Sara Sutton Fell is the CEO and founder of FlexJobs, an award-winning, innovative career website for telecommuting, flexible, freelance and part-time job listings, and founder of Remote.co, a one-stop resource for remote teams and companies, and the 1 Million for Work Flexibility initiative. She was named as a Young Global Leader (class of 2014) by the World Economic Forum for her work in technology and the employment fields. Sutton Fell is a graduate of UC Berkeley and currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.
My Definition Of Success | To me, at a high level, success means that I’m putting good into the world. That the work I do, the company I lead, and the impact we have together are benefiting people and doing it all with integrity. At a micro level, as I’ve become a parent, my view on success has evolved to focus on loving and raising my children in a way that will help them contribute to the world as well.
I Am Driven By | What really drives me is wanting to help people find employment that allows them to improve their lives – and not just on a financial level, but to find jobs that allow them to improve their lives emotionally, socially, and healthfully. Jobs that support the needs of stronger, happier selves, families, friends, and communities. So much of how we traditionally approach work breeds stress, unhealthy habits, and a lack of time and connection to family, friends, and society. The idea that flexible work can be a positive change in people’s lives that helps to reduce stress and improve connection to family, friends, and society is ultimately what drives me.
My Highlights | When I look at the highlights of my career, they revolve around challenging myself to take on adventures, even though they were unknown or scary to me. When I started my first company when I was 21, and I didn’t have any idea what I was getting into, yet I still dropped out of a university and life I loved to pursue the challenge. In the same way, I started FlexJobs when I was 7 months pregnant with my first child, a time that was far from ideal, to say the least. In both instances, I decided to challenge myself in new and exciting ways, rather than taking the logical or “expected” path. From my experience, these types of unexpected opportunities/challenges really bring out the best and most authentic selves in people.
For my personal life, my children are my brightest, shiniest highlights. They make me proud in a way that is both inspiring and humbling on so many levels.
The Difference Between Good And Great | People who are truly great at what they do usually have a deep personal passion for the work they do and the for the process that goes into it, for both the details and the big picture. They also have a great deal of focus. Many times, they act out of a sense of necessity to seize or create an opportunity-they feel compelled, pulled to action-and they have a vision for what could be, not just what is.
Principles I Live By | Integrity, honesty, communication, kindness, generosity
Critical Skills I Develop | Communication, patience, and team-building. I’ve always felt solid in my ability to find strategies and have goals, but I learned very early in my professional career that there is only so much you can do alone. In order to gain momentum and have more impact, it’s important to engage others in the process, to empower them, and to inspire them to contribute in their own ways. So, I’ve really been conscientious in working on these skills in order to do that…and it makes it all much more gratifying.
How I Use My Mind | I’m a huge believer in prioritizing, and then truly focusing on the priorities. “First things first” is a phrase I use both in my professional life and my personal life, because it helps me see the starting point for every project, task, goal, and then how to consider adding or layering in the subsequent steps. Additionally, finding the best ways to leverage your time, skills, and money to accomplish your goals and to be the most effective is important. Finally, and sometimes this one can interrupt the others, is serendipity. Sometimes you have to see the value in the gifts from the universe, even if they’re unexpected.
Lessons I Have Learnt | There are lots of simple, small lessons, and much larger lessons, I’ve learned so far. Don’t be afraid to have big dreams. You don’t have to have the so-called “credentials” to try something, even when it’s the norm to have them. Relationships are a long-game; treat people as you want to be treated, don’t burn bridges, take the high road. Protect and nurture yourself, your health, your needs, your mind; create boundaries that help prevent overload.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | Physical activity is paramount for me – Every week, I try to do bigram yoga, mountain biking, hiking, – because physical activity breeds inspiration and growth on a molecular level. Nature – gardening, appreciating natural beauty. I’ve been doing more meditation and therapy, both of which are helping to center and ground me while also putting me in a mindset that allows me to be more open to inspiration and growth. For professional and intellectual pursuits – I rely on the people in my life and their activities and recommendations to help me expand in both expected and unexpected ways.
On Inspiring Others | In hiring or finding partners for projects, I identify kindred spirits as best I can, while also embracing our differences in skill and approach. I encourage my colleagues to share in the goals of the company, and to contribute, so they become OUR goals. By tapping into what makes people tick, and putting value on that, and supporting them in an appropriate way, I also try to help the people around me to stay true to their own course, even as we all work towards common goals.