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Spam Resource Spotlight: Mickey Chandler


Mickey Chandler and I go way back. He's been working in the realms of email deliverability, policy, abuse prevention, and more for the entire time I've known him.

Way back in the day, we both spent a brief stint working for the Mail Abuse Prevention System, one of the first big blocklist spam filterers out there. Later, he worked for and then with me at ExactTarget, later to become Salesforce Marketing Cloud, working very hard to keep clients on the right side of legal and best practice requirements. His most recent experience even overlaps with the world of mobile messaging abuse prevention. And he's looking for a job. Are you hiring?

You can find his Linkedin profile here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mickeychandler/

Mickey, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today! Can you tell me how you came to get started in the email industry?

Like many others, I fell into email. Back in the mists of time, I had an email account at the Greater New Orleans FreeNet. One day, I came home from searching for a job and discovered around 70 messages in my inbox. Only 2 of those messages were from someone that I knew or was something I was expecting. I decided that if email were going to be usable for the kids I wanted to have someday, someone would have to do something about making that possible -- because the amount of spam I was getting meant that people would abandon the medium. So, I taught myself how to read headers and complain to appropriate places, eventually opening doors to employment. I was fortunate enough to get to know some folks through those efforts and those folks would recommend me to companies who needed help with getting email delivered to people who want to get it.

Policy compliance and email deliverability seem to be two languages that you speak very well. 

That's something that I enjoy, but not something that lots of people are good at. Ultimately, though, keeping a network clean and facilitating the arrival of expected email in the inboxes of people who want it requires being willing to turn away business from the people who would get in the way of making that happen.

I've sometimes described policy compliance work as being a lot like that of a cancer surgeon. The first job is to figure out what the problem is. Am I protecting a client from some bad, non-permissioned data? Or, am I protecting the company against a bad actor who wants to harm the overall network? Once we decide that, we can then start making decisions on what or how much to cut away in order to protect everyone.

I don't think that you can have one without the other. Policy serves a purpose. You don't create it just to have it. In this case, email policy exists to tell customers what this company, in collaboration with the wider world, has decided is the minimum that they must do to have a place here (wherever "here" is). The wider world also looks at that policy to decide if this is the type of sender that is worthy of having its customers' email delivered. So, policy and policy compliance serve as the foundation of deliverability. On the other hand, deliverability is what drives policy. If the mailbox providers of the world came out tomorrow and said, "We don't care what you send, when you send it, to whom you send it, or how it arrives," then I think we'd see policy change. But, that's not the case (and I don't think that it ever realistically will be).

You and I have both really worked more on the "sender side" of things – not managing the postmaster queue (or designing filters) for mailbox providers, but we've both worked closely with mailbox providers over the years. What's the key to building a good, collaborative relationship between platforms that send email and platforms that host the mailboxes?

The biggest key is remembering that everyone involved is human. Sometimes, someone is going to have a bad day or make a bad call. But, more often, everyone involved is trying to protect their own, small part of the Internet. And, we're fortunate in that our industry is pretty collegial. People talk before making major changes to what they're doing and they take feedback on what is working and what isn't.

Outside of that, I think the biggest key is transparency.  If a mailbox provider comes to you with a problem, don't lie to them and tell them that you can fix problems that you can't. Don't over-promise what you can do and don't only ask them to change for your benefit. Most of the time, a clean sender isn't on the list of problems that a mailbox provider has, so work pretty hard at not making yourself a problem for them.

How would you describe your particular area of expertise? What are you good at, and what would you want to tell a potential employer about your skills to show them that you really know email inside and out?

My area of expertise is understanding, creating, and enforcing policies that help companies to create the greatest level of good for the greatest number of their customers. I never really set out to be a great people manager, but my last team seemed to think that I was really good at that, too.

Got an example of a challenge you faced, or project you worked on, that really came together in the end? Something you're glad to have worked on or something that you found success with?

This actually predates my time with you at ET, but I was working for an ESP that had a non-profit customer with a VP who was a member of the "a bigger list is a better list" school of thought. Nothing their internal champion said was getting through and this guy was really unhappy that I wasn't letting them do whatever they wanted and was starting to make noise about leaving. We finally decided that I'd visit their offices and meet with the guy to try to hash things out. I put together a presentation with several examples of profanity-laced promises to never contribute to the organization again that had come to us as spam complaints. 

I remember him turning to his internal champion and very soberly asking if that's what people really thought about them. We didn't have any further compliance issues out of them, and they were still a customer of that ESP when I left a year or so later.

What kind of email-related job are you looking for next? What would be the perfect job for you?

I'd love to get back into policy compliance work. But, I'm also looking for a bit of a challenge. I think that the ideal job is one where I can come in and help clean up some problems or where I can help someone who has recently had some problems set themselves up for future success by improving what they're doing both in deliverability and in policy compliance.

You are so very close to completing your law degree and soon to apply for the bar in Texas. Congratulations for multiple reasons, not the least of which was balancing full time work and full time law school at the same time. Are you looking forward to being finished with school? And what else can I say to help make the case that you'd be extra-awesome in a policy compliance/best practices/deliverability sort of role given that you'll have gotten that law degree?

I should finish my last semester in May. I'm planning on taking the bar exam at the end of February (but won't get results until probably late March). And, yes, I am really very ready to be done with it. I was telling someone not long ago that you can take anything for 3 years and here I am on year 4.

As for how a law degree is helpful here, I'd point out that it's not uncommon for someone who has been caught with their hand in the cookie jar (so to speak) to try to make things difficult by saying "I'd like for you to talk to my attorney." For most places, that leads to the need to get the ESP's legal department involved. If you have an attorney running compliance, then you can leave those folks out of it and just let the "attorney in compliance" handle those calls. You know, someone already familiar with policy, contracts, and compliance.

OK, enough email and policy talk. Let's talk about food for a second – specifically: steak fingers. What are they, why do people like them, and why does Dairy Queen have them in Texas but not everywhere?

Oh man, you're reaching way back for this one. If you've ever heard of "chicken fried steak," or "country fried steak," then you're familiar with what steak fingers are. It's round steak cut into strips and coated in batter and then fried. I used to make those years and years ago before my wife decided that she hated the smell of fried things more than she loved the taste of steak fingers. So, now, we either buy them and air fry them or go without.

And, I don't know why DQ doesn't sell them everywhere. I'm not a huge fan of their steak fingers but lots of people are and I think they're missing out on something by not offering them everywhere that they serve up Hungr-Busters® or Dudes®.

Mickey, thanks so much for taking the time to let me interview you and allow me to remind everyone reading Spam Resource that you're looking for a new full time role.

Dear readers, one of you should hire Mickey! And if you want to hire Mickey, you'll need to contact Mickey. Here's where to find him: MickeyChandler.com, Whizardrieshis Linkedin profile, his Spamtacular Blog and his BlueSky Social account.

As always, thanks for reading!

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