#WomenatWU Highlight: This is Molly Shea’s Story

I come from a large family with nine children. We grew up in a very small town in Central Illinois (Arcola, pop. 2,500) where more people never left the state. My father’s business gave me the opportunity to travel so I was exposed to other ways of life and cultures at a young age, igniting a passion to live and work in a global setting. I also knew I wanted the financial security to be able to give my children the same opportunities I had.

Once I graduated from college, I wanted to get my Master’s degree right after. I was on the waiting list at my first choice of university, The University of South Carolina, which was the No. 1 international MBA school at the time. One Friday, a week before the semester began, in a desperate attempt I decided to call University of South Carolina to ask if they had any last-minute cancellations. To my surprise, they asked if I could be there the following Monday. This is when I learned to never take no for an answer, to create your own opportunities and to take risks in life.

I started working for Western Union in October, 1994. As I was working, opportunities started coming up, I would raise my hand and get to work. Not all of them were suitable, but what I quickly learned is I couldn’t wait for opportunities to knock on my door; I had to go and seek them out on my own. WU gave me the opportunity to establish a network outside of my core function and to learn new skills. It is so important that you get to know people in the company so that when opportunities come up that you want to be considered for, people know who you are and your reputation. I strongly advise people I mentor today to take as many diverse roles as possible.

Finance at Western Union is a great discipline because they really focused on development. We were talking about critical thinking well before it became mainstream. I was often asked to present to the CEO. These experiences really exposed me to the inner workings of the company and senior management thinking. I had to get my point across in as little as two minutes with enough supporting analysis to make a solid case.

I learned what it was like to sell my ideas. These opportunities also gave me the exposure to get bigger roles.

Many of the opportunities I took required me to travel. I knew the only way I was going to get to know the company better was to be in the regions close to the customers and our regional employees to better understand the real issues they deal with day in and out. My first day back on the job after having my second child, I was on a flight to South America.

Six weeks after the birth of my third child, I moved with my family to Dublin, where I established our international headquarters. I had to move functions from all over Europe and set up an operating center. This was really my first foray into the business and I loved it.

This was also the time when I was reminded about our customers and what they do day in and day out for their loved ones. Our household help was a young mother from Poland who had just moved to Ireland to improve her life and like me, she had a baby the same age as my third. The baby was living back in Poland with her grandmother while she and her husband were in Dublin to work and send money home. I was so humbled by the sacrifices she had to make. This made me so proud to work for WU and I really started to better understand our customers.

When I returned from our two-year assignment in Dublin, I took a role doing M&A and worked closely integrating a company we had purchased. The entire executive team of this company left within a year and I was left to really pull it together. Once again, I had to do many tasks outside of my original scope, but I saw it as an opportunity to learn and embraced the experience. These roles allowed me to continue to grow in my career. I spent a lot of time on the field, but it paid off when I was asked to run the global finance organization.

One of the things I learned is to have patience when balancing family and career. After our Dublin assignment, we were asked to move to London for my first business role. At the time my husband’s job was taking off as well and he really needed to be back in Denver so I had to say no. It was hard to do, but the right thing for our family at the time.

I had to wait almost 10 years for the next big interesting role to come up, but when it did it was perfect. I was still running global finance when our CEO asked me to take on the role to expand our digital operations globally from Singapore. Once my husband was on board, I next had to discuss with my children as this would be a big change for them. But they supported me wholly and next thing we knew, we were on our way to Singapore. Today, I am working and living on my third continent, close to our customers, doing what I love and financially building for the future.

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