Every day, people around the world are making Alexa smarter by building with voice to make customers’ lives easier, helping them solve real problems, and even entertaining them. Below are a few stories of female developers and entrepreneurs who are inspiring others as they are building the future of voice with Alexa.
Jess Williams helps her clients reach their customers through voice experiences with Alexa. As the founder and CEO of Opearlo, one of the first voice design agencies in the United Kingdom, her focus ranges from education and productivity skills to entertaining kids.
“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 developed her first Alexa skill, Live Plan Eat, which she created to help plan meals for her family. The experience inspired her to bring Alexa to her work at Chick-fil-A, where she writes software. She has since prototyped three skills focused on improving customer experience using voice.
Kesha has also created a skill called STEM Women, which 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.
A colleague once told Heather Luna not to apply for an IT position, suggesting that Luna didn’t have the right mindset for that type a job. Hearing that only fueled Luna's desire to prove her colleague wrong. Heather quickly progressed from a help desk position to becoming a systems administrator for the Wharton School in Philadelphia, to her curent role as a senior IT analyst at a Seattle tech company.
Luna is the creator of the popular Happy Days skills, a 4.2-star Alexa skill that was featured in PC Magazine and Entrepreneur.com as one of the best Alexa skills.
“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 a fascination with smart homes. When the first Echo device was released, she decided to combine this new technology with her love for home automation, and started a smart home consulting business.
Bianco’s works with homeowners interested in integrating Alexa into their home in sophisticated ways. She identifies Alexa-certified smart home products that will best meet customers' needs and works with Alexa developers to build custom skills. With one of Bianco’s favorite custom skills, a homeowner can ask Alexa for the status of various home devices—lights, coffee maker, humidifier, even curling irons—by voice or a custom mobile app.
“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.
At age 40, Akilah Bolden-Monifa made a career pivot from practicing law to becoming a full-time writer. After receiving an Amazon Echo as a gift, she was inspired to conquer something new at age 60—learning to build for voice.
She saw this as an opportunity to give voice to a subject that felt deeply personal to her, which led her to build a skill called Black History Everyday.
“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 beautifully-designed wireless speakers. When she started the business, her focus was to reimagine boring, boxy speakers into designer home furnishings. Now, voice technologies have elevated her designs into truly smart speakers.
Perelman recently integrated the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) into stellé’s Pillar speakers, bringing the power of voice to customers. She also intends to integrate AVS into all stellé products.
“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.”
After studying English in college, April Hamilton fell in love with programming. She decided to pursue voice design after attending an Echo demo at an Amazon developer event. She has since risen to become a noted authority on building Alexa skills.
"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 shares her learnings, best practices, and expert advice on her blog, Love My Echo.
After a career at NASA, Amy Stapleton started a company called Tellables, which creates story-based voice experiences for Alexa. The skills are designed to keep children engaged, while developing critical-thinking skills. One of her skills, Tricky Genie, has been so successful that it has earned money as part of the Alexa Developer Rewards program. It remains a top skill, maintains a 4-star rating, and regularly receives positive feedback from children and their parents.
“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.”
With a background as a mechanical engineer, and exposure to software testing in a previous job, Karen Wickert works at Sonos as a software test manager, after being hired as a software test engineer. Today, Karen is a powerful force behind the quality of Sonos One—a smart speaker with Alexa built-in.
Wickert's involvement with Alexa at Sonos shows voice offers opportunities beyond being a developer.
“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?"