Home M3AAWG Blog Pioneers of M3AAWG: Mike Adkins, former Chairman of the Board
Posted by the M3AAWG Content Manager


M3AAWG is exploring the historical journey that has shaped our organization for two decades. Each month in 2024, the pioneers of M3AAWG will appear in this blog to share our collective story. These are the trailblazers, the innovators, and the champions for action in the fight against online abuse. This month’s interview is with Mike Adkins, who served as M3AAWG’s Board of Directors Chairman for two years, Vice Chairman of the Board for 3 years, as well as Chair of the Technical Committee. 

How long have you been with M3AAWG?

My first meeting was in San Diego, which I think was the 3rd meeting in early 2005. I was involved until I retired from the industry in February of 2017.

What inspired you to engage and contribute to M3AAWG?

I was originally trying to standardize and promote something, and my management thought that M3AAWG was a good place to try to do that. So I started my involvement with a very specific agenda and goal in mind. That initial effort was successful, and proved that the organization and community could have a real impact on abuse.  

What would you say M3AAWG’s most important contribution to the industry has been over the past 20 years?

Wow, that’s a tough call. Either M3AAWG Night Out or Seamus the Whiskey Bottle.

Umm… I don’t know if there’s one specific document or project that stands head and shoulders above the others. I used to cite the Port 25 document as an impactful early success story, but I don’t know if I’d call it the most important contribution.  The most important contribution might just be that it exists. Providing a forum for the industry to come together and collaborate, the all important ‘hallway track’, it’s hard to quantify the value of something like that.

What would you consider to be the biggest change in M3AAWG from its early days to now?

The meeting structure has changed a lot. We went from a single room with a single track of sessions, to multiple parallel tracks in multiple rooms, to reserving time for more round table discussions and working sessions, to adding another day for long form training sessions.  

But I think maybe the biggest change was when we decided to rescope the organization from ‘Messaging’ to ‘Messaging, Malware, and Mobile’. I think, at the time, there was a sense that we had hit a plateau with just the Messaging focus and we needed to do something to shake the organization up a bit so we could keep moving and growing in the direction that the world was going.

What would you consider the most significant challenge M3AAWG has faced in its 20-year history?

I feel like M3AAWG has grown in waves over the years.  It’s sort of M3AAWG’s central thesis that service providers are in the best position to have an impact on abuse, and in order for it to work we have to attract a quorum of service providers. Every time we did that, either in terms of a specific industry vertical or geographic area, there was then always another industry vertical or geographic area where abuse was on the rise. So I think the most significant challenge is also the ongoing one of ‘how does M3AAWG bring its message to the next industry vertical or part of the world where abuse is becoming a problem.’

What is one of your best memories or proudest moments with M3AAWG?

It’s hard to pick the best memory. My memories are all about the people, some of whom aren’t with us anymore. I feel like I got to see a lot of the world with some of my best friends, and I don’t know how to narrow that down.

 What role has M3AAWG played in your career?

I had a lot of opportunities to make an impact across the entire industry, and got the best job I ever had, specifically because of my involvement in M3AAWG. It was critical, and I don’t know where I’d be without it.  

What advice do you have for someone getting started in M3AAWG?

I don’t know that I have a good answer for that since I haven’t been in so long. M3AAWG used to have things like New Attendee Orientation and Guides, so new folks should take advantage of whatever resources are available for new attendees now. Beyond that, attending sessions and networking with peers is great and all, but I would encourage people to find something specific that they can get involved with and contribute to.  

What is your greatest fear/hope for the online security/anti-abuse industry?

I guess my greatest hope would be that whenever the next seismic shift in the landscape comes, we are ready for it. Both in the sense that we saw it coming and knew what we needed to do, and  convinced management that it was going to be a problem that required action before it had already become a problem.

Members like Mike Adkins established the foundation for M3AAWG’s efforts, building a legacy of work that has made a significant impact in the fight against online abuse over the past two decades. Adkins, together with M3AAWG peers within the industry, created a trusted network to share diverse skill sets and information that aided in solving problems and creating potent strategies for combating online abuse. We are prepared to develop best practices and techniques to overcome today’s challenges because of the strength of this network.  We extend our sincere thanks to Adkins and recognize that his contributions have helped us to see our future: a world free of online abuse.  

The views expressed in DM3Z are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect M3AAWG policy.