Since pivoting from his work as a lawyer just two years ago, Nat Ducena has become an integral part of Ontra’s growth as a director of account management. With firsthand experience in the legal field, he is perfectly suited to helping legal professionals alleviate burdensome tasks in a meaningful way.
Nat talked to us about his background, his path to Ontra, and how he cultivates community and opportunities to make life better for others at every turn.
How did your career path lead you to Ontra?
As a kid, I wanted to be a doctor just like my dad. But that changed once I reached high school and developed an interest in corporate law and the opportunities it could offer me in the future. So I pretty much set an idea for my career path at an early age.
I majored in history for my undergrad degree and then attended law school. I was (and still am) fascinated by legal theory and its impact on society, so I was excited at the prospect of getting a legal education. I liked the flexibility of a law degree, and took many business-focused elective courses in law school believing they could someday help me transition to a career in the business world.
I’m a first-generation lawyer in my family. I landed a job at a corporate law firm in New York. I practiced for over four years, first at Hughes Hubbard & Reed and then at Paul, Weiss.
Like many, I underwent a sort of reawakening when COVID hit. As I revisited my priorities and whether I wanted to continue practicing law, I decided to make the leap and explore opportunities in business. In late 2020, I became aware of what was then InCloudCounsel through my job search. I saw and applied for the open role for director of account management, and started in February 2021.
How has your background in law helped you make an impact in your role as a director of account management?
My legal skills and knowledge have transferred well to my work at Ontra, making it easier to settle into my role.
I take my legal background for granted sometimes, yet much of it is critical for the day-to-day functions on the Account Management team. It gives me a leg up in this position when it comes to understanding our clients and their issues, contracts, and legal negotiations as well as our products.
It’s one thing to understand a contract, and another to understand a contract in relation to what a client needs. Whether it’s the lingo or common processes or scenarios, what I learned in three years of law school and four years as a practicing lawyer come into play at Ontra. The business aspect has been easier to learn because I already have the legal foundation.
You helped co-found and still co-chair Ontra’s ERG, Blontra. Why and how did that group come into being?
I started the Black employee resource group with Jess Savoie, an account management colleague based in London. The group started organically as a way to connect with other Black employees at Ontra.
As the company grows, we’ve built out Blontra, with more people continually joining. We host monthly calls and plan initiatives with other Ontra ERGs. I find there’s power to having a community within your workplace and find it rewarding to welcome more people to the group who are invested in being part of this.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
When I was registering to become a licensed attorney after law school, the person helping me register advised that I always give my best no matter where the chips may fall. You never know what can happen on a given day, and who will notice. Someone you work for can give you an opportunity or change your life. Always put in the effort and the dividends will come.
Everyone has ups and downs during their career but I want to keep going in a positive direction. Ideally you can be proud looking back.
What’s been your employee experience at Ontra?
Working here is not for the faint of heart – we service sophisticated clients and do complicated work, so you need a work-hard mentality.
That said, I really enjoy the people at Ontra. It’s a receptive, kind, smart, and overall impressive group of individuals.
Plus, I’ve learned a lot and, because this is a rapidly growing company, I’ve gotten many bespoke opportunities. For example, I get to manage high-profile accounts and take ownership of new projects, in addition to providing day-to-day services. I’ve helped build out the Account Management department and its functions, and mentor new hires.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
What matters most to me is the people in my life — being there for them. I live in New York City and love spending time with friends and family, exploring the city, and going to the movies. I enjoy watching and attending sports. I’m a big Yankees, Jets, and Knicks fan. My dad is a fan of those teams so I adopted them as my own, especially the Yankees. If there’s one thing my kids will be, it’s Yankees fans!
What are you most looking forward to in 2023?
We all experienced trials and tribulations professionally and personally because of the COVID shutdowns, so I look forward to a more active, lively world. I hope we can all breathe more fresh air, interact and understand each other better, and improve on the world’s problems. I’ll be happy if we take one more positive step in the right direction.