Our newest video is a little longer than our previous episodes, but it is for a really great reason. Anthony Chiulli, 250ok’s director of product marketing, spent time with Lili Crowley, postmaster at Verizon Media, which includes well-known entities Verizon.net, AOL, and Yahoo, to shed light on a commonly misunderstood function of the email ecosystem.
Many senders find postmasters mysterious, and this conversation with Lili should help marketers understand what is and is not important, what to do for optimal deliverability, and provide a look into the more technical side of email marketing. This fun change of pace for us is packed full of knowledge, and trust us, if you’re a commercial sender, you’ll want to watch the whole thing.
(Keep scrolling for key timestamps and even a full transcript. Plus, find links to our podcast version!)
Total Run Time: 26 minutes
00:20 – How Lili got involved in the email industry
1:25 – What is a postmaster, and what are its responsibilities
3:23 – Basic fundamentals and best practices for optimal delivery
5:37 – Non-obvious, but important signals for marketers
7:15 – What marketers should know about the recent completion of the Yahoo, AOL, and Verizon mail infrastructure merger
9:44 – Key metrics and indicators marketers should focus on and why
13:40 – How AI and machine learning may influence deliverability monitoring capabilities for marketers
15:30 – Similarities and differences in measuring domain versus IP reputation for senders
16:39 – How changes in the email inbox experience and enhanced features affect consumer behavior
19:00 – What makes email so unique and adaptable over the decades
22:30 – Lightning Round
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Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of Email on Tap. I’m your host Anthony Chiulli, and today I’m thrilled to have as a guest Lili Crowley. She is the postmaster at Verizon Media. Lili, thanks so much for being on the program.
Sure, thanks for having me.
How are you?
I’m good, good.
So tell me a little bit about how you got into the email industry and your story.
I worked for Network Solutions for years, which is one of the original domain registrars. And I did data warehousing, and actually sort of involved in their email system, it was a homegrown system. Then I went to work for AOL as a data analyst in their anti-abuse team and I initially was doing lots of anti-abuse work. And then I went to the M3AAWG in San Francisco in 2013, met a bunch of people, and I realized that we have maybe gotten a little out of balance with treating the abuse side and not really paying attention to the postmaster side. So I came back and I said, you know what, I think we can do better. And so we decided that I would focus more of my time on the postmaster side. Which actually, ultimately, makes the abuse side easier, because we’re scooping up the good mail, and hopefully doing better with it, and then giving the abuse team the ability to be more aggressive with the bad mail. So then, over time, it just became, I’m the postmaster of the mail system, and, that’s just how it worked out. It’s been great, though.
For a lot of senders, there seems to be this misconception, certainly, that postmasters are these evil gatekeepers and all they do is block my mail for no legitimate reason. Help explain the role of what a postmaster does and what you focus on.
Right, so the most important thing is we want to make sure that we’re not mistreating mail that’s very good. So, obviously, things like banking mail, transactional mail, mail that people want, and certainly person-to-person mail… We want to make sure that mail is getting in and I think people sometimes feel uncomfortable saying, “Hey, this customer that’s in the order fulfillment is getting blocked. And I know they just started warming up, but can you do anything?” So we want to do something about that mail. We absolutely do not want those customers to not get their mail in, because it gives everyone a feeling of uncertainty. The users are like, “Where did my order go? Where do my bank transactions go? Where do my statements go?” So we want that mail, we obviously want senders to spend a little more time making sure they are aware of the other mail that they are sending. And I think that is where people think that we are being overly aggressive. Maybe they are not as aware of some of their shared pools or a customer that says, “I’m only mailing to engaged people,” but they’re maybe mailing people that have already complained, things like that. Sometimes it’s a lack of awareness of what their customer is doing, and it makes us look like we’re being overly harsh. And then the other thing is, the abuse system is always changing to fight spammers.
So the problem is we may make a tweak that takes care of like 90% of spammer mail but also hits 20% to 30% of good mail, because nothing is perfect. And so we’re constantly refining, but we can’t just wait because everyone knows the life of our spam run is really short. And so sometimes, you have to be aggressive. So the balance is trying to figure out what that sweet spot is of the mail we want and the mail we don’t want, [LAUGH] and trying not to be too overly aggressive in the process.
Yeah, you touched on an interesting point here; you’re talking about wanted mail and unwanted mail, which I think is kind of an evolution of the historically defined spam versus not spam.
On that note, what would you recommend as far as kind of the basic fundamentals or best practices for optimal deliverability for a sender?
So, I get asked this question a lot and I’m surprised, the next thing I’m going to say, “Can you tell me what it is that you’re seeing that’s spam to you?” And I’m like, “Really?” [LAUGH]
So I expect in this day that there’s data available to people, and you should be looking at the same things we’re looking at. Sure, are we anti-abuse people of a larger scale? Yes, but if I’m seeing pharmacy spam, this should not be a mystery. And I’m sorry if they’re masking the mail and making it look like it’s not as obvious in a human-readable format. You need to work on your mail. And so, I think people, they rely on FBLs, and FBLs are important, but remember if you’ve got a spammer squatting on your system, they want to go to this spam folder because they’ll never get complained about, and so they’re flying under the radar. There are other outbound things that people need to pay attention to. They need to pay attention to their pretties, their subjects. I mean, some pretty basic stuff; their trends, if you see a huge spike in mail, that’s a red flag. If you see someone who’s sending to the same number of people again and again and again and no complaints, that’s a red flag. No complaints is as much of a red flag for a new sender probably as much as too many complaints. But the other thing is, expect that you’re going to need a warm-up very slowly on our system. It’s 50 pieces of mail might not sound like a lot, but if you go from 0 to 50 very quickly, the system may respond poorly. So the advice I usually give people is if they see any kind of deferring, pull back. Pull back until you start sending again, and then you keep going. And it’s slow early, but if you do that appropriately, the system can relax more with your mail, versus, ah, too much mail and then it freaks out and you’re upset and then our system’s upset and getting resolution actually can put you slower. You have to kind of go back to the beginning.
