Lead(H)er Profile - Julie Hogan, VP of Customer Success and Strategy at Toast banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Julie Hogan, VP of Customer Success and Strategy at Toast

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Julie Hogan, VP of Customer Success and Strategy at Toast


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Woburn, MA. Toast has an office there and I smile each time I hear my hometown referenced in meetings! My mom will say I was curious and outgoing. We lived in a two family house, and I would always ask our neighbors what they were doing and where they were going. 

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I studied English and Communications. My first job was as a Human Capital Analyst with Deloitte Consulting. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

As I reflect, 2 things stand out, mainly because they are in direct conflict with advice you usually hear about growing your career: 

  1. I say yes to things. I can’t honestly reflect on my career and say that saying “no” has ever served me. It's the complete opposite. I said “yes,” especially to the things other people said no to! Other people’s nos became my opportunities. I have been able to move and work abroad, build teams all over the world, meet incredible people, and learn tons through my curious nature. 
  2. I invest deeply in relationships with people in my work life. Yes, it’s work, not family. Yes, results matter most. Yes, yes, yes, to all of the other business book reasons for not getting close to people and focusing on achieving business goals - I get that- but I fundamentally believe that relationships are the root of everything. Every job I’ve had since leaving Deloitte became an opportunity through a relationship. Additionally, whenever I’ve needed advice, support or help from people in my work network - I’m so grateful for the people I have in my corner, who show up immediately for me. I  know they are there because the relationship is reciprocal. I deeply care, and nurture those relationships and friendships. I grew up watching the relationships my parents built with their coworkers (my mom as a teacher, my dad in the mining/metals industry ) and it was ingrained in me from an early age that people and relationships matter, especially at work. 

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I lead Customer Success and Strategy for all of our Toast customers who have completed onboarding and are continuing their journey with us. I lead a team of amazing people who drive Restaurant Success for these customers across all of our business segments, focused on maximizing adoption and customer value, in service to creating raving fans and successful restaurants. My role allows me to also partner closely with Product and Customer marketing to ensure we are driving and delivering a unified experience, not just through our employees, but the experience our customers have with our platform and our brand. 

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

I’m always in awe of people who knew exactly where they wanted to be.  It took a bit of time for me early on to jump into leadership because I loved my customers and didn’t want to give that part of my work up. I also carried a ton of self doubt . Other people I saw in leadership roles had an MBA, a pedigree, or a network. I’m the product of public schools and a state college with an English degree- could I really thrive? I also worried my natural “outgoingness” was the opposite of who an executive female was supposed to be. I started looking for new role models -  I’ve benefited from watching people like Sarah Blakely and Jacinda Ardern bring authenticity, warmth, and humor to their leadership. I’m glad I dove in, and hope my story and my background can help others see themselves in leadership roles. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Learn from every experience. I’ve kept a running spreadsheet for years of how I observe other leaders behave - in a meeting, resolving conflict, at a dinner table. I write it down, and then I “try it on.” You learn an incredible amount about yourself in the process (e.g. what worked for that person in how they approached that problem is something I should start to adopt in my own problem solving. You’ll be amazed by what you learn, and how you grow by the simple act of observing and practicing. You also learn what “doesn’t fit” - which forces you to become more comfortable with evolving as the type of leader you are (e.g.  wow, I’m not comfortable being that direct, I need to work on that)  while also embracing the things about you and your leadership style that are likely here to stay (e.g. I know, and am comfortable knowing, that I am less autocratic, more situational in how I offer direction). 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

Being able to lead with focus, purpose, and empathy. I need to be able to keep the team aligned around the most wildly important pieces of work that will allow us to achieve our goals (and our customers’ goals) and remove friction and distraction. It’s also my responsibility to make sure we’re all aligned around where we are going, and why. Setting vision, and making sure each member of your team understands their purpose and impact is often more important than the strategy itself. If you don’t have a team clear on the goal of the game, and the incredibly important role they each play - why play at all? Above focus and purpose is empathy. Empathy shouldn’t be a word we throw around as leaders because of current times. It should be ever present. Beyond the role we serve to our companies - we  are humans - with families and friends and kids and pets and stresses and worlds beyond our OKRS and quarterly goals and revenue targets. The more we approach our daily work with this acknowledgment of each other as our full selves, the easier it is to build trust and solve problems together. 

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

The most interesting piece, especially in my newest role at Toast, is being at the super rewarding intersection of Customer Success & Hospitality. As someone who has been customer facing their entire career, I couldn’t be happier to now be in service to the Hospitality industry. 

The most challenging piece is that your work to improve Customer experience is never done, and prioritizing the most wildly important work is hard - because you want to do it all, right now. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Building teams is my favorite part of this job. Especially early and new teams- and the work that goes into being shoulder to shoulder with talent partners to make big bets on people, and build for the future.  Reflecting on groups of people brought together to get a new international office or a team started and seeing them continue to flourish and thrive is the absolute best feeling. I am so proud of their continued success.

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

  • Cycle for Survival, have been a team captain for Team Kate since 2016 to honor the life of my college roommate who passed away from rare brain cancer the year we turned 30. {a story about her here

  • I previously was on the board of the International Institute of New England, which  creates opportunities for refugees and immigrants to succeed through resettlement, education, career advancement and pathways to citizenship.

  • I set a goal this year of spending at least 1-2 hours per week advising and mentoring. I have been doing this across a number of growing companies and with people I’ve met along the way.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Spending time with my 3 kids and husband, usually with family and friends outdoors. We’re beach people - I keep a mask, snorkel, wetsuit and catch bag in the trunk of my car well through October. In the winter we’re still at the beach exploring if we’re not skiing or skating (last winter we got all 3 kids on skates playing pond hockey).

Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Julie Hogan, VP of Customer Success and Strategy at Toast.

How do you manage stress?

I actively work to turn stress into positive energy and gratitude. It takes practice but it works. If I’m really stressed I’ll remind myself “it’s because you’re so excited about what you’re doing, and it matters. That’s a great place to be.”

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Coffee and I have a complicated relationship. We’ve been off and on for years : ) … right now we’re on, at 2 cups in the morning, none after 12pm!

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?

Provincetown and Truro on Cape Cod are magical. We got married on Race Point Beach. Recently the sharks have kept us out of the water down there, so we’ve come to get to know the Magnolia Beaches on the North Shore of Massachusetts. 

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

If you haven’t picked up on the theme, I’m super curious - and like to learn as much as I can. I try to keep a 3 book rotation going - 1 fiction, 1 non-fiction kid/family related, 1 non-fiction work/life related. Here’s my current rotation - highly recommend all 3. 

  • Nora Webster - Colm Tóibín
  • Right Within - Minda Harts
  • How to Raise an Adult - Julie Lythcott-Haims

Coming from the Marketing world in my last 2 companies, I’ve been an Ad Week subscriber for years. There’s something fun about getting a “magazine” in the mail, and there’s a TON of interesting content about the Restaurant industry. 

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

It’s easy to think that certain jobs only exist for certain people. Get rid of your fixed mindset. Put yourself out there, and start asking for introductions, asking for help and mentorship, spending time really nurturing relationships, and finding ways to get exposure to the work you want to do. You HAVE to ask for it, and you also have to start saying yes to things, even when everyone else around you tells you to say no : ). It’s ok to not follow the pack. 

(Also, contact me directly, I mean it, if I can support you. I will forever pay it forward for those who supported, and continue to support me).

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