Dec. 19 2019
Tara Comonte has always been hungry–for success, yes, but also french fries. The President and CFO of Shake Shack joined the fast food paradise in 2017, but before then, she could have won Flip or Flop. The “serial renovator” has rebuilt and resold 12 properties, worked in both New York and London, and even printed her own high school merch. Now she helps Shake Shack taste global success, thanks to locations in 16 countries… and some insane black-and-white milkshakes. Here’s how the Scottish burger boss navigates her career.
What was your first job out of college? How did you get it? Did you have a connection?
I was recruited by Ernst & Young (now EY). At the time, they hosted recruitment weekends for first-year students. They take potential candidates off-site and put them through problem solving and roleplaying to assess how well they’ll do in the real world.
What was your college major? Did you feel like it was necessary for your field?
My degree is in Accountancy & Finance. Most young people in the UK wanting to go into business either take law degrees or become CPAs as the route in.
Did you do any internships?
I mostly worked in bars and restaurants all throughout university both to pay the bills and because I loved the social side, but the first time I made proper money was actually in high school. A friend and I made our own Hard Rock Café t-shirts at night and sold them to our friends. (Don’t tell Hard Rock!).
How did you land your current job?
After I left finance, I worked in large [advertising and marketing] agencies, building out our various businesses across the world. I was still in a CFO role, sometimes also COO, and we worked primarily with global consumer brands who at the time were being massively disrupted by new digital technologies. It was a ton of fun and a ton of learning. When I got the call from Shake Shack, I have to admit that I was surprised, mostly because I’d never worked in the restaurant business, or in any multi-unit business like this one.
What made you take the job?
A pivotal moment for me came when I was driving six 8-year-olds back from my son’s birthday, and I hadn’t booked anything for dinner. I went down the list of places that we could go for food, and they poo-pooed every single one until I got to Shake Shack. They exploded with screams of joy… Those 8-year-olds were the reason I took the meeting with Randy, our CEO. From there, it became immediately obvious that Shake Shack was a very special place with incredible leadership, values and a huge growth opportunity.
Is there advice that’s been helpful? Is there advice that’s been bad?
I don’t really believe in bad advice! Advice is a gift you can take or leave, but more often than not, there’s something to learn if someone has taken the time to share it with you.
That said, the best piece of advice that I received early in my career was, “By the time anyone figures out that you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll have figured out how to do it.” The moral being (especially for us women) to go for it.
Is there any part of your role that our readers would be surprised to know?
On paper my job is all about finance, but one of my biggest passions is building a culture that allows people of all backgrounds to thrive. We’ve been working hard to roll out a diversity & inclusion program… We’re committed to providing equal opportunities for success, removing obstacles so everyone has the same shot, and fostering a culture of diversity, inclusion, and empowerment.