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 Jennifer Nespola Lantz
For the last two and a half years, Jennifer has been at Kickbox, leading the deliverability consulting team and managing industry relations. Before that, she was the Director of Deliverability at Zeta.
Jennifer is an email geek through and through. She’s been a champion of email best practices, fighting abuse and helping good senders navigate the choppy waters of email delivery for over seventeen years. She is also a current co-chair of the technical committee at M3AAWG and a former board member of ESPC.
One of her passions is educating clients, helping them solve problems, and improving their programs.
She lives in Massachusetts, where her second full-time job is surviving the madness of high-energy dogs and kids.
Keep reading to find out how Jennifer likes to show gratitude, the challenges she’s observed in email marketing, and how she’d explain DMARC to her kids.
How do you stay motivated when learning something challenging or frustrating?
I love to learn. When I get stuck on something, I usually just move on for a little while and then try to come back to it. Sometimes, a nice brain reprieve helps open up stuck passageways.
And then, if they don’t, I Google the crap out of the topic. If that doesn’t help, I ask for clarity from those around me who know more about it.
If learning is more of an “experience” thing where I’m trying to figure out my own style, for example, managing (or even parenting, for that matter), I go through the experience and allow myself to get frustrated.
Then, I talk about it at home and see what others may suggest. I break things down into pieces I understand and work on that, slowly bringing in the other aspects until they all come together.
When learning and challenging yourself, time (and reflection) can be your best tool if you allow yourself to have it.
What was the last wall you crashed through?
It was when my kids went to their room on their own after they realized they were having emotions that were too big and needed to calm down.
In all honesty, I should say my kid crashed through the wall, but as a parent, that was a huge step for both of us. For me, it was finding ways to stay calm and mimic the behavior that is safe and healthy for them. For my kid, it was being able to identify how they felt and find a solution to help them work through it.
It’s a huge moment when you can work hard at something, research, try, try again, try something new, try again (about five million times), and finally have a moment of success.
And that moment isn’t just yours, but those you rely on (or care about) most.
What’s your favorite way to show gratitude?
I love to say it out loud. It’s important for others to hear it and know how much they are appreciated.
And to give credit where credit is due. Calling out your peers, friends, and family is especially important when you get credit for something others are involved in. I always tell the teams I run that I couldn’t do what I do without them.
I also like to give as much, if not more, than I get. If I see the kiddos are cleaning, I’ll help out because I know cleaning is hard, and I appreciate that they are doing it. I don’t do it all for them, but I try to make it easier, also in the hope that they will learn to help others…so far, that part isn’t working out so well.
What’s the funniest mistake you’ve made, and how’d you handle it?
I used to do a lot of online training and client meetings. During one call, I had a “reception” issue (a.k.a. user issue). I distinctly remember pacing in front of my desk with my cordless phone (I’m talking landline, baby!), trying to dial into a Zoom call.
I was late (tsk, tsk); of course, I couldn’t get the number right. I finally dialed in and was about to start speaking when I accidentally hung up.
Or so I thought.
I naturally let out a choice expletive. Then I heard my coworker say, “Jen?”
I went silent out of pure terror. Then I did hang up. I called back with a “Sorry about that, my phone disconnected.” I pretended all was well.
Did I handle it well? No.
Was I honest? No.
Did we end up having a great call? Yes!
I have since learned to pause first when something goes wrong. Diagnose. Then react (hopefully offline 😉).
What’s the smallest hill you are willing to die on?
Being thoughtful of others is a big hill for me. Sometimes, I think we’ve forgotten how to be kind to others.
When I was younger, I used to fret about a lot of little things, my little hills. I didn’t quite understand that sometimes, not doing something that is expected or kind can be driven by how crazy life can be.
I’ve learned to skip over a lot of those little bumps as I’ve continued to experience life and use them as reminders of actions I can’t forget to take or consider for others.
However, there are still some things that I get tripped up on every time. Chewing with your mouth open is one of them. There is something about the sound and seeing what is happening to the food that gives me the “somebody save me!” feeling.
Of course, there are exceptions: a stuffy nose, medical reasons, a nose job, a plugged nose to reduce the taste, and so on.
What is the biggest challenge when it comes to email marketing, and how would you recommend businesses overcome that?
Moving forward, I feel like data will be the biggest one. And not enough of the right data. Email is hard. It can be successful with little data but also can fail miserably. I’ve seen the most success when you have the right data to tell you about your customers.
Big companies often have a lot of data, but it isn’t always in the hands that need it. Giving appropriate access to teams so they can optimize their work will be helpful.
However, there are a lot of marketers out there who do not have any data at all other than what is in campaign reports. For them, looking at ways of gaining first-party data is what I would have them focus on.
This not only helps make relevant decisions for customers but creates less reliance on campaign metrics to determine success, especially as campaign metrics will continue to be less and less “accurate.”
How would you explain DMARC to your grandparents, friends, or relatives?
If I were to try to explain this to my kid, I might start by handing them an apple from our most recent apple-picking adventure and tell them it’s an apple. I would ask them to look at all the aspects of it that indicate what it is (look, feel, taste, the tree it was picked from, etc.).
Then, I would slap a label on it and call it a kiwi.
None of the inputs they are getting match that written label. So, hopefully, my kid will laugh and say, “NO! It’s an apple.”
From there, it’s up to the kiwis (I’m now imagining a bunch of them personified and standing on my table, hands on hips, shaking their heads) to decide what to do with the apple: toss it, put it in another bowl, let my kid decide, or eat it!
DMARC stops the apples from pretending to be kiwis.
Get started with DMARC
While Jennifer’s explanation of apples and kiwis makes DMARC easy to understand, getting to enforcement can be a separate challenge.
Thankfully, Valimail makes it easier to implement. We help you take the first step and get access to your domain’s senders.
To see who’s using your domain and sending emails on your behalf, you can set up a free account on Valimail Monitor. You’ll see the list of named providers rather than a list of IP addresses.
If you’d like to share your thoughts with us or nominate a leader in the email space to be featured, don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org!