Like many of her Ontra colleagues, Jess Savoie started in the legal field before finding her way here. Her experiences living around the world and the United States during childhood set the stage for her to connect with people in any situation. Her strength building relationships is one of many skills that comes in handy as Jess manages and grows client relationships for Ontra.
Tell us a bit about your background and career path to date.
I’m an only child raised by a single mom. My mom and I have always been very tight. She was in the Air Force, so I’m what some people call a “military brat.” We moved every two to three years. We did a couple of tours abroad — including Japan and the UK — but mostly were in the southeastern United States. Now my mom is retired in New Orleans, which is what I consider home base — even though I don’t live there. All our family is there.
I earned my undergraduate degree from Stanford, attended law school in Michigan, and joined a law firm in New York. That’s where I met my British partner. I did transactional corporate work, with rotations in project finance and general corporate, and ended up in aviation finance.
I wanted to be with my partner so I asked for a transfer to the London office. The only way to practice abroad as a New York barred attorney is by going into capital markets, so I did that for two years in London.
Then I was ready to leave the law firm lifestyle and hone new skills. A friend of a friend told me about Ontra, and I recently celebrated my second anniversary here.
It was easy switching from a law firm to a startup culture because of my experience moving as a kid. I’m very adaptable, able to go with the flow, and can make friends anywhere.
Please describe your role as a director of account management.
The big-picture view is all about establishing and managing relationships. You must be a people person, anticipate clients’ needs, and be knowledgeable and honest about what we can and can’t do. I work with many teams across Ontra and make sure we work cohesively toward the same goal.
I put the nitty-gritty of Account Management into three categories:
- Onboarding new accounts. All eyes are on making each account successful long term, both for our clients and lawyers. We must be familiar with Ontra’s services, and work closely with Sales for handoff because they cultivate the opportunity and then we must deliver. We also work with Legal Partnerships to staff each account. I think of it as matchmaking. I now know our lawyer pool well, what a new lawyer needs on an account, and which lawyers will work well together.
- Maintaining accounts. After onboarding, the focus is stabilizing the account while ramping up to the most volume possible. During the first 6-12 months, clients are usually sussing us out, and we’re problem-solving and fine-tuning our service and staffing for them. For that, we work with Legal Partnerships, the Accounts Payable team, and even the Product team if we’re rolling out new features.
- Growing accounts. Once an account is stable and running like a well-oiled machine, we work with Sales and Marketing to identify white space and opportunities for growth. The lowest-hanging fruit around Contract Automation is additional document types we can handle for them. We also evaluate additional SaaS features they can use, and whether we can cross-sell to another geography where the client operates.
What Ontra project or accomplishment are you particularly proud of?
I’m proud of helping customers move through their journey – it’s so rewarding to take a client from 0 to 100. I love seeing an account go from nothing or being on the fence about Ontra to really buying in and ramping up. It’s a relief for clients when we help solve their problems. At the same time, we have to be okay knowing we can’t solve everyone’s problems.
Ontra has five core values. Which one resonates with you most in your day-to-day work and with your team?
Openness. Honesty is the best policy and the bedrock of any good relationship. People respect you more for it, especially in Europe.
In the U.S., most new clients welcome us with open arms. When clients first onboard in Europe, they often see Ontra as another vendor to be suspicious of. Because we are starting on the back foot in Europe, so to speak, it’s all the more important to be honest and upfront from the start. That way when we need to discuss problems or challenges, we’ve set the stage for a trusting conversation.
You co-chair Ontra’s Employee Resource Group for Black employees, Blontra. What’s been your experience launching a new ERG at Ontra?
Along with Nat Ducena in New York City and Angel (our former head of demand generation) in Los Angeles, I helped start Blontra when Ontra was about 100 people. At first, we just chatted amongst ourselves here and there.
As new Black employees joined Ontra, we added them to the Zoom meetings so they were aware of the resource. About a year ago, we went public and got HR involved to make Blontra an official ERG.
It’s great getting to know colleagues from other geographies and teams, and makes it easier to work together day to day. At the same time, it can be challenging organizing an ERG around geographically dispersed colleagues. The time zone differences alone make it tough to find times that work for everyone to meet.
How does Ontra support your personal and professional growth?
Ontra sent me to the Black Women in Asset Management (BWAM) conference. Kudos to Bridget Deiters for connecting me with the group and to Ontra for funding my attendance. It is an awesome community for me in London both professionally and personally. The BWAM group chat is the place to be.
Additionally, it’s great having an annual professional growth stipend, being able to attend conferences like BWAM, seeing Ontra honor Black History Month, and getting Juneteenth off in the UK.
What’s a fun fact people don’t know about you?
I’m a certified yoga instructor. I earned my certification at a hip hop yoga studio while living in New York City. I’m all about meditation through movement and breathing, and would love to go on an extended yoga retreat.
I also attended an arts high school and minored in dance. My favorite dance genres are ballet and modern. Whatever city I’m in, I find a ballet class to drop in on. Ballet has a universal language and is the easiest one to keep up with.