The Community Spotlight—a monthly blog series highlighting some of the amazing members of the email community—is back!
Every month, we’ll interview, highlight, and celebrate the splendid members of the email community. We dig into where they got their start, where they are now, and explore their challenges and passions in email.
This month, we’re chatting with Najee Bartley—accessibility expert, email and cloud page developer, and Grey’s Anatomy stan.
|Najee Bartley (she/her)|
Owner of Jaimee An, LLC—A multiplatform CRM consultancy
Follow Najee on LinkedIn and Twitter
What did the beginning of your time in email marketing look like? What kind of work were you doing?
The beginning of my time with email began at JP Morgan Chase. I was initially a web developer and I honestly was not happy. I started looking for work elsewhere and someone offered me a role as Senior Email Developer. I had no idea that emails were even coded.
How did you first connect with the wider email geeks community?
I am a huge huge believer in community. I have a favorite email developer named Remi Parmentier—this guy is an email-developing genius. He made a post about email geeks and I instantly joined. I am so happy that I did! The community is so supportive and actively looking at how to improve marketing communications.
How would you describe what you found in the email geeks community and what keeps you connected to it?
I found myself. I found others who thought emails were extremely cool and who wanted to improve matters like accessibility, Dark Mode, Outlook issues, image rendering, and device rendering. What keeps me connected is the vast knowledge that this community brings.
You’re best known in the email community for your focus on accessibility in email development—what first made accessibility important to you?
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for individuals of difference. Whether it be differences in culture or differences in ability. As a child, I made friends with many hearing- and visually-impaired people and as a person of color raised in the deep South, I have witnessed and experienced the inequity that comes with being different. These experiences have shaped my cause in life.
You’ve also spent a lot of time actively interviewing disabled folks for your research—why is conducting direct interviews so vital, and how do you approach that work?
Conducting direct interviews with the visually impaired takes us straight to the heart of the issues this particular group faces daily. I have friends who are visually impaired and I ask them to help me set up group sessions or one-on-one meetings to discuss opportunities for improvement within marketing communications. The information we gain from these sessions is invaluable.
Are there approaches to accessibility in email that you don’t think we talk about enough? Anything we over-emphasize?
In my opinion, when it comes to accessibility, one can’t over-emphasize. I definitely think there is something to adding a button at the top of emails, that reads an email from top to bottom. This reduces the number of times a person has to hit the space/next button (on a screenreader) and frankly sounds better. It also gives the email a more story-like context and allows businesses to control the context in which the reader views the message.
Could you describe what a typical workday looks like for you?
I check my JIRA board for any assignments, look to ensure I have all the requirements and if I do, I build. Most of my day is spent solving issues related to emails specifically in rendering or deliverability.
What are the specific aspects of email development that you find satisfying?
Why do you think you find those satisfying?
I am a person who prefers instant gratification so to see that the email is rendering the way I want it to render is very satisfying. For accessibility, just knowing that the email reads out on a screen reader like it should makes me very very happy. I literally use Dark Mode for every device so making sure the email looks good in Dark Mode is important.
What are you most proud of in your work and why?
I am most proud of all aspects of my work. I love communicating. I get to be empathetically myself in my career. And the little things that I care about actually matter, like the colors of buttons, sizing of fonts, and inclusivity in imagery. These things matter to me and my clients, and they appreciate that I care.
How have your intersecting identities shaped your career?
It’s actually made my career! My brand is all about accessibility. That’s not by coincidence. It’s because I am all about accessibility. My identity is all about inclusion, diversity, acceptance. I believe that my career should reflect my identity. It is what makes work not feel like work to me.
What would be the first steps you’d tell someone to take who is interested in email development?
Take an HTML and CSS class. If you find yourself loving it like I did, then go to take a class on email development, specifically understanding table-based development and how email service providers compile email code. It’s pretty fascinating.
Which songs pump you up, and which songs chill you out?
Oh my! My absolute favorite songs can be found somewhere between music artists like Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar, and any variety of Atlanta music artist. Now my chill-out songs are heavily gospel and R&B.
You just finished work and you’ve got a free evening in front of you—how do you decompress or renew?
Love this question! I decompress by going to the gym, cycling, or watching Grey’s Anatomy 🤣. In another life, I would have been a neurosurgeon so I love watching medical shows.