Meet the Team: John Saxe, Senior Account Director

In our “Meet the Team” blog series, we interview members of the Scratch team to show how, together, we make up the dynamic and unique culture of Scratch.

In this installment, we hear from John Saxe, Senior Account Director of Marketing, about his path to Scratch and his longtime connection to our founder, Lora.

Describe yourself in three words:

Honest, Open, Interested

Why did you choose marketing as a profession, and how did you end up at Scratch?

I’ve crafted a long career in communications: I spent time as a classroom teacher, a provider of teacher professional development, a writer, an editor, a publisher, a mediator, and a marketer. My work experiences have been varied, but they all contribute to deep expertise in drawing out people’s stories and helping them communicate them effectively, and that’s really what marketing is all about.

In the late nineties, I was recruited into a start-up right around when the internet was becoming “a thing.” It was an online travel-planning service and vacation recommender, and I was a content writer for the website. There were just a dozen people in the company when I joined, and one of those twelve was a crazy Bulgarian who led the company’s marketing efforts.

In my role, my job responsibilities didn’t cross with Lora’s very often, but I recognized her as a brilliant person who “gets” people and situations quickly, and who had an incredible talent for marketing. We hit it off from the moment that I asked her in my interview whether she was part of the company’s programming team. She looked at me blankly for a second, and then she burst out laughing in my face. I have no doubt that if she had wanted to be on the programming team, she would have made (and still would make) a great developer.

That company was doing really well and was in negotiations with Travelocity for licensing of our content and proprietary technology or for outright purchase of the company right up until September 11th arrived. I was at work that morning when we heard that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers in NYC. We assumed that it was just a small passenger plane and that it was an accident. I remember, though, watching the news all morning long on the TVs in the gym that was downstairs from our office, slowly realizing the magnitude of the tragedy and knowing that everyone everywhere was going to be affected. Travel all but stopped completely in the months after that horrific event. Our revenue had dried up by the following February and our business closed down.

Lora went on to various subsequent start-ups, eventually deciding (and proving) she could be more successful as the pilot of her own craft than she could be relying on other founders. I went on to the publishing chapter of my career, starting as a textbook editor for Pearson Education and eventually running content development operations for a supplier to the major academic publishers (my first agency setting).

Fast forward a dozen years and Lora invited me to reconnect with her and join Scratch. My client relationship management, business operations, and writing skills proved to be a good fit for our small but growing agency.

What is your favorite part of working at Scratch?

Well, both the best and most exasperating parts of working at Scratch are one in the same — trying to keep up with Lora. It’s incredibly inspiring to work alongside someone who’s so smart and so shrewd and so passionate about her clients and her business. It makes it easy to find the passion in everything we do. (I will admit, though, that I am forever scrambling to keep within sight of her as she speeds along at supersonic pace!)

And as a close second, I’d say that supporting numerous clients across varied industries bringing incredible innovation to life through new applications of technology is pretty amazing. Whether the companies we support are in cyber-security, cloud infrastructure, additive manufacturing, supply chain management, med tech, or any of a dozen other industries, we get to see the common thread that technology innovation is weaving throughout and across them all. As an agency, we get to leverage our understanding of the technology landscape for the benefit of each new client we bring in. When you stick around long enough to see how that knowledge and experience clearly shortens our time-to-value for our clients, it’s pretty gratifying!

What would your advice be for someone looking to start a career in marketing?

For anyone looking to go into marketing (and, really, for a lot of different career tracks) you can’t beat the experience you get by working in an agency setting. In conjunction with my answer to my favorite part of working at Scratch, I’d say that the experience of working to support multiple concurrent clients accelerates your opportunities to learn and grow professionally. Some people really click in the agency setting. Others eventually learn that agency life isn’t where it’s at for them. But anyone who puts in three years or more at an agency is bound to come out of that experience entirely prepared for whatever comes next. And, like I said, some find that it’s just the right pace and that going in-house after getting a good feel for agency life is just plain boring. And who wants to be bored at their jobs?

The other thing I’d say is find a mentor. I’ve always thought that word is strange — I don’t even like the way it sounds coming out of my mouth, and that’s the kind of thing that I, as a writer, pay a lot of attention to — but the concept of finding someone older and more experienced than you to rely on as a sounding board and as a role model is incredibly valuable. Too many of us get caught up in paying attention only to those within our peer groups. Find a way to complement that with professional relationships with those who’ve been there and done that before you.

When you’re not at work, where can we find you?

I do remember having all sorts of interests of my own, but these days I’m focused on helping my two daughters explore their world and discover their own passions. Outside of work, you can find me coaching soccer and basketball. And when there’s time to get away from all that, you’d probably find me at Mayflower Beach on Cape Cod.

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