If I were to ask you one non-obvious recommendation or tip that you could share with marketers outside of sending to engaged and some of the more common recommendations, are there any non-obvious things that you would recommend a sender pay attention to that maybe they’re overlooking?
Having come from a place that did analysis, if you know your customer and you know a little bit about who they’re sending to, and obviously, that can vary, depending on how many customers you’re responsible for, the data will tell you information about what’s going on and you shouldn’t ignore those signals. Now, obviously don’t give too much credence if you have five seeds and two of them go to spam, that doesn’t mean that 40% of your mail is going to spam. Seeds sometimes can go into spam. But pay attention to what else you’re seeing, pay attention to if the user hasn’t opened the mail, they’re probably not interested in the mail, right? And maybe it’s not perfect, maybe your opens are not always calculating properly. But it should be a signal that if I’m seeing other people opening, I’m not seeing this set of users opening, then I could probably make an assumption that they’re not as interested. So I think a lot of the information is there, people just have to stop and they have to dig through the data.
And also sometimes you can’t look at a million things at once. You maybe have to look at a subset of people and try to understand what you’re seeing and see if you can draw conclusions from there and then extrapolate from that. So that’s kind of a foundation of data analysis. But that’s the nature of, you have to use whatever you have to build your picture. And if you ignore it, then you’re missing out.
Well said. Recently, there was the completion of the Yahoo and AOL mail infrastructures this past spring. What should marketers be aware of or know when sending to AOL and Yahoo subscribers now that the mail infrastructure is complete?
Also, just so you know, Verizon.net, too, and that’s a smaller subset. There are still pretty dedicated customers on those. They’re the same mail system, so while the user bases are different and you do see different user behavior based on patterns that you’ve had in the past. The mail systems are the same, so sometimes people will say to me, “I’m having trouble with AOL and this week I’m having trouble with Yahoo for the same sender.” I’m like, it’s the same mail system. So obviously, week over week, you could have a slightly different experience in our mail system depending on other changes we made to the abuse. But it’s the same mail system so people should treat it as such. When you’re looking at volumes, you should treat, if you’re sending to Yahoo and you’re sending to AOL, you’re sending on the same IP from the same customer. Those volumes now, you gotta send to the same place, you need to adjust accordingly. I think a lot of places that were concerned about that early on have seen some of those challenges go away with the initial ramp up. But they’re the same system, and so people should treat them from that standpoint the same, the rules, everything.
And does that apply also during warming where historically marketers have kind of controlled volume by domain? Those are all grouped together?
Yes, but if they have concerns about their users and what’s going on with individual sets, they should look at the domains separately from the standpoint of user behavior, because the user demographics are different, and so they should not then say, “Well, this worked to AOL, so this will work at Yahoo.” Because those are different customer sets. Also, depending on who you’re mailing from. The AOL demographic does tend to skew a little older, so we get a different kind of customer base. The AOL people have also been, some of them are paying customers, and they’ve paid for other services through AOL and continue to do so. So it’s a different kind of customer, so people should keep that in mind. Even though you’re going to treat the mail system the same way, you’re going to treat the customer bases differently. Just like the data analysis we talked about, where you should understand who you’re mailing to.
Yeah, well said. That’s a good point. You touched on this briefly earlier, but in your opinion, what are some of the more important metrics that senders should be paying attention to when trying to manage their email performance and deliverability?
So the first thing is if you start to mail to us and you start getting deferred, you should slow down. There’s no question. I think people talk about the TSS errors. They hear about them a lot, they’re on our website. I won’t go into the details of that, but a deferral should be a good indicator to you that something’s wrong. And use those signals to determine whether you should be speeding up. Just because you have more mail to send, if the system is telling you, “I don’t want to send right now,” no matter. Piling it on is only going to make your problem worse, it just exacerbates it. There’s a lot of patience involved. Sometimes you have to put the brakes on and make sure that you can. Because if you can’t get any mail in, then it doesn’t matter how many times you try, you’re still at zero delivery. Or you’re inching in a little bit of mail. And I know people get the problem of the backed up mail causing other problems in their system. I just think people need to pay attention to what the system is telling them.
If you’re sending to us newly, and you don’t think that you’re going to the inbox, so you’re assuming that you might be going to the spam folder based on user engagement and you speed up your sending, you’re going to start getting deferred. It’s as simple as that. So people should not ignore that. Then, once, if they are in a pattern of sending that they like, and they see engagement go down, then they need to do their homework.
I can help make sure, if it’s deserved, that people understand why they’re getting deferred and if there’s things they can do to fix that. And I can help them understand why they might be going to the spam folder at times. But I can’t change–if the user doesn’t want to interact with your mail, we can’t change that. If you’re getting bulked because you sent us too much mail and nobody’s responding to it, and you start getting bulked, I can’t magically make the users want to engage with that mail and mark it as ham, right? So at the end of the day, we can only manage the things we can. If the relationship with the user is not strong, if the recipient doesn’t want the mail, no amount of anything is going to fix that. It’s still a basic concept of, you need to send mail people want to look at.
Goes back to wanted mail versus unwanted mail.
Exactly. Exactly, and I know there are more things available to us and the systems are complex, but you can’t just ignore the history of what you did.
And you can’t force engagement.
Right, so when I used to work in data warehousing and network solutions, I worked in the marketing team for a while, and I would pull all the mailings. We were very basic. This was before all these systems that do it. I used to pull the recipients, I’d figure out who we’re going to mail to based on what products they owned, what we thought they might need. And then, also based on how they responded to previous maillings. I looked back a year. If we mailed to them then and they didn’t respond, so I’d pull out people and say, “No, we’re not going to mail to them, they didn’t respond to this.” We got kind of lifecycle on it, and I paid attention to that stuff. It was really painful to keep track of, because I had to make my own database of the users and their responses and keep it over time. But we did it, and we did it because we wanted to make the mailings we were sending really effective. And we wanted to make people feel like when we sent them mail, “Oh, cool, this is the next thing I thought I would get for my lifecycle of products.” So that doesn’t just go away because you have nice new tools. You still should be looking back at your data and seeing who’s interacting with you, what did they buy, do they really want this?
