AiAllies – Phoebe Ohayon, Whoozy Agency
Phoebe Ohayon knows the importance of a strong voice better than most, considering her position as Head of Design Voice Branding and co-founder of Whoozy Agency, a business that designs human-sounding synthetic voices for some of the world’s most recognized brands. She has worked for many different businesses, from start-ups to Fortune 200s.
As a member of Artificial Solutions’ #AiAllies initiative, Phoebe provides insight into her team’s cutting-edge design work while sharing advice for other women looking to achieve success in the Conversational AI (CAI) sector.
Surrounded by Sound
“I was lucky to have access to technology growing up,” Phoebe said.
“I think the Dutch are generally quite tech-savvy, and that had an impact on me as I developed a strong interest in gadgets and software growing up, which led me to study audio engineering at university.”
But despite her single-minded approach to becoming a specialist in the audio field, Phoebe had challenges to deal with during her studies.
“I was the only woman on the course, and some classmates thought it was okay to comment about my body in front of me. The attitude of some of the lecturers was that boys were just being boys and it was normal.”
So, for any woman facing a similar situation while studying subjects typically dominated by men, she said: “Make sure you find allies in each class and ask them to back you up if there is ever a point when you need them. It means you can deal with bad comments more confidently because you know somebody will speak up if you need them to.”
“I would also make the point of setting strong boundaries, because sometimes people just aren’t socially educated and need to be told what is appropriate and what isn’t. And if you have a particular lecturer you are comfortable with, communicate this with them and make them an allie.”
After completing her studies, Phoebe worked in various prestigious studios in London, and within a couple of years, she set up a voice branding agency.
“I have been extremely lucky to have a co-founder who fully understands when I need support, like when I’m not being taken seriously. But, sharing the same vision has also been incredibly important. We both wanted to start a business and do something totally different to the other studios, which has meant taking a highly data-driven and research-based approach to developing brand voices.”
“I work on all of the design and branding efforts and lead the team with a highly data-driven methodology. But, you have to be like an octopus to run a company! So, I’m involved in almost everything regarding the business – a major challenge but hugely rewarding.”
Talking Opportunities for Women in Tech
Conversational AI is a rapidly developing technology and is an industry estimated to expand significantly over the next five years and beyond.
A recent market report from Gartner stated:
“Conversational AI is a potentially transformative technology that offers a compelling ROI, while simultaneously improving customer experience. Conversational AI will reduce contact center agent labor costs by $80 billion in 2026, increasing to $240 billion by 2031”
“In 2031, conversational AI chatbots and virtual assistants will handle 30% of interactions that would have otherwise been handled by a human agent, up from 2% in 2022.”
There is a growing number of opportunities for women in the CAI sector, and Phoebe has no doubt that the future is bright for those that operate in the field.
“It’s exciting to be a part of this niche space in AI. I work with people who have backgrounds in design and branding. They are extremely creative and provide great value helping me design brand voices for our customers. They have a flair for communication and creating connections.”
“We’ll soon be in a place where it’s almost impossible to distinguish a human voice from a synthetic one. That is really exciting from a business perspective, but we need to develop guidelines quickly because it could easily be used in a negative way.”
However, having pioneered within the sector for a number of years, Phoebe believes that the positives far outweigh the negatives, despite the suggestions that the technology could be used by organisations with negative ulterior motives.
“The potential of the technology is huge, and making automated interactions much more accessible and enjoyable will improve the user experience of many products and services.”
“From a business perspective, we see “success” in the field of automation and optimization using synthetic voices. Whether this is for a digital assistant, the introduction of a digital employee, content creation, multimodal interfaces, synthetic media, gaming, etc. There are many opportunities across various industries that benefit from this technology’’.
Finally, on what women and the tech sector at large can do to improve accessibility to opportunities in the industry, Phoebe said:
“Women that are interested in learning more about the industry and working on conversational AI projects should use online networks like Women in Voice to learn about the opportunities in CAI.”
“I think it’s also a great idea for organizations to organize women-only events so that females within a business can have a space to connect and support each other in a separate environment away from the office. I also think this should be done within educational environments so that young women understand the strength of a community from an early age. But more importantly, girls should be encouraged to focus on subjects like physics or tech-related subjects, and we should try to bring more role models into schools who work in the STEM fields.”
If you would like to connect with Phoebe Ohayon directly, you can find her on LinkedIn, here.