Women in tech are finally going to get their chance to not only join the tech industry en masse but to lead it.
With the advent of the iphone we saw the rise of the app but now that smartphones have transformed our lives, the way we use them is changing. People aren't downloading apps like it's 2008. They are spending 80% of their time on messaging platforms. Chatbots are like apps but they are in a conversational format the are within the messaging platforms that we already use and they are on a tipping point and will soon be ubiquitous.
Recently, I attended the Chatbot Summit in Tel Aviv. Leaders from the chatbot community came from all over the world to discuss the challenges and the potential.
"We are at the threshold of a revolution that would affect the daily lives of billions of people during the next decade...Chatbots are essentially a new user interface which provides consumers the ability to communicate with brands the same way they communicate with friends and family - via a natural conversation. In the not so distant future, we will be able to communicate with our bank, get recommendations on movies and order a cup of coffee from a friendly Chatbot." claimed Yoav Barel, who founded the conference, in his opening speech.
After the event, I sat down with Yoav. He described what he called "The Chatbot Rush". In the past 6 months nearly $100 million dollars have been invested in Chatbots. This is only the beginning. Instead of clicking around for information, users are asking questions and getting answers.
At the Chatbot Summit I saw the usual ratio of men to women. The panels and the audience were mostly men, but it doesn't have to be this way. There is no STEM "pipeline" issue for women chatbot builders. There is just unbelievable potential that women need to hear about. It is crucial that women take a leading role now, because unlike previous "tech revolutions", this one is tailor made for women.
There are manyDIY chatbot building platforms being launched and the need for developers is dwindling but a new career is taking it's place: Conversational Architects and Conversational Designers.
Conversational architects are a combination of content writers and user experience designers. These are the two parts of the tech community already dominated by women. The barrier to entry for people with no tech experience is rather low. The skills needed are an understanding of the human condition and a strong ability to communicate. Existing bot building platform can do the majority of the backend work that most people need to build a simple bot.
This is a good match for anyone with skills that range from psychology to theater- especially script writers.
The risk is that women are going to miss this opportunity before they know it is even happening. This is the time when careers are being made and thought leaders are being born.
Here is some advice on how to get started:
Join the conversation. Start reading chatbot blogs, joining Facebook Bot groups, ask questions and sharing your opinion.
1. Play with chatbots. Find as many as you can and start experimenting with them. Find out what you like and don't. Look at each one with a critical eye because you are going to learn what to do- but also what not to do. Everybody's chatbot is still a work in progress.
2. Think of current services and apps that you use and think about how they can be redesigned into a conversational format.
3. Experiment with different chatbot building platforms, and build a variety of bots. Don't worry if they are bad or if no one will ever see them, just experiment and learn the process.
4. Take leadership roles. This is not the time to wait to join an existing chatbot startup, this is the time to found one.
With the Chatbot Rush, women need to rush to take their place as leaders in the field.