The data tells the story.
Yeah, exactly, so.
We’ll shift gears and talk about AI and machine learning, certainly disrupting and finding their way into multiple use cases within digital marketing. How do you feel about its influence or possibilities in deliverability monitoring services?
I think there’s a lot of potential there. But once again, I think if you’re just saying, “Oh, the system will know,” just shoving everything through and not really paying attention to the signals you’re getting back… Also, AI is great, but if you’re not training on a constant basis, it’s only as good as the last time you’ve trained your data. So it requires care and feeding. What worked three weeks ago because you had a new product isn’t going to work now if you’ve sent a million mails about the same thing, right? You can’t just rely on the same things being effective. So I think there’s a lot of potential, but I don’t think that means that we ignore the basics of how we send mail. So I mean, it’s great, but we have our own AI systems and they’re not foolproof either. So obviously, otherwise we’d all be out of a job because we wouldn’t have any more spam, right? And that’s where we are, so [LAUGH]. So I mean, they’re great effective tools and I think there is a lot to be done. But there’s been research that showed, I think it was called Blue Ocean. I forget the name of that. It was basically a machine that played chess. And then, it played Chess and beat people. But when it got to a certain level of player that it was playing, a human, that the machine couldn’t beat the human. But when you combined a machine and a human, they could beat anybody. So there’s a blend of, I have this data available to me, but a human sometimes needs to intervene and say, “What should we do next?” So don’t just say, “Oh, we’re running this program, it works, we’re done.”
There’s been a shift recently, around domain reputation playing much more of an importance and impact to sender reputation than historical IP-based reputation. Is IP reputation still important? Should senders still be paying attention to reputation tied to their IPs? Or where is kind of the balance in domain versus IP reputation, in your opinion?
So, it can vary for different receivers. It depends on what your system is. They both play a role. So if you have a really bad domain reputation, you can be sending unclean IPs, and that won’t last you forever. Also, you can have a great domain reputation, but if you send on IPs that have a problem or you don’t pay attention to good sending practices, you’re still going to have a problem. So they go hand in hand. I mean, in a perfect world, we would look at things as brands associated to its domain. It’s like saying your phone number is your personality, right? Your IP is just a method of sending something. So I think over time we’ll see more domain influence. But it’s still a process to get that in the shape that it needs to be for us to be able to rely on it. So they’re both important.
Recently, there’s been a lot of evolution and changes in the inbox experience and enhancing with new features and functionalities the way that consumers interact and engage with brands and email within the inbox. Do you feel like this is influencing in a positive way, the way that the recipients engage with brands, with all of these new like AMP for Email and dynamic email and all these other kind of rich features that help recipients engage in new and exciting ways with brands?
So I think it depends on the person and the degree to which there’s, for example, some interaction happening in the inbox. So I know some people are really bothered if an email moves to a different folder based on what the receiver thinks should happen with the mail. So people feel very territorial about their mailboxes, right? And they don’t want something to happen to their mail. They want their mail in a certain way. So I think email’s got a use case that a lot of other communication methods don’t have, right? You’re not going to get your power bill via text. You might get a reminder about it, but you’re probably going to get notification that you need to pay your bill, the amount, sensitive information, in email. So I think there’s definitely opportunity to have more information available to the user from their email box. So for example, your flight information comes in and then it automatically gets added to your calendar, or things like that, where you’re integrating other services around email where it makes sense. Or hey, I’m shopping and I’m going to go by this store that I like, and I got an email in my inbox. There’s some use case for, I’m walking by the store, my email now makes itself known to me. But that’s also a privacy issue. You have to turn on location services, you’re now broadcasting where you are and that you’re near a store. So I think there’s a lot of potential. I think people need to be very aware of how people feel about their privacy. And it isn’t a yes/no for every person. Today, I could be like, yeah, I’m so excited there’s this sale, I’m going to go to that store. Tomorrow, I’d be like, I didn’t really want you to know I was here. You know what I mean? Same person, different experience. That’s the same reason people mark the same sender as spam one day and not the next, even if they want the mail.
It’s interesting, and I think that that’s a perfect dovetail on my next question of you’ve been in email for quite some time, what makes email so unique in its adaptability over the decades with all of these new messaging channels and emergences of new ways to communicate and market to people? We’ve all heard the critics, email is dead, chanted from the rooftops. But in your opinion, looking back, why is email so unique and how has it been able to survive this long?
Right, well, I mean, my opinion is it’s persistent. So texts are nice, but they sort of disappear based on the current way we interact with our texts in our devices, which is usually mobile. Email, you can store it, you can copy it easily, you can interact with it, you can forward it. I mean, you can search on it if you have a powerful enough search engine. And I think some of the benefit of that is that–so text, a lot of it is driven by the device owner or the operating system of the mobile phone that you have. But because we have another layer in there of mailbox providers, they’re providing experiences through their software that make it more what users want. So I think you have another layer away from just your device and your operating system of people providing value to you. Facebook Messenger is great, instant messenger is great, Whatsapp texts are all great. I’m not going to do real actual business there. I don’t mind talking to a customer service department through one of those, but I’m not getting my order confirmation there. I’m not going to be able to find it again, not to remember what platform I had it on. You know what I mean? They’re not integrated right now. That might be a potential place for email to go with sucking some of that information in. But right now, if I want to figure out, what did I buy in 2015 when I had that company? Or, that company came and painted my house, we’re doing this now, oh, I could search for the company that did painting for me. Oh, here’s the quote that they gave me. I can call this company and have them come do a quote because we were happy with their work. And that’s actually a lot easier than if I had a paper receipt that I stuck in a file somewhere and that I’d have to empty my brain to figure out where I put that receipt. So there’s a lot of places for it to, really, a utility, for people to do things, so. That’s interesting.
