Valimail Authenticated Answers with Alison Gootee

We sat down with Alison Gootee, Compliance and Deliverability Enablement Principal at Braze for our monthly Authenticated Answers interview.
Authenticated Answers alison gootee

Join us today with another interview in our blog series: Authenticated Answers! We sat down with Alison Gootee, Compliance and Deliverability Enablement Principal at Braze.

At Valimail, we take our work seriously but try not to take ourselves too seriously. This value inspires us to get to the heart of what makes people unique and how it affects their careers to provide valuable advice, inspiration, and insights to people working with email daily.

In this lighthearted interview series, we connect with experts from the email, IT, security, ISP, and authentication spaces to learn more about them and their experiences.

About Alison Gootee

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After several disparate career choices, including dog walking, waitressing, and freight forwarding, Alison Gootee found email and has only briefly regretted it (right around November every year). Currently a member of Braze’s Deliverability Services team and a proud former employee of both MailChimp and Emma, a CM Group company, she is nearing completion of her tenth year as a professional spam wrangler. 

Alison resides in Vancouver, Washington state (which is a real place in the USA, not Canada, not DC, and not technically Portland, Oregon, but close) with her husband and three canine offspring. In addition to her vast collection of dogs, Alison is known to take her other interests to similar extremes, evidenced by her array of shoes, dresses, candles, and earrings. A diehard proponent of sunset policies, her motto is, “Too much is never enough, except when it comes to email.” 

Her interest in roller derby took her to the extremes when she broke her ankle at 24 during tryouts. If not for the injury, she likely would’ve made the team. If she had been selected, her roller derby name would’ve been Aretha Spankin’. 

How do you stay motivated when learning something challenging or frustrating?

One word: treats. 

My motivation is all thanks to a schedule of tasks and rewards. A challenging day might include a jumbo iced latte in exchange for a meeting, a walk earned for completing a writing assignment, or a quick Beat Saber session to celebrate crossing something off my to-do list.

What was the last wall you crashed through?

I am clumsy and large, so I very closely resemble the Kool-Aid man, bellowing “OH YEAAAH!” and bursting forth, drywall be damned. Literally and figuratively! I walked through our screen door the other day, completely forgetting I’d closed it, and my plaintive “Oh yeah” was bashfully discreet. 

Professionally, email is so complex that I crash into different walls every day with a different sender. The “Oh YEAH!” moment comes when I learn something new or understand something I previously didn’t, or even better–when I successfully explain something to a customer, and they do their own little “Oh yeah!” as everything finally clicks.

What’s your favorite way to show gratitude?


I’m big on verbal thanking, but I turn to more tangible tokens of appreciation when words seem insufficient. I love to surprise coworkers, friends, and family with a food or flower delivery or a gift card to one of their favorite places. 

I work remotely and have stayed in touch with a lot of friends from former jobs that I have never met in person, and I hope that a Starbucks card in their inbox or some soup delivered to their doorstep lets them know that they’re more than just a face on Zoom to me!

What’s the funniest mistake you’ve made, and how’d you handle it?

I make many mistakes, most of them funny, so I’ll go with a recent one. I was in San Francisco for a conference, and a colleague and I were both assigned rooms on the second floor. He mentioned that he wanted to find the stairs because waiting for the elevator would probably take longer than it would to just walk down to the lobby (and come on, everyone judges the people waiting to be conveyed for just one measly floor). 

As we roamed the hallways, I saw a door that indicated it led to the stairwell. Confidently proceeding despite the “no re-entry” sign (because we were leaving and didn’t need to re-enter), I directed him to follow me down the stairs. We headed down, and down….and down. Way, way more down than it should be to get to the first floor. The only doors we saw appeared to be bolted closed, emergency exits with alarms, or inaccessible without the proper authorization. We turned around and climbed back up the stairs, knowing our options were limited since we definitely couldn’t re-enter on the 2nd floor (thanks, past Alison). 

After several minutes of panicking and finally accepting that we would likely end up sleeping on the stairs, wandering up and down potentially forever, like ghosts, my coworker decided to just start trying every available door. Finally, one that appeared to be impenetrable swung open, granting us entry to the hotel’s kitchen. The staff were stunned to see us emerge from the bowels of the hotel and quickly ushered us to safety. We took the elevator for the rest of the week, and I moved to a room on the 7th floor to avoid accusations of laziness.

What’s the smallest hill you are willing to die on?

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As I said when Lauren Meyer posed this question after her interview: I’ll die on any hill, any size, any time. I’ll die right now–no hill required. 

I have very strong opinions on everything, including insignificant topics such as food (chicken thighs are awful), books (audiobooks count as reading, who cares if your eyeballs were involved), dish soap (Dawn ‘til I die), and of course, email (confirmed opt-in for everything and an unsub link in all email, amen). 

What’s your biggest email pet peeve?

I have even more peeves than I do dogs, but I get particularly frothed up about “mandatory” “transactional” emails. As a recipient and a deliverability consultant, I just need to say: STOP SENDING EMAILS ABOUT YOUR TERMS & CONDITIONS; NO ONE CARES. 

I get it; your legal team said you need to notify everyone! But you can notify users on your website, your social media accounts, within your app, and all over the place without ever needing to send an email, let alone one you don’t let people unsubscribe from. Setting aside the philosophical and logical aspects (did you really notify someone if the email bounced or went to a spam trap? I say no.), these messages can and do result in deliverability damage, no matter how lawful they are. The law has no bearing on delivery, email is not a public utility.

How would you explain DMARC to your grandparents, friends, or relatives?

If my grandparents asked me about DMARC, I’d be like, “Where did you hear that word? Who have you been hanging out with?” and redirect their attention to something productive like gardening.

If they insisted, I’d stand within earshot of someone else in the industry, say, “It’s just a way to help make sure that emails are more trustworthy,” and wait to be corrected.  

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