Allyson Tsu started her legal career as a paralegal in a Big Law firm in New York City. Her frustrations with the industry’s routine work brought her to Ontra, where she currently serves as a Customer Engagement Manager and as a member of Ontra’s Asian and Pacific Islander (API) Employee Resource Group (ERG).*
In celebration of API Heritage Month in May, Allyson sat down to discuss her journey to join Ontra, what API Heritage Month means to her, and what she hopes to accomplish as one of the members of Ontra’s API ERG.
How did your career help pave your way to your role in account management at Ontra?
It was my time as a private funds paralegal that really brought me to my position here at Ontra. Working at a prominent law firm for nearly two and a half years, I had the opportunity to interface with a number of leading global private equity fund managers and gained insight into the full lifecycle of a fund, from inception to long past the final closing of capital commitments.
However, it was my time in Big Law that also granted me an intimate understanding of the inefficiencies of large corporate law firms and the legal industry as a whole. After deciding that I didn’t want to be a paralegal anymore and learning about Ontra’s work, I was astounded by how the company automated or made so much easier so much of my day-to-day tasks as a paralegal. I thought it was wild. I couldn’t even put it into words. In particular, Insight — which I don’t even work on, by the way — blew my mind because I spent hours tracking fund obligations and redlining LPAs and side letters, two tasks that Insight entirely automates.
I couldn’t help but wonder how different my time as a paralegal would have been if I had the resources and software of Ontra — it would have freed me up to do so much more valuable work. So while my experience as a paralegal is what gave me the skillset to be an account manager here at Ontra, it was also that experience that showed me why this company is so valuable.
What convinced you to join Ontra?
Coming from Big Law, I think I inherently saw the value of the software and the company’s business model. However, what sold me on Ontra was how truly kind and genuine everyone is here.
To highlight the moment in my interview process that stands out most: I just happened to have one of my interviews the day after the Atlanta shootings had just happened. The majority of the victims in that attack were Asian women. When I began the interview, my interviewer, before asking me any questions, started off our interview by saying, “Hey, I just want to recognize that you’re probably in a difficult mental space in light of the recent events that transpired in Atlanta.” I was just so shocked, in the best way possible, that this person who I had never met before and who was interviewing me, was creating this space to talk about a deeply personal and difficult topic. It really showed me that Ontra wants its people to bring their whole selves to work.
What do you consider your top achievement since coming to Ontra?
I feel a certain amount of pride in being the first person to start in the Customer Engagement Manager role at Ontra. There are now about ten people in this role, not just in American offices but also in EMEA, and it’s been incredibly rewarding to see how this position has become a real integral part of the Account Management team.
What do you hope to accomplish with the API ERG, and what does API Heritage Month mean to you?
I hope that the API ERG can serve as a space for genuine support and conversation on API issues, especially in light of the tremendous surge in violence our community has had to face since the start of the pandemic. To put it lightly, it has been a difficult couple of years for the API community, and it’s extremely valuable to have a space where we can talk about these issues openly and without fear of judgment.
I am also excited and emboldened by the prospect of different ERGs within Ontra partnering together in the future. At a time when multiple communities are experiencing collective trauma, I think it is essential that we not think of the struggles of marginalized groups as existing in isolation of one another, but rather as an interconnected system that works to disenfranchise all of us – Asian, Black, Brown, Latinx, etc. It is only when marginalized communities recognize how dominant systems similarly operate against all of us that we can truly begin to work together and build cross-community solidarity. And I know it’s cliche, but we’re truly stronger and better when we are allied.
As for what API Heritage month means to me: I think it’s wonderful, as it presents the opportunity to really amplify API voices and showcase the breadth of cultures and ethnicities that make up the fabric of the API community. My hope is that while the API community is in focus in May, this month serves as a conversation starter for the rest of the year and that meaningful conversations around API issues will be ongoing. Ideally, recognition, discussion, and celebration of the API community, as well as all other communities, would always be top of mind.
As a resident of one of America’s hippest areas, Brooklyn, what do you like to do for fun?
I live in a small apartment in Brooklyn, but I have over — I think — 20 plants. I think my plant/horticulture obsession may be a little unhealthy (laughs). I’m also a big concert person. I think Brooklyn is the best place to live in NYC if you like live music. Here you’ve got places like Brooklyn Steel, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Mirage, and Avant Gardner — there’s an abundance of venues and most of them are incredibly accessible. Back in October, I saw a band called Black Pumas at Brooklyn Steel, which is my favorite venue in the city.
*Note: Ontra uses the term “Asian Pacific Islander (API)” rather than “Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)” to acknowledge our global colleagues.