The People Behind The Bots — Kristin Sanford
Kristin Sanford is a Conversation Design Manager at 7.ai. With a technical background in developing speech applications, we hear all about Kristin made the transition from development to design. As well as what has helped her along with way!
Q1 — What drew you to the Conversational AI industry?
Kristin: I’ve been working in the software industry since the early days of speech recognition and IVRs. We’ve come a long way since then! Our voice applications are much more intuitive and user-centric than they once were. I love seeing how much the technology has grown over time and enabled us to build better experiences. Conversation design is such a great skill to have and can now be applied across just about every industry.
Q2 — What skills or transferable skills helped you when entering this space?
Kristin: I was a liberal arts major with a concentration in technical writing and editing. Being able to take very technical material and break it down into easily readable, understandable modules was very useful when entering the tech industry.
Q3 — Were there any specific resources, tools, industry experts, that helped you along the way?
Kristin: When I first started learning about software and programming languages, I used a lot of the “in a nutshell” books. I did a lot of playing around in the “sandbox” to experiment and test.
I started out in Tech Support, then became a developer, and ultimately a designer. As a voice user interface designer, I love gleaning information from blogs and webinars around UX and conversation design.
Lately I have especially enjoyed reading the blogs of Julie Zhuo. I also love just observing all the various types of UIs around us every day. The other day I actually found myself in awe of the Super Mario Maker UI, as my 5-year-old son has mastered it! There is also a lot of great content on LinkedIn. Some LinkedIn groups I participate in are: Voice Tech Global, Women in Voice, and UX Professionals.
Q4 — In a sentence or two tell us what your role entails
Kristin: I design and develop voice applications used in banking and finance. With an agile team, I work closely with clients to define intent, goals, and expectations up front. I typically start out with a high level flow and walk through it with the team, covering all potential user journeys. I then break it down into encapsulated modules, fitting it into the existing flow and integrating it into the application.
For me, this includes writing menus, prompts, journeys, and grammars. Post-implementation, we continue to analyze all data with a focus on optimization. I also serve as mentor and manager of a team of VUI designers, aiding in their career growth and development.
Q5 — What do you enjoy most about your role?
Kristin: Our technology is cutting edge, and there is always something new to learn, implement, design, and discover. I also love working with people and enjoy building professional relationships and working towards a common goal.
Q6 — What is the most challenging part of your role?
Kristin: Each project we work on, whether it be voice or digital, has its own set of tools and its own technical environment. Sometimes we need to switch gears quickly. Being able to jump into new projects, learn new tools, and meet timelines all at the same time can be quite challenging.
Q7 — What excites you about the future of this industry?
Kristin: Speech technology has taken off in recent times with the popularity of smart speakers and voice assistants. Omnichannel and asynchronous apps are only going to improve as tech-savvy users set the bar higher and higher. We are just on the cusp!
Q8 — What is one piece of advice you would give to other people looking to enter this industry?
Kristin: I would say just start paying attention to various user interfaces around you and see what is out there. You’ll be surprised once you tune in and notice they are everywhere. Observing what makes a good experience is half the battle. Challenge yourself to create dialogues and demos, or improvements to bad designs. Build a portfolio. You are ready to go!
- Experience in technical writing is a great stepping stone into the tech industry.
- There are plenty of amazing blogs, communities and resources within the world of voice — make the most of it!
- You certainly won’t get bored within this fast-paced industry!
Thank you for reading! A special thanks to our guest, Kristin. We really enjoyed hearing his insights, and hope you did too! Click here to follow her on LinkedIn!
If you’re keen to hear more insights and advice from industry experts in the Conversational AI space, don’t forget to click the follow button to be notified of future posts!
And if you’d be interested in taking part in our blog series get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!
Allys Parsons — Conversational AI Recruiter @ Co-Founder @ techire ai