AiAllies – Alice Boter, CGI
For women thinking about a career change and considering a move into the technology industry, there may not be a better person to take inspiration from than Alice Boter who, at the age of 48 , discovered that Conversational AI represented a niche she had been searching for over the course of her entire career.
In this entry of Artificial Solutions’ #AiAllies series, in which we provide insights and stories from women who represent success across the STEM fields, we spoke to Alice about her journey and share the learnings she has made throughout her journey.
Having trained as a physical therapist at the start of her working life, it took a solitary year working in the healthcare sector to realise that it was not for her.
“I decided that it just wasn’t for me!” Alice said.
“I knew I needed to make a change and realized that I was drawn towards graphic design, so I secured a position where I was involved in management and the process relating to technical publishing. While I was working full-time in that position, I also decided to launch my own business which involved building and designing websites.”
Alice enjoyed success with her business for a number of years, but the desire to find greater professional fulfilment remained.
“After a long time, I wanted to make a change. I knew that I liked making websites, writing and the technology element so I decided to take on a UX and UI bootcamp course which I completed alongside my full-time job, which was really tough. It was on this course that I first encountered conversational design.”
The interaction with chatbot design and development sparked an immediate interest and encouraged further exploration.
“I knew that I was not the very best at design, but I knew that I understood what people want and need from an online experience. There was less visual element to conversational design, it was all about understanding people and helping them. I was immediately hooked and signed up to every course I could get my hands on.”
After completing a wide range of free and paid-for online courses, Alice started hunting for a position in the sector. Her key recommendations for others looking to complete the same courses, include: Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, Career Foundry and Conversation Design Institute.
“A year ago, everybody was looking for Conversational Designers with lots of experience, I didn’t have that, but my network was getting stronger thanks to my involvement with Women in Voice and Women in Conversational . Through my connections, I was encouraged to apply for a role with CGI, so I went for it. They didn’t look at me as somebody who didn’t have experience, they saw what I could potentially do.”
Landing the Perfect Job in Tech
Alice highlights her delight in finding a position that suits her interests and skills, but it was not immediately clear when the opportunity arose.
“My gut instinct was that the role wasn’t for me! I looked at the job description and I really wasn’t sure. The company seemed too corporate and I didn’t think I would be the right fit. But I ignored my first instinct and thought I should learn about the position and go for the interview. That is something that I would advise other women to do when they are also looking at different jobs in tech.”
“The discussion went really well and I was told that I could forge my own path and shape my own learning journey. I was amazed by that and so, I took the offer and it has been the best decision I have made in my career.”
CGI is a technology business that places a strong emphasis on the success and long term development of its employees and the women that drive the success of the organization.
Part of its services is the creation and management of Conversational AI solutions, which are delivered to international organizations across a variety of key vertical markets.
The challenge of creating conversations through the development of chatbots is a highly complex process that requires significant input from a range of sources, something that Alice thrives on.
“I’m a real generalist and I think that helps people working on conversational design. You need to consider language, psychology, what the user needs and wants. You can also make a real impact on people and make them feel understood with the right message. I like helping people, I feel I can do that through my work.”
Alice is only eight months into the job, but has quickly adapted despite facing the challenge of learning about an entirely new professional field.
“At the beginning, I didn’t know anything and felt like a total beginner, which was difficult. But you have to be willing to feel like that in order to grow and learn new things. But in this profession, you can become a specialist really fast and the demand for Conversational Designers is now extremely high. With the right training and support, you can become successful.”
Having benefited from a strong network and the sharing of opportunities, Alice says that she is always willing to help and support other women who may be facing their own career crossroads.
“I’m always free for a coffee or a conversation and so is the team at CGI. Send me a message on LinkedIn and I’ll try to help with resources and networking opportunities.”
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