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Photo by Dan Farrell on Unsplash

Of all the questions I get asked about conversation design, “how do I become a conversation designer?” is the most common.

There is no simple formula, unfortunately. I know conversation designers who used to be linguistics professors, professional musicians, stand-up comics, and electrical engineers. There’s no one path.

That being said, there are things you can do to pursue this as a career. I’ll outline a variety of strategies, and provide resources and suggestions.

First, a bit about my own journey. I’ve been interested in talking to computers since I was a kid, which I wrote about recently in my article A Conversation with my 35-year-old chatbot. But it was not until I was in my late 20s that I found out it could be a career. I got a job at Nuance Communications, one of the very first companies to bring speech recognition mainstream. It did this via automated phone systems (IVRs) that allowed callers to speak to a computer, rather than pushing buttons. …


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Me in the studio as a guest on the Webby Awards podcast

I’ve seen many articles and blog posts on how to start a podcast, how to run a podcast, and how to host (there’s even a podcast ABOUT starting a podcast), but I rarely see advice on how to be a good podcast GUEST.

Here are some tips on making the most of the experience.

So, you’ve been asked to be on a podcast! Woo hoo! Now what?

Preparation

First off: you do not have to say yes. Podcasts take time and energy, and you presumably are not being paid. On the other hand, they can be a lot of fun, and also a great way to expose more people to what you work on. …


Originally published at scifiinterfaces.com.

In 8th grade, I went on our class trip to Washington D.C. The hotel we were staying at had kids from all over the country, and one night they held a dance. I had changed into sweats and a t-shirt and was dancing away with my friends when a boy walked up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “Fairy!”

Image of Cortana from the video game Halo
Image of Cortana from the video game Halo
Cortana from the game Halo

When I turned around and the boy realized I was a girl, he got a confused look on his face, mumbled something and walked off. I was left feeling angry and hurt.

Humans have a strong pull to identify gender not just in people, but in robots, animals, and even smart speakers. (Whether that is wrong or right is another matter that I don’t address here, but many people are uncomfortable when gender is ambiguous.) …

About

Cathy Pearl

Head of Conversation Design Outreach @ Google. Author of "Designing Voice User Interfaces" from O'Reilly (More at https://cathypearl.com)

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