Hundreds of thousands of developers have been inspired to build with voice to make customers’ lives easier, solve real problems, and entertain users each and every day.
Many women are at the helm of these innovations. These are the builders and entrepreneurs who are building thriving businesses, making everyday tasks more delightful, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with voice.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re excited to share stories from some of the inspiring women who have been pillars of innovative voice design in the developer community. They are building the future of voice with Alexa, and inspiring more women to join them along the way.
As the co-founder and CEO of Opearlo, one of the first voice design agencies in the United Kingdom, Jess Williams helps clients reach customers through engaging voice experiences with Alexa.
When it comes to inspiring women in technology and voice, Williams is passionate about encouraging more women to get involved.
“I want to inspire more women to get involved in voice because it is such a new and exciting space,” says Williams. “I truly believe there’s going to be a growing need for voice designers and developers going forward.”
After 23 years working in IT, software engineer Kesha Williams discovered a new passion and one she wants to inspire other women to pursue—voice. Her love for technology has followed her throughout her career, which inspired her to build Alexa skills for use both in the home and in the workplace.
Williams’ work with voice also extends to another area that’s important to her: women in STEM. She created a skill called STEM Women that highlights women’s achievements and contributions in various STEM fields.
“Technology has opened a lot of doors for me, and it’s a great feeling to share with others the lessons I’ve learned with voice,” Williams says.
As a help desk administrator, a colleague once told Heather Luna not to apply for an IT position, insisting she didn’t have the right mindset for such a job. But telling Luna she can’t do something only fueled her desire to prove her colleague wrong. Luna quickly progressed from her help desk position to being a systems administrator for the Wharton School in Philadelphia to now a senior IT analyst at a Seattle tech company.
In addition to her IT work, Luna wants to become an inspiration and teacher for new women in voice.
“I wholeheartedly believe in supporting and creating opportunities for women who want to get involved in technology,” says Luna. “Building an Alexa skill was such a positive experience and had such a positive effect on my career. I want to make sure that opportunity is within everyone’s reach.”
Andrea Bianco has always been fascinated by smart homes. When Amazon released the first Echo, she decided to combine this new technology with her love for home automation. She started a smart home consulting business to help homeowners build the house of their dreams.
Bianco says her daughter is the one who inspired her to pursue a new adventure in smart home and voice. And she encourages all women to take notice of the opportunities technology can offer.
“Women are bringing Echo into the home as much or more so than men, and sometimes a woman’s perspective makes all the difference,” says Bianco.
Akilah Bolden-Monifa is no stranger to new and exciting ventures. At age 40, she made her first career pivot from practicing law to becoming a full-time writer. After receiving an Amazon Echo as a gift, Akilah Bolden-Monifa was inspired to conquer something new at age 60—learning to build for voice.
As a self-taught skill builder, Bolden-Monifa continues to build for voice to educate and inspire her users.
“To know that so many people can hear the skill and be as enlightened through sound and knowledge as I was—it is, I think, very, very profound,” says Bolden-Monifa.
Anna Perelman is the CEO and creative force behind stellé, a company offering a line of beautifully designed wireless speakers that captivate consumers with both their look and their sound. When she started the business, her aim was to reimagine boring, boxy speakers into designer home furnishings. But swift advancements in voice technology elevated her designs into the realm of truly smart speakers.
“As a woman, voice is all about making life simpler and more seamless today, whether it's getting a recipe, checking your calendar, or playing your favorite song,” says Perelman. “Those are the features that I love about Alexa, and it’s exciting that we’ll be bringing these capabilities to our products.”
Hamilton has a unique path to becoming an Alexa developer. She studied English in college and worked various jobs at a time when computers were just starting to become more commonplace. Though others were resistant to the new technology, Hamilton was fascinated. She took every opportunity to learn more, and soon fell in love with programming.
"I knew Alexa would be revolutionary, the next major leap forward in technology, and I could be a part of that,” says Hamilton. “I wanted to help create the experiences I wished for as a user.”
As one of the original Alexa developers, Hamilton has plenty of learnings and best practices to share with other developers. She is committed to educating others about Alexa and provides expert advice on her blog, Love My Echo.
Following a career at NASA, Amy Stapleton was excited to turn her love for telling stories into a business. With the rise of voice technology and Alexa, Stapleton saw an opportunity to deliver stories in a new, highly engaging way.
“I couldn’t sleep that night, I was so thrilled,” says Stapleton. “The rewards provided us with the funds and the motivation to continue evolving our game skills and also build new skills in other categories.”
Stapleton says she knew fresh content would be critical to not only keep players coming back but also keep them engaged for longer sessions. And her approach appears to be working. Tricky Genie remains a top skill, maintains a 4-star rating, and regularly receives positive feedback from children and their parents.
Karen Wickert’s background as a mechanical engineer has led to some unique opportunities. After being exposed to software testing in a previous job, Wickert took a role at Sonos as a software test engineer and is now a software test manager.
Wickert’s unique involvement with Alexa at Sonos shows voice offers far more opportunities than just being a developer. Wickert encourages women to search out companies willing to uphold them, and then share their stories to inspire others to do the same.
“Yes, it can be a hard road,” says Wickert. “But just imagine the experience you can have if you open yourself to all of the possibilities that voice enables. How can you not want to be a part of that?"
Developers around the world are building rich voice experiences with the Alexa Skills Kit and Alexa Voice Service. Help shape the UI of the future and enable customers to engage via voice. Build skills to make Alexa smarter using the Alexa Skills Kit, and integrate Alexa into your product with the Alexa Voice Service.