It’s a very interesting point of view and something I haven’t really thought about is the efficiency of almost archiving and storing. And it’s very easy to search rather than-
I am the archive guru, I archive and scan almost everything I can. I mean, I even did my kids, some of their school records. And I could go into meetings, and they’re like well, we can’t access the record right now. I’m like [SOUND]
And you find it right in your phone in your email.
Right in there. I PDF’d things. I had access to things. I had naming conventions. I mean, I’m a little bit of a freak. [LAUGH] But the point is it’s available to you and it makes, things that can get very disorganized become very organized really quickly. So if you manage your email box well, it can become your reminder system. It’s another fail-safe besides your calendar of ways that you don’t miss things that you need to do.
It can be a distraction. And I would be the first to admit that oh, shopping, but it also can be a huge productivity tool. And so, I can’t say that about the other communications platforms that I use. With the exception of text. “Hey, you need to go do this,” directly to someone.
We’re going to have some fun for our last question; it’s going to be a lightning round. I’m going to ask you four questions that require brief responses.
How brief? Define brief.
Lightning round. Fairly brief. First one, you ready?
Best career advice you’ve ever received.
Look out for yourself first. I mean, the companies, they are interested in you and they care about you. But if things change, they’re not going to be the one who has to pay your mortgage or look after your family. So make sure you always take care of yourself.
Most important lesson you’ve learned in the industry.
Keep people happy. Not to the point where you’re doing things you shouldn’t be doing. But the reality is you could be doing a fabulous job, your team can. One big executive escalation to the CEO of your company, and things can get ugly really fast. And most people, even though the reason they might escalate doesn’t seem very important to you, there’s a reason behind why they’re upset about something. And you need to address that because it will come back to you. And that’s why people are like, “I don’t want to bother you.” I’d rather you come to me than my CEO has to find the chain all the way down to someone who can fix this problem. Bad for everybody.
Biggest pet peeve of yours that you see from senders?
Don’t forget the basics. Come on now. I mean, do your research, do your work. I’ll have people come to me and say, “Do you think this is a good sender?” I’m like, I don’t know. The WHOIS creation date on this domain is like, two days ago. What do you think?
Stuff like that where, let’s use all the resources available to us. Let’s check LinkedIn, let’s check Facebook, let’s see what kind of company this is. You’ll know, you do a Google search and you come up with an address that looks like it’s not a real place, it’s some shady looking building, and they’ve got a PO box in that building. All of these are indicators that you have a problem. And so, pay attention. You’re a detective, do your work, and then come to me. And I’m fine with people coming to me and saying, “This is what I’ve done, this is where I’m lost.” But don’t come to me with a slash 24, and I think they’re fine. I’m not here to fix your life.
I’m just here, you know what I mean? [LAUGH] I can’t anyway, so do your work. So before you come to me.
Last question. This is an opportunity for you to stand on your soapbox. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Back to when you asked how I got into email. When I went to M3AAWG the first time and I kind of got a “whoa this is bigger than I realize,” kind of the scope, coming back and saying, you know what, we’re not doing a very good job. We need to do a better job of supporting senders. I’m like, if we can’t go to M3AAWG and trust people who are in our anti-abuse community that are vetted, who are we trusting? And I’m like, all we’re doing is putting everybody in the middle and trying to figure out who is bad and good. We should lift the good out of the middle. Let the bad, really obviously bad ones, fall through, and then deal with the middle. And so, that philosophy has really taken where I work and with our team. And it’s just nice to see that people see not only that it’s important, but that there’s value in it. Because it actually makes less work if we do a good job at taking care of the good vendors that are vetting their mail and sending responsibly.
This has been an awesome interview, and I’m so happy that I was able to sit down with you and have this. So thank you very much. And thanks, everyone, for tuning in. We hope to see you on another episode of Email on Tap.
Mark Briggs serves as chairman and CEO of Validity, a company he founded in partnership with Silversmith Capital Partners. He has over 25 years of experience building and leading high-growth technology companies with a strong track record of generating exceptional shareholder value. Most recently, Mark served as CEO of ABILITY Network, recognized in the Forbes Cloud 100 as one of the top 100 cloud companies in the world, which was acquired by Inovalon (NASDAQ:INOV) for $1.2 Billion.
Prior to ABILITY, Mark held executive leadership positions at Carefx Corporation, at NaviNet, was the President of MPI Solutions at QuadraMed Corporation, and served as the Chairman and CEO of LinkSoft Technologies, a company that he founded. Mark is a member of the Board of Advisors to the Dartmouth Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies and is a Senior Advisor to Silversmith Capital Partners, a leading Boston based growth-equity firm.
Mark holds a Master’s in theoretical physics and a Bachelor’s degree in physics, both from Dartmouth College.
Wayne Parslow serves as Executive Vice President of Validity for International and is building a world-class sales and go-to-market team to maximize Validity’s opportunities across the UK & Ireland, EMEA, LATAM and APAC. In addition to general management, he is responsible for the development and execution of business plans, go-to-market programs, sales management, strategic partnerships, and public representation for the International markets, and to develop the business at least in line with the aspirations of the US domestic market.
For over 25 years, Wayne has been successfully building, scaling and restructuring international companies in various industries, including document and workflow management, integration and interoperability, web application development, security, access management, eCommerce, business process management and the application of open source and open standards.
Prior to Validity, he served as head of European, Middle Eastern and African markets for global digital identity company, ThreatMetrix.
Wayne received his Bachelor of Science in Applied Science from Kingston University.
Gary Hall serves as the Chief Financial Officer for Validity. Gary has over 20 years of experience leading finance and operational teams at high-growth, technology companies and helping these companies generate significant shareholder value through public and private offerings and successful exits.
