Amazon announced 26 new additions to its Alexa Champions program this week, multiplying the total number by nearly a third, to 64 in total. The newly chosen developers come from countries around the world where the Alexa voice assistant operates. Notably, there are 13 women in the new Alexa Champions group, by far the majority of the 17 women overall chosen for the role so far.
Developers Get a Say
Alexa Champions don’t just get bragging rights. The group works with Amazon as a testing ground for beta programs and has a much more direct link to the people behind the platform than the average developer. The Champions play a part in voice industry events, speak out in broadcasts and publications, and participate in Alexa open source projects, according to Amazon. There’s no lack of topics and ideas to explore in the space.
“So I’ve had the pleasure of working in the voice space for almost three years now, and it still feels like we’re all just getting started,” new Alexa Champion and Matchbox.io chief content officer Sarah Wilson said in an interview with Voicebot. “There are so many exciting things to come, for developers, for companies like Matchbox, for larger global companies, and ultimately for Alexa users. Some ideas I’ve been discussing with my fellow developers: how can we transition from building single one-off skills to providing broader, more contextual experiences for our fans? How can we create even more useful and meaningful experiences for users?”
More Women’s Voices
The need for inclusivity applies to voice as much as any other part of the tech industry. That’s what makes the number of women in the new cohort remarkable, especially compared to how many women Alexa Champions there were before.
“When we see 50% of the incoming cohort as female and a 425% increase in women overall in Alexa Champions, we’re seeing greater intentionality in the selection process,” Dr. Joan Bajorek, one of the new Alexa Champions and the founder of Women in Voice told Voicebot in an interview. “Amazon is going out of its way to be more inclusive on an international scale. Here at Women in Voice, we’re thrilled to see the amplification of gender diversity and see women and men trailblaze.”
Bajorek, the head of conversational research and strategy at digital voice agency VERSA, founded Women in Voice to cultivate the participation of women in the voice industry. The non-profit now counts developers across multiple platforms and continents among its members. Bajorek isn’t the only Women in Voice leader among the new list of Champions. Women in Voice higher-ups from Great Britain, France, and Spain are also on the list.
France and Spain join Italy, Mexico, India, Australia, and New Zealand as the seven new countries represented by the latest group of Alexa Champions. The Alexa developer communities in those countries are still relatively small and young, which means the Alexa Champions could make a lasting impression. They can also help build out those communities, drawing attention to unfilled voice app market niches.
“Being a part of the Alexa dev community in Europe is both exciting and challenging,” new Alexa Champion and Algolia voice search lead Dustin Coates told Voicebot in an interview. “I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are more people who call themselves voice developers in San Francisco than you would in the entirety of France. Still, that smallness is refreshing. Far from Seattle, a community in a country like France can have a bigger say in its own growth. Who is an Alexa developer in France, and what’s right for French Alexa Skills are still questions that need answers, and the community will determine that together.”
“Even though Amazon Alexa is approximately two years younger in Canada compared to our counterparts in the United States, the Canadian voice first community is incredibly vibrant and engaged,” Voice in Canada host Teri Fisher told Voicebot in an interview. “There isn’t almost a single day that goes by when I do not get questions from our community about how they can leverage Alexa to do more, be more efficient, or simply entertain. Developers: there is a huge opportunity in Canada for you and consumers are eagerly awaiting these skills!”