Careers in Voice AI
May 08, 2019
8 MIN READ

Careers in Voice AI: Advice from 10 Inspiring Women

Written by Lolitta Tracy

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #BetterForBalance, and we’re celebrating it by rounding up career advice from women who’ve made a significant impact in the field of voice AI. If you’re looking for practical tips on the right courses to take, skills to acquire, networks to get plugged into and more, here’s advice from an inspiring group of voice UX designers, software engineers, researchers, and marketing leaders.

What courses or degrees do I need?

A university degree is valuable and often opens doors. But a traditional technical background isn’t a requirement because there are so many other beneficial skills you can pick up across various majors. It’s still important to get an education either at an accredited university or similar institution, but what stands out is the continued learning through relevant courses and projects even after graduation.

“There’s no one required path to becoming a conversation designer. Some of the common fields we come from include linguistics, cognitive science, psychology, computer science, and writing.” 

Cathy Pearl

Head of Conversation Design Outreach, Google, @cpearl42

“Regardless of major, take practical courses in programming, design, communication, gerontology, and ethics to understand the many aspects of business better.” 

Heidi Culbertson

CEO and Co-Founder, Marvee, @hculbertson

“Ongoing curiosity will advance you more than a specific education or degree. Find a great teacher or boss you can learn from. Be discerning and skeptical of everything you read and hear. Think critically. This is how you learn — less so in school.” 

Emily Binder
Founder of Beetle Moment Marketing, @emilybinder

“It’s possible to pursue a passion for code after university. I found success in this field by joining Hackbright coding bootcamp and constantly learning through hackathons, online courses, and side projects.”

Olivia Bettaglio

Software Engineer, SoundHound Inc.

“Get the best liberal arts education you can and learn basic programming. The voice-first community will help point you in the right direction along the way.” 

Janice K Mandel
VOICE Summit Content Director and Women in Voice Leader, @JaniceKMandel 

“Voice AI gives women in tech a great opportunity to develop skills that would make them more valuable. Focus on developing the right skills versus focusing on specific degrees.” 

Rashmi Rao
Global Head, Advanced Engineering and UX, HARMAN/SAMSUNG, @rashmitweets

“Avoid focusing on a specific degree. Instead, identify the skills you need to perform a job, seek employers and mentors who can help you to foster those skills, and learn to learn.” 

Rachel Liddell
Product Manager, IBM

What skills should I hone?

In addition to accredited universities, some relevant skills can be learned through hackathons, online courses, webinars, and coding bootcamps like the all-female Hackbright Academy, and education platforms like Udacity.

Having a good mix of hard skills like machine learning and natural language processing and soft skills like interpersonal communication and negotiation is key.

“When it comes to landing a job, technical skills get you in the door, and soft skills are what make you excel throughout your career.” 

Joan Palmiter Bajorek
Founder of Women in Voice, @joanbajorek

“Knowledge, humor, and the ability to move things forward, in whatever chosen realm, is a rare talent. Women bring strength, perspective, and empathy, which is important as AI/tech evolves, and an incredible bonus.” 

Heidi Culbertson
Co-Founder of Marvee

“Learn how to learn better. Lessons are everywhere, but comprehension and retention are learned skills. Practice by teaching others what you want to master.” 

Emily Binder
Founder of Beetle Moment Marketing

“As a product manager, I rely on close listening, empathy, and communication skills. At its core, the job is to understand customer needs, translate those needs into product strategy, and then communicate that strategy to the development team.” 

Rachel Liddell
Product Manager, IBM

“Good coding skills are incredibly useful regardless of how you intend to contribute to a voice AI system.” — ,

Maisy Wieman
Senior Software Engineer, SoundHound Inc.

“The skills it takes to make something talk range from computer science to writing. Of course, nothing ends well without good listening and project management skills.” 

Janice K Mandel
VOICE Summit Content Director and Women in Voice Leade

“Given this is a dynamically evolving field, adopting a continuous learning approach and keeping yourself up-to-date on market trends is important. I’m currently pursuing Udacity’s Intro to Self Driving Cars Nanodegree to keep me in touch with ground reality.” 

Rashmi Rao
Global Head, Advanced Engineering and UX, HARMAN/SAMSUNG

“For voice AI data engineers, your toolkit should include Python, SQL, big data tech like Spark and Kafka, machine learning techniques, and of course, the art of Stack Overflow searching.” 

Olivia Bettaglio
Software Engineer, SoundHound Inc

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What events and communities should I join?

There are more AI-focused events and communities online than we can count, but here are a few voice and tech focused ones:

Events

Communities

General advice for thriving as a woman in tech

Making an impact and thriving in tech as women comes down to making our voices heard, supporting other women, and helping build more inclusive products and teams.

“Don’t sell yourself short. Even the experts are just people who have been doing things longer.” — Cathy Pearl, Head of Conversation Design Outreach, Google

“Find your people. Who’s there for you on dark days? Who can help you hone the professional skills you need? Who do you look up to? Invest in those people and be that person for others.” — Joan Palmiter Bajorek, Founder of Women in Voice

“Learn to own your knowledge, your perspective, and your context…and speak up. AI/tech has bias without all of us.” 

Heidi Culbertson
Co-Founder of Marvee

“All points of view need to be represented in voice tech so bring all the educated compassion you can to the table.” 

Janice K Mandel
VOICE Summit Content Director and Women in Voice Leader

“If you have an interest in coding, go for it! Start small and see what you can accomplish with only your curiosity.” 

Olivia Bettaglio
Software Engineer, SoundHound

“Identify your strengths, and then match those strengths to a role. If you’re quantitative, consider data science or computer science. If you’re great with clients, think about being on the front lines of implementation or working as a sales engineer.” 

Rachel Liddell
Product Manager, IBM

“If you’re going into tech as a woman or minority or both, make sure you love it.” 

Noelle LaCharite
Director of Developer Evangelism, Microsoft

What books and podcasts should I check out?

There are plenty of books and podcasts out there for each area of AI expertise but here’s a list that our interviewees recommended. (Note: If you have any other great ones you’d like us to add to this post, tweet them to @Houndify)

What’s some career advice you have for those striving to work in voice AI or tech? Let us know in the comments!

This advice is intended for International Women’s Day with a female audience in mind, but anyone can benefit from applying this sound advice to their tech careers.

Lolitta Tracy

Lolitta Tracy is a writer, marketer, and climate activist. When she’s not working, you can find her hanging out with her English bulldog, Sandwich.

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