Prior to joining Validity, Gary was the Chief Financial Officer of Casa Systems, Inc., a provider of ultra-broadband solutions for mobile, cable, fixed and converged service providers, and helped lead the company through significant growth, culminating in an Initial Public Offering in 2017. Prior to Casa System, Gary was the Chief Financial Officer of eCopy, a provider of document management solutions, which was sold to Nuance Communications in 2009. Gary was also the Controller and then Chief Financial Officer of MatrixOne, a product life-cycle management software company, and he helped lead the company’s Initial Public Offering in 2000 and the sale of the Company to Dassault Systems in 2006. Gary is a Certified Public Accountant and worked at Deloitte, a multinational professional services firm.
Gary holds a M.S. degree in Finance from Bentley University and a B.S. degree in Accounting from Southern New Hampshire University.
Derek Swaim serves as Executive Vice President of Corporate Development for Validity and is responsible for all aspects of corporate development strategy and execution.
Derek brings more than 20 years of corporate transaction experience to Validity. He has advised leading private equity and founder-owned technology companies on domestic and cross-border strategic M&A, leveraged buyouts, and growth equity recapitalizations. Prior to Validity, Derek was a Managing Director at Aeris Partners, a provider of M&A advisory services to software, digital media, and business information companies. Derek also held investment banking positions at Harris Williams, Broadview International, and Goldman Sachs.
Derek has an AB in Economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.
Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying, and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape.
Bonnie leads the Customer Success team at Validity, the most trusted name in customer data quality. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and has written for the company blog and TotalRetail.
Don Williams serves as Executive Vice President of Sales for Validity. With over 25 years in the healthcare technology industry, Don has a track record of creating, restructuring, and motivating organizations to consistently exceed sales, financial and operational goals.
Don is focused on client services for the firm, as well as creating a positive culture of accountability, developing and executing growth strategies, and monitoring business operations with attention to cost efficiency.
Prior to Validity, Don served as the SVP of Operations for MedeAnalytics Inc., a leading healthcare analytics company for providers and payers.
Don received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He also received his Six Sigma Green Belt Certificate from Villanova University.
Josh Stuber is a customer centric leader focused on delivering value and leveraging customer feedback to ensure long term relationships. Josh currently runs the Validity Global Renewal Team, responsible for spearheading Customer Retention and Renewals across the globe.
In addition to his executive career, Josh serves on the board of West Georgia Habitat for Humanity, a charity that brings people together to build homes, communities and hope for impoverished families.
Scott Ziegler is Validity’s Chief Product Officer. Leveraging input from customers and analyzing market trends, Scott sets the strategic direction for Validity’s product portfolio. Scott joined Validity through the acquisition of Return Path in 2019. He remains active in the email community and the product management community and has presented at industry events.
Before joining Validity, Scott held leadership roles in Product and Engineering at IBM and Ricoh and holds multiple patents. He has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science from Muskingum University.
Josh Stuber is a customer centric leader focused on delivering value and leveraging customer feedback to ensure long term relationships. Josh currently runs the Validity Global Renewal Team, responsible for spearheading Customer Retention and Renewals across the globe.
In addition to his executive career, Josh serves on the board of West Georgia Habitat for Humanity, a charity that brings people together to build homes, communities and hope for impoverished families.
Helen Parslow serves as Vice President of Validity for International managing a world class go-to-market team to maximize Validity’s opportunities across the UK & Ireland, EMEA, LATAM and APAC.
Helen is a seasoned marketing leader who is passionate about building brands and is experienced in developing and executing insights-driven marketing plans and World class event presence that span both our global and international marketing initiatives.
Prior to Validity, she served as Head of Marketing and Business Development at Medeanalytics, EMEA. Marketing data solutions for healthcare unlocking the value of data for better patient outcomes.
Helen received her BA (Honours) Business studies degree from Nottingham Trent University.
Tunc Bolluk is Vice President, APAC for Validity. He is responsible for leading sales and for overseeing general management of the region for the company. Tunc brings his extensive regional experience in the digital sector to support Validity’s clients across their marketing, sales, data & CRM business units.
For over 20 years, Tunc has worked in general management roles in sales, channel/alliance management, and client services. He has extensive experience leading and mentoring sales teams and executing strategic business plans within the Cloud/SaaS, digital, big data and the ad-tech space.
Tunc holds a Bachelor of Computer Science from Macquarie University.
Chris Bryan serves as Vice President of Sales for the UK & Ireland at Validity International managing Validity’s go to market efforts in the region.
Chris brings 27 year’s experience working for technology companies predominantly SaaS based Software Companies. Chris is passionate about enabling everyone to make better fact based, data driven decisions coming from the Business Intelligence and Visual Analytics space (Qlik, Business Objects (SAP), Crystal Decisions) building and developing highly successful Sales & Business Development teams.
Chris is passionate about Sales Best Practice to deliver positive outcomes with excellent service for our customers and supporting his teams personal and professional growth.
Brian Winters brings nearly 20 years’ experience in the marketing technologies field to Validity and has worked for many marketing technology software companies including ExactTarget, Salesforce, and Movable Ink.
He has held positions in Sales, Sales Leadership, Operations, Strategy, and Partnerships. He has provided tactical execution strategies or program deployment guidance for organizations such as Intel Corporation, Motorola, and 3M amongst many others. He is truly passionate about the positive impact that a well-designed, deployed, and executed partner program can bring to an organization and is considered to be a thought leader in the development of indirect sales channels within the SaaS industry.
At Validity, he leads our efforts to develop programs that empower partners to best leverage Validity technology and solutions for our customers.
As Senior Vice President and Global Head of Data Solutions at Validity, Chris is responsible for executive direction, roadmap, and overall management of Validity’s data solutions. He works closely with industry operators, customers, and data analytics to drive an informed product strategy.
One of the first International employees of Validity, Chris brings 25+ years experience as an individual contributor and leader in Pre-Sales, Product, and Customer Success roles across multiple startup and large enterprise software companies.
