panic or beat yourself up if you are uncertain what your passion is or what you ultimately want to be when you grow up. Instead, embrace the journey of self-discovery. Set more achievable short-term goals to learn and get more experience. Have fun, work hard and always follow through with your commitments. A great attitude and strong work ethic will open a lot of opportunities. I waited to take my big risk, but I knew the time was right. Don’t be afraid, be excited!

About the

Flywire is a global payments enablement and software company.

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