Introducing Valimail Authenticated Answers: An Interview Series

Valimail’s Authenticated Answers interview series sits down with experts from the email, IT, security, ISP, and authentication space to learn more about them and their experiences. Our very first interview features Seth Blank, the CTO of Valimail.
Authenticated Answers - Seth Blank

We’re excited to present a brand new blog interview series: Authenticated Answers!

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 day in and day out.

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

We’re kicking off this series with our very own Chief Technology Officer, Seth Blank.

About Seth Blank

Seth Blank is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Valimail, with over twenty years of entrepreneurial and executive experience. He initially joined Valimail as the head of product for open source.  

In addition to being Valimail’s CTO, he’s also the chair of different email ecosystem groups. He’s co-chairing the technical committee at the Messaging, Malware, and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG) and the DMARC Working Group for Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). He’s also the chair of the AuthIndicators Working Group to develop Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI), and he’s the author of ARC.

Read our interview with Seth below to learn more about the walls he’s crashed through, how he likes to show gratitude, and how he’d describe DMARC to his parents.

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

The great thing about Valimail and the work we do here is that we make such a huge impact on people worldwide. We have some of the largest companies and organizations as our customers, and we protect not just the business and their employees but also their customers. 

We’re helping to reduce the threat level against all of these people. No one can use one of our customers’ domains to send a malicious email, and that matters. We’re all doing this job for a reason: to protect people. 

That impact can be intense, but the mission itself is motivation to get through any struggles. 

I subscribe to the thought that the best way to get the right answer is to put some answer out quickly, learn, and iterate.

‘Don’t be right. Get it right.’

This quote isn’t mine, but I love it and have really internalized it. Just start somewhere, and you can make changes as you go.

What was the last wall you crashed through?

Before Valimail, DMARC was completely unapproachable for most businesses because of the complexity and pain of understanding their mail systems well enough to authenticate everything and keep them authenticated properly.

There was a proposed solution called ARC that could fix these issues, but it had lost all momentum. I was initially hired at Valimail to help solve this problem and make ARC happen.

We put out a test suite and worked closely with Microsoft, Google, and many others across the ecosystem who were invested in making authentication stronger and more broadly applicable for email.

Finally, we worked with the IETF to document how this all works. After all that, ARC has been adopted by major players and is making a real difference in ensuring mail that takes complicated routes between sender and receiver can be properly authenticated.

What’s your favorite way to show gratitude? 

Sometimes it’s best to clearly say the words, ‘thank you.’

No one ever gets tired of feeling recognized and appreciated.

If I’m showing appreciation with a gift, I always gravitate towards books since I’m a bookworm, or I try to find something related to their interests. If I’m a stranger to their hobby, this can lead to a few late nights of Googling the perfect thing.

If you take the time just to listen and learn what people care about, there’s always a way that you can express gratitude.

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

I once brought home a perfectly round watermelon and put it on a table while unpacking the rest of the groceries. Unfortunately, the table was right next to where my two-year-old was playing with some bouncy balls.

He thought it was a new addition to his collection, grabbed it, and smashed it on the floor. He looked so surprised! My wife and I just laughed and told him we’d have the strawberries instead.

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

Hawaiian pizza is not pizza.

I am a New York pizza purist, and I love many, many forms of pizza, but not ham and pineapple… That’s not pizza; that’s something else. 

You can enjoy it; I’m not saying it’s not good for some people. I’m saying that’s not pizza.

My favorite New York slice is mushrooms and black olives. I grew up with canned mushrooms on pizza, which brings me such nostalgia. I don’t know if I’d ever touch canned mushrooms in any other form. But on pizza? Perfection.

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

Imagine a world where anyone could pretend to be you. Imagine I walked up to you and said, ‘Hi, Mom, I’m Dad.’ And to you, it looked, sounded, and felt just like that. 

How awful would that be? How much money could someone walk away with from your bank account if it was that easy? 

That’s email. DMARC stops that. 

DMARC says that if someone says, ‘Hi, I’m Dad,’ they’re actually Dad. You’ll actually know who you’re talking to. It’s way too easy to impersonate someone through email, and DMARC resolves the worst forms of that.

Get started with DMARC 

There are two things Seth is passionate about: no pineapple on pizza and the Valimail mission. 

Whether or not you agree with him on the Hawaiian pizza, we can all agree that DMARC is a powerful policy that can help stop business email compromise (BEC) and spoofing. 

If you’re interested in seeing who’s using your domain, Valimail offers free visibility to see what emails are being sent as you. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll get continuous access to third-party services that are using your domain. 

When you sign up for a free account, you’ll be able to see both legitimate and illegitimate senders. You can identify them based on their actual name so that you don’t have to spend time tracking down a list of unknown IP addresses. 

Sign up for a free account today to review these services and take the next step toward DMARC enforcement!

If you’d like to share your thoughts with us or nominate a leader in the email space to be featured in the future, don’t hesitate to reach out to! 

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