With a passion for technology, Chris is a regular contributor to events, blogs and an active member of the International Salesforce Community.
Cecilia Belele serves as Vice President for LATAM. She is responsible for leading sales team and also oversees general management of the region.
Previously she served as Regional Director for Return Path and earlier as Channel Director responsible to develop the partner program for LATAM Region. With an extensive experience leading sales teams and executing strategic business plans she helps Validity to increase its presence in Latam market.
Cecilia has Bachelor of Economy with an MBA for Business and Technology Management
Kevin Randall serves as the Head of the Integration and Project Management offices at Validity. Kevin brings 15 years of experience in Integration, Portfolio, Operations, and IT Service Management as well as a track record of developing the teams, processes, and systems to scale growth oriented organizations.
Kevin received his Bachelors from Bentley University in Waltham MA.
Guy is a passionate advocate for intelligent use of customer data to drive responsive sales and marketing programs. With a knowledge base spanning twenty years, he is globally recognized as an email & data expert and thought leader.
Over the past decade Guy led Return Path’s global consulting team and worked with world-famous clients across 6 continents to improve their email delivery, subscriber engagement and revenue.
Now Validity’s VP for Customer Engagement (International), he continues to explore his passion for email and data and share it with his clients to maximise their program value. He’s a strong believer in giving back to his community, speaking at flagship events, providing training, and producing fresh and insightful thought leadership.
Outside of work, Guy has had long-term involvement with the DMA, currently sitting on the email council and involved with key pieces of research. He is a regular contributor to the industry press, and a 3-time finalist as data storyteller of the year!
Alex Rubin serves as Vice President Business Development at Validity. He is responsible for data acquisition efforts including mailbox provider and filtering company relationships. Alex has worked in leadership roles at several successful start-ups including Return Path (acquired by Validity), RemarQ (acquired by Critical Path), and Rocket Science Games (acquired by Sega Software).
Alex was born, raised and currently lives in San Francisco, CA. He holds a BA from UC Berkeley and an MBA from UCLA.
Brendan Peregrine serves as the Vice President of North American Sales for the midmarket. Brendan has spent the last 12 years in sales leadership roles, building process driven teams that achieve results.
With a background in data and years of working in data related business, Brendan is passionate about coaching problem solving skills in the data and world with his teams. Previously Brendan served as Vice President of Sales at Greenway Health, after spending 10 years in operations and services roles.
Elaine Ginsberg serves as Vice President Sales Operations. Elaine brings over 25 years of operations, sales and product experience to Validity. She has a solid track record building organization infrastructure and executing programs utilizing process, technology and employee engagement to drive rapid growth.
Prior to Validity, Elaine served as SVP Customer Operations & Success for ABILITY Network, a leading healthcare technology company, recently acquired by Inovalon; and held leadership roles with Vitera Healthcare Solutions, Sage Healthcare and Emdeon.
Tom Bartel is Validity’s Senior Vice President of Data Services. Tom has more than 20 years of email delivery, data, technology, operations, and privacy experience. He most recently joined Return Path through its acquisition of ThreatWave, where he served as CEO/Founder. Prior to that, he has held roles at Return Path, MessageMedia (acquired by DoubleClick), and founded several other startups.
Tom is actively involved in key industry organizations, such M3AAWG and ESPC, and advises start-ups and non-profits. Tom has a Bachelor in Speech Communication from Colorado State University.
Karen Friedrich serves as Senior Vice President of Enterprise and Channel Sales for North America. With over 15 years’ experience in enterprise software sales and strategy, Karen has a track record of success in both the private and public sector markets including sales management, product strategy, marketing, channel management, and solution deployment. Karen brings an entrepreneurial drive, strong relationship development skills, and credibility gained through sales and operational experience.
Prior to joining Validity in 2018, Karen served as VP of Channel Sales at MedeAnalytics, Inc. a leading analytics company for providers and payers, and held sales leadership roles at Harris Corporation, Carefx Corporation, and WebMD.
Serving as Validity’s CIO, Steve Doyle is responsible for creating and executing upon the business-aligned vision and roadmap for Information Technology systems and solutions at Validity, including IT Corporate Services, telephony, corporate networking, and Core Business Systems. Steve brings more than 25 years of prior industry experience in a variety of IT roles, all in High Tech, SaaS-based industries.
Prior to joining Validity, Steve was Vice President of IT & Business Systems for Endurance International Group, where he oversaw Corporate IT, Infrastructure, CRM, Data Warehouse, and other mission-critical business applications for Endurance’s 4,000+ employees, globally.
As Senior Vice President of Strategy & Corporate Development, Lily is responsible for developing and executing cross-organizational strategies that drive scale and growth for Validity.
Lily started her career as a consultant at PwC, and has since moved into high-growth technology startups where she has held various leadership positions at industry-leading SaaS companies. Prior to Validity, Lily ran Strategic Partnerships for Optoro – a VC-backed reverse logistics company – where she was responsible for the company’s channel revenue and network of distribution partners. Before that, she was the Co-Founder and COO of Aspire – a tech-enabled employee engagement company – where she managed all business strategy and operations. Aspire was acquired by Raffa, P.C., now a part of Marcum LLP.
Lily graduated Summa Cum Laude from Georgetown University with a BSBA in Finance and Chinese. Hoya Saxa!
Michael Fairchild serves as the Vice President of Financial Planning & Analysis for Validity and brings to us his expertise regarding all aspects of strategic corporate financial planning, and valuable analysis which drives business decisions.
Michael brings 12+ years of financial experience in SaaS technology companies, ranging from start-up companies to large enterprise technology companies. Prior to Validity, Michael supported the growth of a Rhode Island based start-up, from venture backed to private equity sponsorship. Additionally, he spent 5+ years in various roles at IBM in the SaaS finance group, where he supported mergers & acquisitions, integration, and growth of over 10 acquired technology companies into a single business unit.
