Authenticated Answers

Valimail Authenticated Answers With Travis Hazlewood

Join us today with another interview in our blog series: Authenticated Answers! We sat down with Travis Hazlewood, Head of Email Deliverability at Ortto. 

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 Travis Hazlewood

travis hazlewood

Travis has been the Head of Email Deliverability at Ortto for two years, utilizing five years of multi-platform deliverability and compliance experience to maintain both platform-wide and customer-specific experiences.

From resolving deliverability issues to writing his monthly deliverability blog, Travis focuses on humanizing a very technical and theoretical field while encouraging best practices that honor and respect subscribers as people.

In his free time, Travis enjoys discovering local Nashville eateries with his wife, scouring used bookstores for unexpected treasures, and writing poetry to explore the slower parts of life (when he can find them). Fun fact: Travis actually owns a book signed by Ray Bradbury (his favorite author), which he found at a used bookstore for around six bucks.

“I believe creativity is one of the hardest things to retain as a career-focused adult and one of the most important things in order to live a satisfied life.

My advice for a happier/healthier life is to find a way to be creative in a way that allows you to express yourself honestly. Then, do it at least once or twice a week, if not daily. You deserve to find yourself, which often only comes through “wasteful” times of self-expression. 

It’s actually one of the most rewarding and productive things you could do for yourself and your life.”

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

My superpower is ADHD hyper-fixation. If I know something is within the realm of reach/possibility, it drives me crazy, like a puzzle almost solved. Have you ever worked on a puzzle, got to the end, and then had a mini heart attack when you couldn’t find that last satisfying piece? You start frantically moving things around, almost destroying the puzzle in your desperation, until you find it and, with a sigh of relief, snap that last piece in place. I live for that resolution. 

Everyone has their own motivators, so finding what works naturally and spinning up every new challenge through that lens is the ideal way to go at it, in my opinion.

What was the last wall you crashed through?

I’ve not crashed through many walls but have fallen through a ceiling before. Outside of that, my most recent hardcore challenge was hiring a backfill while providing coverage and planning a wedding.

I was brought into the company to create the official deliverability and compliance team, so when it came time to hire a backfill, it was up to me to establish what that process would look like.

After receiving the few necessary limitations around the process from HR and finance, I utilized internal resources to see how other teams approached the problem. Then I took what I loved best, added my own pieces from other research I’d done, and then had at it full throttle.

It was a rewarding, though humbling, experience as I met so many wonderfully talented humans whom I wish I could have given good news at the end.

On the other side of it all, I now have a tested and established process, new connections with peers in the industry, and a wedding that went off without a hitch, though the latter is mostly due to having one of the greatest teammates to work a project with, my wife.

What’s your favorite way to show gratitude?

In the famous words of Mona Lisa Ralphio, “Money, please!”

No, I find direct action/consequence feedback most impactful, which I learned while working for Apple many years ago.

Don’t just tell someone they did a good job; speak about exactly what they did well and the positive consequences that directly occurred because of it. Also, doing it in group settings, especially related to workplace successes, is ideal because we all deserve the attention and celebration for our hard work (since most of it goes unseen otherwise).

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

Well, speaking of falling through ceilings, I was staying at my sister’s house many years ago when it happened. 

I was in the partially-floored attic around Christmas time, digging through a box, when I distractedly stepped one step in the wrong direction. That’s all it took. My sister and brother-in-law ran into the kitchen and were greeted by the sight of my dangling legs and the sound of more drywall clattering on the kitchen tile.

Thankfully, I’d caught myself on the ceiling joist, but not before I bruised my tailbone (and my pride) on it first.

I was deeply embarrassed, of course. I mean, I’ve done contracting work and know how to walk joist-to-joist like a professional.

I owned up to my failure though, by letting them pick the professional I would hire to fix it rather than simply fixing it myself (though I could have).

Now, we have a hilarious story to bond over, although I’m not allowed in the attic anymore.

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

The Oxford comma is necessary. We live in a society, people. SOCIETY.

What’s one thing you wish people knew about deliverability? 

C’mon, people, it’s not that hard to have good deliverability. All you have to do is authenticate your traffic, secure signup forms with CAPTCHA, create personal and timely content, regularly audit engagement metrics, compensate for server opens and clicks, regularly clean out the unengaged from your lists, deny demands from your overlords to email every single email address your company has ever acquired, and don’t wear white after labor day…

Actually, that does sound complicated. 

Instead, maybe do your best, check out the free resources here and provided by other deliverability professionals featured in this series (my work blog included wink, wink), and be nice to yourself. It’s a marathon, not a race. Keep growing, and you’ll do better.

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

Okay, you know how credit card companies will block suspicious transactions and contact you to protect your available credit and credit score. Well, DMARC works similarly for a company’s sending reputation, as there is a sort of “credit score” for gaining the inbox with marketing mail.

Is it a perfect 1:1 analogy? No. Would it work? Enough to not have to watch the life drain from their eyes as I tried to explain rua tags and email authentication.

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