Editor’s Note: This is an installment of our new series,Alexa Pioneers, which highlights people who are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with voice. Follow the series to get inspired, then join the pioneers to create your own magical experiences for voice.
At age 40, Akilah Bolden-Monifa stopped practicing law to do what her younger self had wanted to do: become a full-time writer. Nineteen years later, Bolden-Monifa received an Amazon Echo as a gift and made another pivot. This time, Bolden-Monifa, who’d never before learned or tried to code, decided she would learn to build for voice. Her motivation: give voice to a subject dear to her heart.
“February, the shortest month of the year, is Black History Month, so I had the notion that black history should be 24/7, 365 days a year.”
This idea inspired Bolden-Monifa to build a skill called Black History Everyday.
To get started, she dove into the documentation in the Alexa Skill Kit (ASK). Dealing with code felt foreign at first, but she was inspired by an active and supportive developer community. She joined the Alexa Developer Forums, chimed in on Facebook groups, and gained tips and answers that enabled her to build her first skill.
“It started to work at 5 a.m. on April 3rd, 2017, which happened to be my 60th birthday,” says Bolden-Monifa. “And I cried when it worked. I cried tears of joy.”
The thrill, says Bolden-Monifa, was a combination of finding a new audience and conquering a new “skill” at 60. Since then, this self-taught skill builder has built two additional skills for Alexa. Bolden-Monifa says she is energized by the fact she can reach so many people through Alexa-enabled devices.
“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,” she says.