John Butler ’85, Josh Cole ’21 Discuss Career Paths at Lowell-Based Software Giant

A person in a suit talks to students in a room. Image by Ed Brennen
Business alum John Butler '85, chief financial officer at UKG, speaks with Manning School students about his career and opportunities at the workforce management software company during a recent visit to Alumni Hall.

By Ed Brennen

Manning School of Business alum John Butler ’85 knew the merger of Kronos Incorporated and Ultimate Software, two $1.5 billion human capital management software companies with 6,000 employees each, would be complex.
But merging the companies in the spring of 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was gripping the planet, only heightened the degree of difficulty.
“We announced the merger in February 2020, basically three weeks before the world shut down,” recalls Butler, who carried over his chief financial officer role from Kronos to the newly formed UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group). “I had only met Ultimate Software’s accounting and finance people once or twice, so my biggest challenge was getting to know them and building trust over video for more than a year.”
Butler was recognized for his leadership during the successful merger — which created what is today one of the largest U.S.-based private software companies — by being named CFO of the Year by the Boston Business Journal in 2020.
Two people shake hands in a room. Image by Ed Brennen
Business alum Josh Cole '21, right, greets a Manning School of Business student who came to Alumni Hall to hear him talk about his work as a financial analyst at UKG in Lowell.
Butler, along with fellow business alum Josh Cole ’21, a financial analyst at UKG, and Rachele Caturano, director of team development, visited campus recently for “UKG Day,” a new event designed to introduce Manning students to career opportunities at the $4.3 billion company, which is headquartered in Lowell and Weston, Florida.
“When I sat where you are today, I didn’t really know what the world of accounting and finance was all about,” Butler told more than 60 students at Alumni Hall. “The foundation of education that I got at UMass Lowell prepared me for everything that I’ve run into and accomplished since then.”
A native of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Butler attended UML on a track and field scholarship. After earning a degree in finance, he landed an accounting job at Wang Laboratories, the former computer company that was headquartered at what is today known as Cross Point in Lowell — the same office complex where UKG is based today.
“I started my career in that building and I’ll finish my career in that building,” said Butler, who is retiring later this year.
Butler went on to work as a certified public accountant at Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC) before joining UKG approximately 30 years ago.
A person hands a person in a suit a blue gift bag. Image by Ed Brennen
Rist Family Endowed Dean of the Manning School Bertie Greer presents John Butler '85 with a thank-you gift during UKG Day.
“It took me a while to find my way into the software industry, but I picked it because it was always changing. I found that intellectually stimulating,” said Butler, who encouraged students to think about professional and personal growth in their careers.
“The one thing you can do is invest in yourself to help make sure that you continue to advance your skills,” he said. “You’re starting at the right point. You’re at a great school, getting a great education. But invest in yourself. That lifelong dedication to learning, it never stops.”
Cole landed a co-op with UKG’s international finance team during the spring semester of his junior year. A native of Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, he knew about UKG from the banner “you couldn’t miss” on the side of Cross Point that read, “Top place to work in Boston,” according to the Boston Globe and the Boston Business Journal. 
“When I started working there, I immediately noticed the culture. They wanted to develop me and showed interest in me. I knew it was a place that I wanted to stay,” said Cole, who was hired as a contractor after graduating with a degree in finance and landed a full-time role six months later.
Working in financial planning and analysis, Cole collaborates with teams across UKG, including sales, accounting, information technology and human resources.
A group of people sit around tables in a conference room. Image by Ed Brennen
Manning School students attended a lunch in the dean's suite with John Butler '85, chief financial officer at UKG, and Josh Cole '21.
“Learning about what they do and the impact they have has helped my understanding of the business as a whole, which I love,” he said. “What I know now compared to what I knew four years ago — not just about UKG, but about the business world — and applying what I learned at UMass Lowell has been incredible.”
Kayla Saunders, a sophomore with concentrations in accounting and finance, was among the students in attendance. She used UKG software “every day” while working at Stop & Shop in her hometown of Malden, Massachusetts.
“I’ve only heard about smaller firms so far, so it was interesting to see the differences with a large international firm like UKG — how they still care about their culture and employees,” she said.
Demitri Bouras, a junior accounting and finance student from Dracut, Massachusetts, appreciated hearing from a young business alum like Cole.
“It’s inspiring to see how far he’s gone in four years. It shows there’s a lot of opportunities for UMass Lowell students,” he said.
While UKG heavily recruits engineering and computer science students from UML for co-ops and internships, Butler would like to see more business students pursue opportunities at the company, which was at the Spring Career Fair and has hundreds of job openings worldwide.
“UMass Lowell students are not afraid to ask questions and learn,” he said. “They have a great foundation, and they fit well in our organization.”