Jessica Ballard – We’ve got this covered.
Being the mom of five children can give a woman a bit of a different perspective from most people.
Then again, moving from the automotive insurance side of things into an RV rental insurance service such as Roamly might leave a woman feeling welcomed and excited rather than intimidated.
Jessica Ballard, Vice President, Risk & Claims, for Outdoorsy and Roamly sees the challenges for women in the RV industry, but having spent the majority of her career in automotive, she has a different set of eyes for how things are changing.
“Being in auto insurance I sat in may rooms with many important people. It’s male driven,” she said. “As I stepped into this Outdoorsy role and I sit in these conferences with our executive team, there are more women present. They are in the conversation. They understand how to repair an RV, all the different types of RVs in the market. What sales look like. Where to go visit. In the auto industry world, it isn’t like that.”
So, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Ballard has felt welcomed and respected for being willing to throw herself into learning everything she could about the RV industry and understanding the differences between the two similar fields.
She said the opportunity with Roamly came when a friend approached her about a career switch.
Ballard’s family had been involved in RVing when she was growing up. Her father was an outdoor type who taught her to archery hunt from tree stands.
But there was still the details of the profession to process.
“I have learned all the ins and outs of it and how to handle it,” she said. “For a person who uses their RV on a regular basis we offer two types of programs. There’s Roamly, which can sell you insurance for the personal use of your RV when you’re in it. The Outdoorsy marketplace allows individuals to make additional income by renting their RV. You can black out days when you don’t want it rented, but it’s a great way to have this luxury and help pay it off.”
All of this is a change for RV insurance. In the past, an insurer was probably the last person an RV owner would tell they were renting out their RV for fear their rates would go sky high.
But mush as the industry’s acceptance of women in important positions has changed, so as the attitude toward peer-to-peer rentals.
“We’ve been able to say, ‘Hey, we know you’re going to do this. It’s OK and we’re going to support you in this process,’” she said of Roamly’s programs. “As we continue to grow and get our name out there, people will see this type of market is growing. That means the insurance products that we offer with it have to grow with it as well to support the needs of our economy.”
Ballard said the initial move to the RV side of things probably wasn’t as easy as she makes it sound.
She said a certain part of her learning curve was simplified because she had transferrable skills from her previous career that she was able to apply to her new job.
But there was still the burden of the teachable skills and terminology she would need.
“It can be overwhelming and you get that impostor syndrome right away,” she said. “But just know that the skills you learn in life and work are all transferrable. You learned those things over time. You became confident in those abilities and you became an asset to your organization.”
That also is where she found the support of female colleagues that she hadn’t seen in automotive come into play in helping her find her comfort zone.
“There are a lot of male figures at the table. The industry is evolving and changing but when I came here it was a breath of fresh air to see women with the same backgrounds as me – wives, kids, sisters – performing in this industry in that manner,” Ballard said.
Ballard, who also plays the violin – although she confesses she’s probably a little rusty – said that kind of support system can go a long way in helping women new to the industry to find their niche where they can succeed.
“No matter what, we are here to support each other,” she said. “No matter what you’re going through that day, just believe. Someone in this network is going through the same thing. We will support and uplift each other and at the end of the day, we’ve got this covered.”