Know Your Speakers: Fabio Carneiro and Jay Jhun

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The Email Design Conference is right around the corner and it’s packed with great talks from a bunch of amazing speakers. The email community is a tight-knit group, but we can always get a bit closer, right?

With that in mind, we asked the speakers a few questions to get to know them better. We’ll be posting their responses over the course of the next few weeks leading up to the conference.

Today, we’re chatting with Fabio Carneiro of MailChimp and Jay Jhun of BrightWave Marketing. Both Fabio and Jay will be very busy at The Email Design Conference, participating in multiple sessions as well as the workshops.

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Fabio Carneiro

Fabio Carneiro is an Email & User Experience Designer at MailChimp, where he spends his days neck-deep in HTML email, designing and developing versatile, responsive templates for more than 4 million MailChimp users. He loves helping others conquer email design, and has given talks at the Atlanta Web Design Group, ConvergeSE, and Litmus, recorded a course for Treehouse, and shared his expertise with publications like Smashing Magazine.

How did you first get started in email?

By necessity, really. When I started at MailChimp, I’d never coded an email before. I came into the company as a user experience and front-end developer. About two or three months into the job, I was told that designing and developing email was my new area of expertise.

How long have you been in email marketing?

It’s been five years since that day. I hated it at first because, man, how awful is email development to someone who’s uninitiated? But once I understood the constraints of the medium, and how to work within them, I grew to love it.

There’s nothing I’d rather do now, but it was a tough road. I spend a lot of time trying to make the learning curve just a little bit smoother for those who’ve come and are coming up behind me, because when everyone’s good at it, the entire medium moves forward, and that’s an exciting prospect.

Why is email important to you?

Email is important to me because it’s one of the frontiers of the web world. For so long, not many people cared about the finer principles of design and user experience outside of how those things relate to ROI; there wasn’t much care that went into crafting emails. That’s rapidly changing, though.

I think email is in an exciting place where there’s a growing focus on aesthetics and experience.

There’s also been an explosion of interesting experimentation and code-wrangling that is really exciting to watch and being a part of the growing community of people who endeavour to make email a better thing is really fun and challenging.

What’s your favorite part of working with email?

For me, there are actually two favorite parts: the technical and experiential challenges. Email is difficult to do well, but it’s really rewarding when you succeed.

The technical hurdle of getting email clients to cooperate and render the markup how you intend can be frustrating, but I find it fun. You can’t throw JavaScript at your problems like you can in web design; email development is all about two things: your wits and the markup. That’s a place I love to be, because tight constraints can lead to really inspired ideas.

The user experience aspect is also really stimulating, because I think it’s something that’s just starting to really crystallise in the email world. We’re seeing people start to take great care in crafting the emails they send because we’re now past the point where recipients are fine with receiving whatever.

There’s so much noise out there that designing something meaningful and resonant has become a worthy pursuit.

When you’re not knee deep in Outlook issues, what do you like to do?

I’m an avid gamer, for one, so I spend a lot of time playing on PC or PS4 or Xbox 360. Right now I’m playing Dark Souls II, Final Fantasy XIV, and Kerbal Space Program… I probably spend too much time inside.

I’m also a die-hard car enthusiast. I love working on cars, driving them on and off track, all of that. I currently drive a Subaru WRX, which I’ve turned into essentially a tin can with a motor. It’s a really fun toy, though it occasionally gets me into trouble.

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Jay Jhun

Jay serves as VP of Strategic Services at BrightWave Marketing and is passionate about problem-solving and transforming email programs for the 21st century. He has been in a relationship with email marketing since 2004 and in his spare time, he serves the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association as its Marketing Chair, loves talking about tasty food and his kickboxing habit.

How long have you been in email marketing?

Since 2004, I think. Perhaps a mini-celebration is in order? It honestly doesn’t seem like that long ago.

How did you first get started in email?

I was serving as Marketing Manager at the Community School of Music and Arts where one of my duties was to design and maintain our website. I was soon asked to do some ‘email blasts’ and even came up with a name for the newsletter (The Clef & Brush – get it??). I remember the gross fascination I had after clicking the send button – just watching and waiting to see who else would open or click a link in the email. My first official ESP experience was with IntelliContact (now known as iContact / Vocus). Copying and pasting table-based HTML from Dreamweaver as an email template seems so antiquated and yet there’s plenty of that still happening today.

Why is email important to you?

Right now it’s important because it’s helping me keep the lights on at home (whodathunkit?) and if the USPS continues their downward spiral in service and profitability, email will stand as the most important direct communication medium between brands and consumers for the foreseeable future.

Plus, as a digital marketing discipline and channel, email is the perfect mental playground for both the left and right side of my brain – data science and creative artistry with a healthy dose of technology to keep things interesting.

What was your first email address?

Honestly, I don’t remember the exact address but it was probably something like jay.jhun@berkeley.edu. I had to go down into the basement of Evans Hall (think concrete bunker) to get to a UNIX terminal to use PINE to check email from the 1 or 2 friends that I knew had email addresses. We eventually got a hold of the bank of phone numbers where we could dial into the university network to check email from our dorm.

What’s your hidden talent? You know, so we can call you out on it at the conference…

Belching the alphabet is not one of them.

What can we expect from your talk at TEDC14?

The most exciting thing about this talk is that the content is going to be crowd-sourced by the email marketing community. My focus is to do for email marketers what this commercial did for the Toyota Sienna. If the vibe in our community feels like we’ve got ‘99 problems,’ I hope the session, at the very least, gives everyone a stronger awareness and the words to describe what we do, why we do it and why email … you see where I’m going with that.

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