Lead(H)er profile - Molly Donaher, Senior Director of Payments & Strategy at Toast
When Molly Donaher joined Toast as the tech company’s 130th employee, it was a deliberate and well-researched move. After studying economics at Trinity College and beginning her career in investment banking, Molly was ready for something different. “I came to a crossroads,” she explains. “I could continue down the finance path, go to business school, or try something different. What I knew from my time in banking was that I enjoyed partnering with strong management teams.”
After speaking with mentors and doing some serious soul searching, Molly decided it was time to give startups a shot. But it had to be the right company.
“There were five specific things I was looking for,” she says, “and first on the list was a strong product.”
Toast provides technology that powers restaurants. Its current suite of products includes the Toast Point of Sale software platform, Toast Go, Toast Online Ordering, and Payroll and Team Management. The company also recently launched Toast Capital, a financial product that gives restaurants quick access to capital to help them grow.
But Molly recalls that back when she was doing her research, Toast was just getting started. “I lived downtown, and I went door to door, talking to restaurants that used their software. I’d walk in and say, ‘Hey, how do you like your POS system? I’m thinking of joining Toast.’ It was obvious that customers loved the technology, so that got me excited.”
The second item on Molly’s list: a big market. “You can have an awesome product, but if the market is small, it’s limited. The restaurant tech market is large worldwide.”
Number three: stage. Molly knew she wanted to join a company that was ready to grow. “Personally and professionally, I think there’s so much opportunity fueled by that kind of growth. When I joined Toast, we had just over 100 employees. Now we have 2500.”
For the past two years, Molly has worked as the Senior Director of Payments and Strategy. She manages a team of 25 employees, overseeing the payments business. “By embedding a payments solution into the Toast platform, we’ve made it easy for restaurants to seamlessly and reliably accept payments. Through Toast Payments, restaurants have secure access to valuable guest transaction data that can be leveraged to help drive in more business.”
Prior to moving into her current position, she led the Business Operations team, and before that, she oversaw Strategic Initiatives. “Which basically meant I worked on everything,” laughs Molly. “But I’ve loved wearing so many different hats. Having the opportunity to work cross-functionally and grow teams in these roles has been rewarding.”
Fourth on Molly’s list: a strong executive team. “Strong leadership is so important to the core of a company. I had a warm introduction to Toast through former colleagues, and meeting them in person, I was blown away. The co-founders are involved, and smart, and I respected their high level vision.”
The final attribute Molly was looking for in her dream company? Energy. “I wanted to be in a place where people were excited to make an impact through their work, and if you walk around here, you’ll see the energy is palpable. We’re excited to solve problems for restaurants through our technology, we see ourselves as partners in their success first and foremost. ”
Toast’s very first client was Barismo 364, a coffee shop in Cambridge. “When they had their five year anniversary, we celebrated with them, we covered all the coffee for their first 1000 customers,” says Molly. “Restaurant owners face many challenges and our mission is to empower them to delight their guests, do what they love and thrive.”
At Toast, Molly loves building teams, and has also found mentoring to be extremely rewarding. “I like helping people grow. Whether they’re fresh out of college or an MBA program or very experienced, I want to figure out what makes them tick, what their career goals are, help them create their path. I strive to be someone others trust.”
Outside of the workplace, Molly is busy raising two young daughters, but she tries to stay involved with the tech community. “I’m part of Rev Boston by Accomplice, an awesome group female tech leaders.”
Molly also continues to welcome every opportunity to engage with Toast’s customers, even when she’s just out for a night on the town. “Sometimes, it’s to my husband’s dismay,” she adds, laughing. “I’ll talk to the servers, the manager, ask if there’s any feedback or suggestions I can bring back to Toast.”
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I have a two and a half year old and a nine month old. I love spending time with them!
What are your strategies for managing stress?
I try to stay anchored in the big picture: I have two young daughters, I have a family I love. There are so many things that can generate stress, but being anchored in the big picture and what those intentions are really helps. That, and a good cup of coffee.
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
A lot! Many. Let’s go with two or three. Two.
What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?
I really love the South End. I used to live there, I love the charm and the restaurants.
What do you consider one of your proudest accomplishments?
Personally, I’d say my daughters, and growing my family. I’m so excited for my daughters’ futures, and I want them to be strong leaders someday. Becoming a working mother has forced me to work smarter, work differently. It’s given me another perspective that’s valuable. There’s always more work to be done, but working smarter means prioritizing the right things at the right time. Professionally, I’m proud that I’ve become a trusted leader.
Is this where you thought you’d be 10 years ago?
Yes and no! 10 years ago I was an investment banking analyst and I didn’t know exactly what my next move would be but I did know that I wanted to have an impact at a company with a solid mission I believed in, which is still part of what fuels me today. Yes in that I knew I wanted to become a role model and a trusted female leader.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
Be open minded. Seek out strong mentors, proactively seek them out early in your career. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially to your direct manager when you’re first out of college. Get involved with your community, don’t be afraid to network and put yourself out there, whether it’s through an alumni network or whatever company you’ve joined. Introduce yourself!