Michael holds a Master’s of Business Administration from Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School and a degree in economics from Dickinson College.
Diane Gordon is an accomplished C-level executive with over 25 years of driving retention and growth by creating scalable infrastructure in support of profitable P&Ls and customer loyalty, the basis for minimizing churn. She designs and leads the development of market-leading products, programs and solutions, achieving high growth, while ensuring customer loyalty, and healthy renewal and NCVI rates for technology companies. Diane’s career includes executive roles in customer care, operations, marketing, product development, product management and corporate development.
Greg has BSBAs in Economics, Finance and Real Estate from University of Denver and an MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.
As Senior Vice President of Marketing, Kate leads all of Validity’s marketing efforts.
Prior to Validity, Kate was Vice President of Marketing at Drift, where she discovered her passion for helping and marketing to sales professionals and marketers. While there, Kate built the demand generation function from the ground up, achieving more than 200% in pipeline growth. Before Drift, Kate led the demand generation and marketing operations teams at SmartBear, where she managed the pipeline generation for a portfolio of more than 20 products.
Kate has also led marketing and product for a number of early stage startups ranging in size and industry, from education and healthcare to employee engagement. She is passionate about bringing businesses to life in the hearts and minds of prospects and customers by creating amazing customer experiences across the entire customer lifecycle.
Kate holds a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Literature from Regis College.
As SVP of Legal, Eduardo owns the global legal function at Validity.
Eduardo has practiced law for more than 20 years in both corporate and law firm environments. Eduardo has broad legal experience in SaaS commercial transactions, risk management, M&A, due diligence, entity and product integrations, intellectual property, data privacy, regulatory compliance, and corporate governance.
Eduardo has an LL.M. in Securities and Financial Regulation from Georgetown University Law Center, a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and a B.A. from the University of Dallas.
Jim co-founded Silversmith Capital Partners in 2015. Over his career, he has served on the board of 20+ tech companies. Past and current board seats at Silversmith include Absorb Software, Centauri Health Solutions, Comlinkdata, Formstack, impact.com, Market Access Transformation, Net Health, PDFTron Systems, RedAwning, TMA Systems, and Validity.
Jim spent 15 years as a growth equity investor prior to co-founding Silversmith. Jim joined Spectrum Equity in 2002 and became a Managing Director in 2009. At Spectrum Equity, Jim sourced, led, and served on the board of numerous enterprise SaaS, information services, and healthcare IT companies. Investments of note included MedHOK (acquired by Hearst), Net Health (acquired by Carlyle), and Passport Health Communications (acquired by Experian).
Jim received an AB, magna cum laude, in English & American Literature from Harvard College (1997). At Harvard he was nominated by the College for a Rhodes Scholarship and awarded the John P. Reardon Jr. Award as the class’ most outstanding scholar-athlete.
Sri joined Silversmith Capital Partners in 2015 and is a General Partner. At Silversmith, Sri focuses on investments in SaaS & Information Services, including sales, marketing and customer service related technology companies. His investment experience at Silversmith includes ActiveCampaign, DistroKid, Impact, PDFTron Systems, RedAwning Group, and Validity.
Prior to Silversmith, Sri was Senior Director of Advertising Products at salesforce.com where he served in various roles to create and scale the Salesforce Marketing Cloud business unit after joining Salesforce through its acquisition of Buddy Media. Prior to Buddy Media, Sri was an Associate at TA Associates and an Analyst with Jefferies Technology Investment Banking group.
He graduated from the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology at the University of Pennsylvania with a BS from The Wharton School and a BAS from the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Mike Volpe is the CEO at Lola.com, a business travel website that aligns managed travel policies with employee preferences for organizations to have a more controlled, yet fun, travel experience. Prior to Lola.com, Volpe was the CMO for HubSpot helping the company grow from a dozen beta customers to over 15,000 customers, 1,000 employees, $150 million in revenue, and creating an IPO leading to a $1.7 billion market cap.
Volpe has made more than 25 angel investments with 4 exits including HubSpot, Cybereason, Locately, GroSocial and ThriveHive through Operator.VC. He serves as an advisor to a number of companies and is on the board of directors of Repsly, a mobile CRM company and was on the board of Attend until they were acquired by Event Farm. Volpe has built his career in marketing at a number of different startups in Boston and San Francisco.
Mark Hastings is the Founder and CEO of Providence Strategic Growth. PSG has approximately $5B in AUM and has invested in over 200 software companies in North America and Europe. The firm is headquartered in Boston, MA and has offices in London, UK and Kansas City, MO. He received a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts from Colorado College.
Tom Reardon joined Providence Strategic Growth in 2015 and is a managing director. Mr. Reardon is currently a director of FluentStream, Formstack, INE, LogicMonitor, ShootProof, SignUpGenius and Skybox Security. Prior to PSG, Mr. Reardon was a general partner at WestView Capital Partners, where he focused on software and technology-enabled business service investments. Before WestView, he was a director at CIBC Capital Partners. Mr. Reardon received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College.
Barbara Cooke serves as Senior Vice President of Customer Success for Validity, where she is responsible for accelerating business value for customers and delivering an exceptional service experience through our market-leading cloud solutions.
Barb brings more than 25 years of international leadership experience to Validity through senior commercial, customer and operational roles at global technology organisations, including Cloudreach, Nasdaq and Thomson Reuters. She led these organisations through significant change, including post-merger integrations, the launch of new businesses from the ground up and organisational structure transformations that radically enhanced customer experience, improved efficiencies and drove product and service innovation. She has lived and worked extensively across eight countries in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, gaining first-hand experience in developing value-add, unique offerings and service strategies to multi-cultural customers.
Barb spent her early career leading and training teams for The Ritz Carlton Hotel company which ingrained her philosophy on what it means to deliver an exception customer experience. She is originally from Dallas, Texas and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Southern Methodist University.
