In the Spotlight for Engineers Week 2020: SoundHound Inc.’s Rowena Zuniga
In celebration of Engineers Week and “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day”, we talked to SoundHound senior software developer, Rowena Zuniga
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SoundHound Recognized as 2021 Company of the Year by Frost and Sullivan
The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) is celebrating the 66th Engineers Week (EWeek) from February 16 to 22. Founded by NSPE in 1951, EWeek is dedicated to “ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.” The society’s overall mission is to motivate youth to pursue engineering careers by promoting recognition among parents, teachers, and students of the importance of a technical education and a high level of math, science, and technology literacy.
SoundHound Inc. is celebrating all week long by throwing a spotlight on five of our own talented engineers from our offices around the world, and the amazing work they’re doing. To kick off the series,we spoke to software engineer Alixandra Ramos, a recent computer engineering graduate from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Known by her colleagues as “Ali,” she was a member of the EWeek committee at her school and continues to be excited about encouraging more women to pursue STEM careers.
A: I’ve always loved building things and putting things together. In high school, I participated in building a robotic car. I pursued my love of building things by taking engineering, computer science, and computer engineering classes.
A: I felt that there was a big gap in the number of girls in my classes. For instance, there were only 3 girls in an engineering class of 30 in high school. But, the other female students in my classes shared my passion for science and math and that really encouraged me to continue. I hope those numbers continue to grow.
A: Firstly, it was the culture and the shared passion for voice technology. When I came in for my first interview, I sat down at lunch with members of the engineering team and everyone was so engaging and excited about the work they were doing. I learned that we shared the same interests and that gave me a lot of confidence.
The time I spent as an intern before I joined SoundHound was really valuable because I learned how to work with diverse groups of people and it gave me the confidence I needed to feel comfortable in larger groups of colleagues.
A: The best part of my job is collaborating with the team. They are such talented and smart people and we get to work on really interesting projects. I have the opportunity to do a little bit of everything and work cross-functionally with a lot of different engineering teams. I am able to see a tangible impact from the work I do on partner projects and that is really rewarding.
A: In college, there was only a small percentage of women in the computer engineering program. My best friend inspired me because I saw her keep going and remaining passionate. Finding other women in engineering to be your mentors is really important.
A: I rollerblade to work. Not all the way — just to the light rail. I also play tennis and ski. I grew up in Chicago and started skiing when I was six years old. I also love music and use the music room at the SoundHound office to play the piano.
A: To be able to build something with my mind. Just to think about it and have it appear, completed.
A: I juggle for fun. It’s a great party trick.
By her own account, Ali does a little of everything for the engineering team, enjoys the opportunities to interact with multiple teams, and work cross-functionally at SoundHound Inc. Although this is Ali’s first job since graduating college, she had already garnered considerable experience in software engineering during various internships before she started here. Her passion for voice AI is reflected in her desire to have a coffee maker that she can simply say, “Make me a double shot of espresso” to and it does the job. We welcome Ali to the SoundHound Inc. team and look forward to everything we’ll build together.
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Voice assistants are increasingly the preferred method for users to search, ask questions, and complete tasks efficiently, quickly, conveniently, and hands-free. In 2020 alone, 45% of internet users searched via voice, according to We Are Social. Even before voice assistants became ubiquitous, the auto industry recognized voice AI as a way to deliver safer, smarter, more natural, and — most importantly — hands-free in-car experiences.
In-car voice assistants have become more than just a way to pull up music and navigation, hands-free. They are becoming the standard for exceptional driving experiences by offering functionalities that are defining the future of the auto industry. As car manufacturers seek to differentiate themselves in a market increasingly saturated with the latest technological advancements, they’ll need to distinguish themselves with voice AI that surpasses user expectations and needs.