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Voice This! #6 It's been a year
And while we're at it, happy new year :)
Hey Voice This! fam
Happy 2023! Happy lunar new year! We’re so happy you’re still here with us and ready to tackle all the adventures ahead (we hope 💜).
It’s been a while, and although it’s been an extremely pleasant break for some of us (talking about the one of us who got MARRIED💍 over the holidays), we’re SO ready to be back at the keyboard. Writing.
Screaming. And more importantly, answering the tough career questions y’all have for us.
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But before that, let’s take a brief moment to acknowledge the fact that it’s been a year. It’s been an extremely hard time for much of the tech industry and we realize Voice This! might sound a little tone deaf blasting out our podcast in the midst of scary news and layoffs. We see you. We support you. If our content can help distract or inform you during this time— that’s honestly all we want. Sending y’all all the love.
In other news, we were on PTO when this little thing called ChatGPT started taking over all the headlines and LinkedIn posts. Not sure if anyone can relate, but here’s our stance on it:
Okay, we *get* it. AI is cool. We wouldn’t have gotten into conversational AI if we didn’t think some aspect of it were interesting. Even Microsoft said they’d be making a “multiyear, multibillion-dollar” investment in OpenAI. Every other site now includes some kind of AI-generated text or image. It’s fascinating, and at times, slightly problematic, which simply makes the whole thing even more entertaining.
Then there are the claims that AI will take over jobs or people who use AI tools will outperform and replace the people who don’t. I’m sorry, but I simply cannot imagine any AI positing as as designer and taking their design through a privacy review process. I also don’t have the confidence to let these models write the prompts of smart home voice assistants which already are held under such strict levels of scrutiny over what they do or don’t say.
Other than LLMs helping conversation designers come up with English training data, I don’t particularly think we’ve made a huge stride as an industry, and I’d much rather hear about something else now. Likewise, in his own newsletter, Bradley Metrock wrote, “[OpenAI have] simply delivered a conversational AI alchemy of art alongside science that has captivated the world, taking conversational AI from niche to mainstream. Doesn’t mean I want to keep talking about it, though. Or with it, for that matter.”
Podcast Plug 🎙️
Yes fam, we finally have a NEW EPISODE out! We won’t spoil it too much for y’all, but here’s the overview:
Guy is an amazing engineer and was an early voice adopter
This episode is part 1 of 2 of our season finale ✨
Listen to it here!
Reading Corner 📚
Our favorite reads from the past few weeks, including some oldies but goodies. Happy reading!
This wouldn’t be a Guy Tonye tribute newsletter without one of his written pieces! 5 Tests To Audit And Improve The Accessibility Of Your Chatbot
Quote from the piece: “Many people underestimate the role data labeling can play in machine learning. It’s boring, monotonous, and can seem disappointingly manual when we expect our models to perform some kind of AI magic. That’s probably why we often see teams spend way too many hours trying to squeeze more out of their language models, when that time would actually be much better spent annotating some data.”
Audience Q&A 💌
This is the part of our newsletter created by YOU! Every issue, a lucky listener will be able to get their question featured and answered by Millani and Elaine.
This week’s question is one our mid-level career CxDs might relate to:
How do you advocate for a seat at the table as a conversation designer?
Elaine: I honestly don’t know either. I assume you’re asking from the perspective of being the only conversation designer at the company or maybe you’re being silo’d 👀— if so, if that’s the case, HUGE kudos to you for being so brave 💜
I’d tackle this situation from the things you can control (because sometimes you can’t control roadmaps or influence OKRs directly as a non-senior designer), which are: relationships, design systems, documentation, and (user) research. If you hear about someone else on your team doing a task that technically falls under your domain,
scream don’t freak out. Try offering to help or educate that person to do the task successfully. It’s happened to me before where a non-specialist got handed something I would’ve loved to do, but I took it as a teaching opportunity instead. That effort later gave me huge credibility and a great recommendation from that teammate which snowballed into me onboarding more teammates! Great relationships can make or break your career.
As for the other points (systems, docs, and UXR), these are your tools to prove the value of your contributions and allow other departments of the company realize that you never make a move without being informed. Data is your friend, but especially qualitative data. Do you have a UX researcher at the company? A data analyst? A sales team? BEFRIEND THEM. They have so much wisdom and intel on who your customers are, what they do with your product, and what they want from it. That way, whenever you try to advocate for a new feature or updating an old one, you have solid data to back up your decision-making. Over time, hopefully, people will start realizing that your perspective is important and you can be trusted to influence the product.
💜 💜 💜
Millani: New year, new question… and a heavy one. This actually reminds me of a quote I read somewhere.
Actually, as it turns out, there was another quote from the article I liked:
“If we want to change how people engage design we have to change how people think about design. And to change how people think about design we have to demonstrate our value. Demonstrate, not just advocate. Show and tell.”
I love these quotes because when we first ask the question we may feel unseen or passively accepting our fate, but we need to be active. Yes, it can be extremely exhausting to vouch for yourself and try to prove why we deserve a seat or why design is important— but what if we shift the perspective to demonstrating the values and benefits instead? That speaks volumes (and can be less taxing!). Let’s avoid looking at this situation with a view of frustration or that we are lacking. It's not that we need to prove ourselves, it's just that the decision-makers aren't aware of our magic! 🪄
At the end of the day, you’re still building a case but you're doing it in a way that leverages your skills, tools, frameworks, and expertise. Find opportunities to enlighten those around you when you get a chance, like during stand-up or demos. Volunteer to present a workshop for the team! At first, you might feel like you're persuading or being pushy, but it's sort of part of the game. Just remember: when you're passionately talking about design, it's not only super fun, you'll also see a change — passion is infectious! Finding gaps in knowledge with people around you and educating them truly helps spread the word. As designers, we constantly practice these “table” leadership skills with our own ideas. Our work benefits so much from ideating and judging which features or content to move forward with and which ones to scrap or deprioritize. Why can't we take that and use it as a way to showcase how our ideas can help shape the overall product strategy? Reflect on that. (I will too.)
Flip your mindset if you haven't already. Show them what you’ve got and the rest is history.
Thanks for Reading This! 🥰
What do you think? Are you a ChatGPT fan?
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