Alain Marcuse serves as Chief Information Security Officer for Validity and oversees all strategic and operational aspects of data privacy, compliance, and security for the company.
Alain brings more than 30 years of experience in information security, data privacy and global 24×7 IT infrastructure operations to Validity. He has led high-growth, global, IT, security and privacy teams in organizations based in the Americas and Europe.
Prior to joining Validity, Alain led RSM’s cybersecurity consulting practice in New England and its data privacy practice nationally. In this and prior roles, he has led large-scale engagements in designing, developing and managing security and privacy programs for a wide range of companies and industries, as well as major incident response, litigation support and regulatory enforcement matters following some of the most visible data security breaches in the country. He has also been responsible for global 24×7 SaaS operations including infrastructure, security, and customer service.
He has also served as Consul of Belgium in New England, and is an Adjunct Instructor in the Master’s in Information Security Leadership program at Brandeis University, from which he received M.A. and B.A degrees in Computer Science. He holds multiple security and privacy certifications and serves as co-chair of the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ Boston chapter and is a frequent presenter at a variety of security and privacy industry events.
For the past 21 years, Reed has served in CXO roles (CEO/co-founder, COO, CFO) for start-ups and early/mid stage companies in the medical devices, healthcare IT, active RFID, SaaS, avionics and life-sciences industries. He has extensive experience in M&A, and in venture/PE/debt financing. He was most recently CFO of Invicro, a CRO (Contract Research Org) in drug discovery and development.
For 22 years prior to these activities, Reed held leadership roles at Hewlett-Packard Co. to include Controllerships in semiconductor, analytical chemistry instrumentation, and computer businesses. He managed Controllership, Tax and Treasury for HP Asia Pacific and – separately – Internal Audit for Asia Pacific. He also managed operations and Controllership for HP’s Patient Monitoring business in HP’s Medical Products Group. Reed holds an MBA in Operations and a BS Finance from The University of Colorado.
As a Senior Vice President of Engineering, Gary oversees all strategic and operational aspects of Validity’s Product Development and executes on the business-aligned technology roadmap.
Gary brings more than 25 years of leadership experience to Validity through senior technical and operational roles in technology-led organizations, including Verizon Media, PictureTel and Polaroid.
As a co-founder of several companies, Gary built multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural teams to deliver market-leading products and solutions. He led these organizations through meaningful change, including post-merger integrations and organizational transformations to enhance product innovations and to improve efficiencies and customer experience.
Gary received a BS degree in Computer Science from Northeastern University and an MBA in International Business from Boston University
MJ McCarthy serves as Senior Vice President of Global Account Management for Validity, leading the teams responsible for retaining and growing Validity’s broad customer base.
Prior to joining Validity, MJ spent over 9 years leading Account Management at Everbridge, helping to scale a 20M business through IPO in 2016 to its present-day status as one of New England’s top performing SaaS companies. As part of Everbridge’s evolution, MJ implemented a customer success model to increase focus on solution adoption and value realization across strategic customers. During her tenure, Everbridge consistently achieved best-in-class customer retention, net promoter score (NPS) and customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores based on feedback.
Recognized for her leadership in account management and customer success, MJ received a 2021 Stevie® Award, one of the world’s premier business accolades.
Prior to Everbridge, MJ held sales and account management leadership positions at CCBN, Thomson Financial, and Thomson Reuters.
As Vice President of Financial Planning & Analysis, Andy is responsible for leading budgeting, forecasting, and analyses that support all major corporate decisions.
Andy began his career as an investment banker at Chestnut Partners – a life sciences industry focused boutique – and has since moved into corporate finance roles. Prior to Validity, Andy was Vice President of Corporate Development & Strategy at Invicro – a global CRO offering imaging biomarkers, core lab services, analytics & software solutions to pharma/biotech sponsors – where he was responsible for both FP&A and corporate development activities of the company.
Andy holds an MBA from The University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, a BA in Economics from Middlebury College, and is a CFA® charterholder.
Ryan Policella serves as the Vice President of Global Sales Development for Validity, leading teams in the US, UK, Brazil and Australia responsible for lead generation for our new business sales organization.
Prior to Validity, Ryan spent the past 4 years at CloudHealth Technology building and leading the Sales Development organization which was later acquired by VMware. Before CloudHealth Ryan held numerous positions in Sales and Sales Leadership at Oracle supporting the Applications business unit and IaaS across all segments from Emerging Markets to Enterprise. Ryan’s extremely passionate about building and scaling SDR programs to not only drive revenue growth but to develop the next generation of Sales leaders.
Ryan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Springfield College.
Chris Newhall serves as the Chief Accounting Officer of Validity, where he is responsible for the Company’s global accounting, financial reporting, financial operations, tax, and treasury functions.
Chris brings more than 25 years of business management and strategic financial expertise to Validity. He has extensive experience working with global and domestic businesses to optimize financial performance. Prior to joining Validity, Chris served in executive accounting roles at BCG, a global management consulting firm, and IDEMIA, a global leader in security and identity solutions. He spent the first nineteen years of his career in leadership roles within the audit practice of PwC, serving clients across many industries including technology, software, and professional services. Chris’ experience includes working with early stage, venture/private equity backed companies as well as publicly traded companies.
Chris holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Babson College. He is a Certified Public Accountant in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants (MSCPA).
Brian Prusak serves as Vice President, Corporate Controller for Validity, leading the teams responsible for financial reporting, accounting operations, payroll, revenue operations, and accounting systems.
Prior to Validity, Brian held a similar role at iCAD, a publicly held, global leader in medical technology. As the Vice President and Controller, he was also responsible for all SEC filings. Prior to iCAD, Brian served in various roles with responsibility for the operational and financial functions at Skillsoft Corporation, a global leader in corporate digital learning. Brian’s experience includes leading teams through mergers and acquisitions, and the transition from a public to private company.
Brian holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Bentley University and an MBA in Finance from Southern New Hampshire University.