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 Sharon Kent
Sharon has been working for Comcast* for eleven years, where she has dabbled in telecom carrier relations, web development, and now data science projects supporting the email anti-abuse and abuse desk teams.
In addition to her work at Comcast, she is in the Master of Applied Statistics program at Penn State World Campus (graduating in December!) and a co-chair for the technical committee with the Messaging, Malware, and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG).
Sharon lives in Denver, Colorado, and plays the flute with the Evergreen Chamber Orchestra. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, horror movies, and overly complex board games.
How do you stay motivated when learning something challenging or frustrating?
The most helpful tool is reflecting on the past. When I started working indirectly for Comcast, I provided customer support for webmail trouble tickets. Through a series of supportive bosses and going back to school, I found my way to engineering.
Looking back at everything I’ve learned since my career started reminds me of what I’m capable of.
My mom would also tell you I’ve inherited my family’s tendency for stubbornness. Once I’ve started a project, I don’t like to give up despite the challenges.
What was the last wall you crashed through?
My first degree was in music education. I did my student teaching and a little substituting, but I have yet to become a full-time teacher.
I’ve recently started teaching a machine learning course for Comcast employees several times a year, and this return to teaching has been a wall for me to crash through. Anything slightly resembling public speaking gives me anxiety, and I’m teaching alongside folks much more experienced than myself, so it’s been a challenge but also very rewarding.
What’s your favorite way to show gratitude?
There’s a lot of value in an old-fashioned thank-you note. Whenever I’ve received a note of gratitude from someone I’ve coached or mentored, I save it and look back on it when I can use some encouragement or just a smile.
I try to do the same for folks who have made a difference in my life or career. A note (physical or digital) is something that can be saved and looked back on for many years.
What’s the funniest mistake you’ve made, and how’d you handle it?
I was once on a Zoom call with…quite a few people. My husband came up behind me to hug me. My video was off, so I thought nothing of it. I just replied in a cutesy voice, “I love you too!!” That’s when my coworker messaged me to point out I was not on mute.
I handled it by laughing it off and hoping it also gave someone else a laugh. Life’s too short to worry about things like that.
What’s the smallest hill you are willing to die on?
Halloween is the best horror movie franchise. Laurie Strode is my hero, and Halloween (2018) is the best of the horror movies “requels” that have come out in recent years.
How would you explain DMARC to your grandparents, friends, or relatives?
We all know email gets abused in all sorts of ways. One of those ways is for a malicious sender to pretend to be someone they’re not.
How do you know when you get an email from your bank that it’s actually coming from your bank?
Thankfully, there are mechanisms in place to help your email mailbox provider identify whether a message is coming from who it claims to be. DMARC lets companies get data on messages that claim to be coming from them and inform mailbox providers on handling messages that don’t pass the tests.
Get started with DMARC
This Halloween, make sure that you spend time watching your favorite horror movies while also ensuring you don’t have spooky senders. Without email authentication protocols like DMARC, bad actors like Michael Myers can hack your domain and send emails on your behalf.
To see who’s using your domain and sending emails on your behalf, you can set up a free account on Valimail Monitor. Get started with visibility into your domain with a list of named providers rather than IP addresses.
*Thoughts and opinions are Sharon’s own and don’t represent Comcast.