A Thriving Career
Kelly Sharpe, of Highland, California, has a passion for business and helping people. She quickly found a way to combine the two by getting a job with Pizza Hut when she was 17 years old. Twenty-six years later, Sharpe is a senior manager of training and operational excellence. Thanks to her drive and determination, and with Pizza Hut’s support and flexibility, Sharpe was able to achieve her dream of earning a degree from Excelsior College.
Sharpe started working for Pizza Hut in a part-time capacity and then worked her way up into a shift manager position. She intended to begin college, but she kept finding herself doing more with the company. “It turned out that I loved the company and had many opportunities to grow, and I did just that,” she says, and adds, “I have worked in several positions over my tenure, including restaurant general manager, district manager, restaurant training leader, and now senior manager of training and operational excellence.” In her role, she oversees training and communication, and development for 276 restaurants throughout Southern California and Utah.
Sharpe had always desired to earn a college degree. She had previously tried enrolling at another online college but shares that she was denied because she spent too much time at work and the institution felt she would not succeed. Sharpe was devastated, but then she found out about Pizza Hut’s partnership with Excelsior. Through the partnership, Excelsior awards degree credit for Pizza Hut’s Learning Zone training. “What happened next was unbelievable,” says Sharpe. “I learned that I could receive credits based on Pizza Hut’s virtual learning courses I had completed, receive a 50 percent discount, and complete the courses needed for my degree in a timeframe that worked for me,” she says, recalling the process of applying to Excelsior.
After speaking with her family and boss—who were all supportive of her decision to attend college—she jumped into Excelsior’s online learning and is forever thankful for Pizza Hut’s partnership benefits. Thanks to Pizza Hut’s support, she was able to reach the milestone of completing a degree. “Without a doubt, I would not have gone back to school if it was not for our partnership benefits. Not only was I able to receive a half-off tuition discount, but I also began my degree program with 63 [credits]. Without having these benefits, I know I would not have enrolled.”
With a 70-mile commute to work, a 50-hour plus work week, and family demands, pursuing her degree was hard, but Sharpe was determined to do well. “Online learning was a little intimidating at first but realizing that I am often an independent worker at work, I knew that this could be the right path for me with dedication and discipline,” remembers Sharpe. “No doubt, I was tired, but knowing when everything was due, having the flexibility of posting early, and responding to my professors or peers throughout the week, no matter the time, school became a normal process and allowed me to stay on track.”
Sharpe did stay on track and earned a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Business and Management in February 2021. Around the same time, she also earned a promotion that she had been working hard toward.
With her bachelor’s degree, Sharpe thinks Pizza Hut will see that she is dedicated to developing herself to help better the company. The company saw her dedication in her day-to-day job but also saw that going back to school was a way for Sharpe to continue to educate and develop herself to better help the company. She has also applied what she has learned in her Excelsior courses to her work. For example, she says, “I think I have become more detailed and structured when developing programs, planning for the future, managing multiple projects, delegating, and communicating as a whole.”
Sharpe says others can do what she has done and feel just as accomplished. She encourages other employees to take courses with Excelsior to continue their educational journeys. “Sure, there were challenges and hard times, but after completing each class, you get a sense of excitement that you got through that one…Pace yourself, plan out the courses you need in the order that makes the most sense…Finally, believe in yourself — you can do it!”