We thought you might be interested in meeting the person behind the technology…so this month, we are interviewing one of our employees who is responsible for conceiving and developing many of the improvements in our services.
Name: Austin Jordan
Position: Director of List Processing
Tenure at FreshAddress: 7.5 years
Background: Austin joined FreshAddress shortly after graduating from Wheaton College with a Bachelors in Computer Science. Austin oversees technology development, list processing, and data transmission and has been instrumental in developing and enhancing FreshAddress’s sophisticated services for over seven years.
FreshPerspectives (FP): I should explain that since we have two Austins working at FreshAddress, you are known to all as “A.J.” And our readers should also know that you don’t live or work in Massachusetts, where FreshAddress is based, but rather in Huntington Beach, California. How did that happen?
A.J.: I was employee #5 at FreshAddress. Shortly after I was hired, I decided I wanted to move to California. Austin & Bill both tried to talk me out of it but when they saw that I was determined, they offered me the opportunity to work remotely. Joining the company at an early stage in its development was exciting for me because I got a chance to play an integral role in its rapid growth. And I love programming and coding and developing websites, which is a lot of what I do at FreshAddress. I come East to spend a week in the office at least twice a year and the majority of our company or department meetings use video-conferencing so we all get to see each other regularly, even if I am across the country.
FP: What do you find unique about FreshAddress?
A.J.: Well, I think we’re a bit “boutique-y” in our approach to email database marketing – we’re not a big company that focuses only on financials while trying to be all things to all people. Email is our specialty and we offer a lot of client services that are somewhat unique in the industry. We work individually with each client to meet their needs, whether it’s a client that requires 80 separate permission messages for each of their brands or a small mom and pop business that only works from excel spreadsheets.
Our size allows us to be flexible – we have procedures, but special requests are taken into consideration as well. FreshAddress’s Client Project Managers stay in close touch with our clients, and each client has a status page that’s constantly updated in terms of what’s happening with their job.
FP: Since you’re completely immersed in the technology side of the business, what recent innovations have you developed to assist our clients?
A.J.: Well, the client status page I just mentioned is one. It started as just a static list of where each client’s project stood. But we’ve greatly expanded on that – now you can pay your deposit from the status page, get a detailed view of what the next step in your job is, enter the email address that you want your unsubscribe list to be forwarded to and more. In the past the Project Manager had to contact the client for each of these steps. Now, clients have complete visibility into their projects and can control things accordingly.
We’ve also revised our appending, ECOA, and hygiene reports to give clients more details about their results, including specific information about the types of issues we have identified in their files.
FP: Can you tell us what improvements you’re currently working on?
A.J.: One is an alert system for our real-time clients, to let them know when they’ve reached their specified monthly volumes or to let them know if their service isn’t being implemented correctly on their site.
We’re constantly tweaking and changing things behind the scenes. Whether it’s in our own internal systems or client-facing dashboards, FreshAddress is constantly evolving our processes, always looking to improve and optimize our results for clients. We’re always trying to figure out how we can learn from our mistakes and further tighten our quality control procedures. We’re really focused on quality.
FP: Data protection is a hot topic right now. Any tips for our readers from what you’ve experienced?
A.J.: Transmitting data is one area clients need to watch very carefully. One of our safeguards is PGP encryption – this encrypts your data so if a hacker tried to open the file, they wouldn’t be able to access or read it without the key. Unencrypted data is much more vulnerable. The worst thing a client can do is email their file to us as an attachment. Your computer could be compromised or have a virus or your email might accidentally be forwarded to someone else. There are lots of ways someone could get hold of an attachment.
We always recommend that our clients use our Data Vault system, which provides a secure method of transmitting data through an encrypted connection.
FP: One unique aspect to your day-to-day working situation at FreshAddress is that you’re in the Los Angeles area and we’re in the Boston area. Do you like being three hours behind your East Coast team?
A.J.: I’ve found over the years that working remotely means more working hours, as I find the line between my work hours and home life gets blurred. I’m somewhat of a night owl so I may be working on something at midnight West Coast time and that’s 3 AM East Coast time. So when someone comes in to the office in Newton at 6 AM, then there’s really only a small window of time where there is no “human” staffer available at FreshAddress. For example, a client might need to stop a deployment in an emergency and I can see that email on my phone well after the East Coast office is closed and I can step in and help the client. With video conferencing and smart phones, we have a very good handle on our virtual situation, giving us a unique ability to do things at off hours.
FP: With rising gas prices, lots of people are considering working remotely these days. Any tips you could offer them?
A.J.: Well, it’s important to push yourself to take a break during the day when you’re working remotely. You don’t have people coming around to chew the fat or invite you for lunch or any of the normal interruptions that people in an office have everyday so it’s easy to work all day without having lunch or taking a short break. It can also be hard to stop working at the end of the day, particularly if you’re a workaholic because it can be hard to break away from your work station. There’s always something else you could work on. So you really need to establish working hours and home life hours and then try hard to stick to that schedule.
Likewise if you’re working at home, you need your family to respect your working hours and not be interrupting you constantly. Oh, and a good tip for everyone, no matter where you work: always remember to back up your computer!
As a technology company, we have always been focused on data security, redundancy, back-ups, and the like. But as we’ve all discovered lately, every company needs to carefully protect their own systems and ensure that the service providers they’re working with are equally sophisticated, conscientious, and of course, trustworthy