Molly Brown Porter
The Senior Vice President of Community Relations | 40 Under 40 Class of 2020
“Lead not by the example of your power, but by the power of your example.”
GET TO KNOW MOLLY
She’s a planner, she’s optimistic, she’s loyal. Why, it’s Molly Brown Porter! After being an attorney for several years, Molly took a mid-career transition into the corporate responsibility space at Wells Fargo Bank, and she hasn’t looked back ever since. Learn more about her professional journey in her extended interview.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
I’ve always valued philanthropy and community service in my personal life, but I never thought I would end up working in the corporate philanthropy field. From a young age, I knew I wanted to go to law school and eventually work at the intersection of law and government – and that’s exactly what I did for many years. However, I recently had the opportunity to make a mid-career transition into the corporate responsibility space, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve learned that sometimes what inspires us most professionally may be the opportunity to work with people and for causes in which we truly believe, even if we didn’t think of those areas as part of our “professional” self. Today, I’m lucky enough to spend my days doing work that is meaningful to me on both a personal and professional level, and I’m feeling more inspired than ever.
What challenge did you overcome to get where you are today?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my career — and still experience every day — is balancing the demands of my professional and family life. My husband and I both travel frequently for work and find it difficult when one of us has to spend time away from the rest of the family. I’m lucky to have parents and in-laws who go above and beyond to support us, but it’s still impossible to be everything to everyone at the same time. When one of us is away, we do our best to video chat and find other ways to stay connected with the family back home. When we are all together, we are intentional about planning family time where we can all be fully present and make the most of our time together. Life is about balance, and I hope I’m modeling that example to my daughter in both my personal and professional life.
Did someone help you get to where you are today, like a mentor?
Yes! There are dozens of people who helped me get to where I am today. From my family who supported me throughout my education to bosses who believed in me to mentors who took the time to help develop my career. None of us get to where we are alone, and I believe we have an ongoing responsibility to help others achieve their full potential along the way.
What do you love most about your job?
I love working for the Wells Fargo Foundation because I’m able to give back to a community that has given me so much. Strong communities are vital for the success of businesses, families and individuals. Every day I get to wake up and know that the work I do impacts real people, and that gives me a tremendous amount of fulfillment in my life.
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Thai fried rice
Can't Live Without
Petite vanilla bean scones from Starbucks
Brown and mode, obviously!
Early Bird or Night Owl
Cats or Dogs
Mountains or Beach
Stripes or Polka Dots
Physical Book or Audiobook
Describe yourself in three words.
Planner, optimist and loyal.
Your life philosophy is…
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
What is the best piece of advice you received?
When you make a mistake (which we all do!) you can’t dwell on the past. Of course, it’s important to try and learn what you can from the situation but then you need to quickly move to “the next play.” If you are still carrying around the anxiety and stress from a past mistake, you’re not going to be able to bring your full talents to the next situation. Recovering your confidence quickly is key to performing at your full potential.
If someone handed you an airline ticket to a place of your choosing, where would you go and why?
Visiting Antarctica is at the very top of my bucket list. There is something special about remote wilderness, and it doesn’t get any more remote than Antarctica.
What’s something you cannot live without?
My family. I’ve been blessed to have supporting and loving parents and a husband that is the rock in my life that keeps me centered on what’s really important. When I’m struggling with an issue at work or feeling upset about something in my life, it’s helpful to remember that most issues are small ones, and that my family will be with me though whatever lies ahead.
Name a book you read that positively shaped you.
I’m an aspiring morning person, so the book “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod made a transformational impact on my daily habits. I’m much better these days at taking advantage of the limited time I’m blessed with every day. Especially after becoming a mom, I learned that I must work to make each hour count.
If you weren’t working in the industry that you are, what would you be doing instead?
In another life I’d love to be on Broadway! I absolutely adore musical theater, but unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately for the people who have to listen), my vocal talents are limited to sing-alongs in the car with my three-year-old daughter.
How do you unwind or relax after a long day?
After a long day I look forward to coming home and being able to spend some time making dinner and playing games with my family. We often take turns telling each other about our “rose and thorn” (our happiest and hardest parts of our day) and it’s always fun to hear what my daughter’s day was like at preschool.
The most rewarding aspect of your job is…
Being out in the community volunteering on behalf of Wells Fargo. I was recently with a group of Wells Fargo employees volunteering at a homeless shelter in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We had just provided a grant to help the organization move from a small residential home into a modern commercial facility that would be completed within weeks. As I helped serve the residents one of their last evening meals in the old facility, I felt so much pride in being part of a community that was coming together to support those who needed it most. Being able to see the difference we make in people’s lives is absolutely the best and most rewarding part of my job.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?
“Lead not by the example of your power, but by the power of your example.”
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
I’ve recently become fascinated by habits and how we can automate some of our behavior by developing positive habits that help us make better life choices. As an example, I’ve spent a lot of time this year developing the habit of making better use of my mornings. At first, getting up early was a struggle and I had to rely on sheer willpower to pull myself out of bed, but a year later waking up early has become a habit I look forward to every morning, and I’m getting so much more done every day – which just reinforces the good habit I’ve been building.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
When I lose focus, I try and give myself some time to decompress before I get back to work. I’ll allow myself give minutes to get up and move around, drink a tea or just zone out for a few minutes on social media. When the five minutes is up, I tell myself that the break is over and it’s time to get back to work. Taking breaks is important throughout the day, and proactively taking short breaks often results in a more productive day than working yourself to the point of exhaustion and losing all your focus and momentum.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be money, time, energy, etc.)
In my twenties, I really focused on developing healthy financial habits and learning some of those financial “adulting” skills that most of us are not taught in school. I read books about credit, saving and investing and spent time talking with people who could help me understand the best way to prepare for major financial goals, like homeownership and retirement. Although I may have not had a lot of money to save at the time, I have since seen the benefits of starting small. I’d encourage everyone, but young people particularly, to be proactive about developing healthy financial habits. Often, it’s something we have to learn ourselves, but it’s a skillset that will serve you well for your entire life.
Name a confident woman of character who you look up to? Why her?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is someone I’ve admired for a long time. Before her tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court, she overcame tremendous obstacles to attend law school long before that was common for women. As an attorney, she fought for gender equality and paved the way for generations of women to follow in her footsteps. I recognize that many of the opportunities I’ve had in my lifetime, which I’ve often taken for granted, are due to the hard work of women before me who served as trailblazers for women’s rights.