Plan P: Explaining jobs in digital industries to the parents

Anna Evangelia Muntzos, dialogue architect at ‘deep white’

by Natascha Zeljko

In LinkedIn's 2015 global study, more than half of the parents surveyed said they aren't very familiar with what their child does for a job. One in three parents even said they don't understand what their children do for a living at all. That's why we started this new series – explaining jobs in digital industries to the parents.

What does a dialogue architect do?

My mother always thinks she doesn’t understand exactly what I’m doing. Well, then I’d best use a concrete example to illustrate this: A customer comes to us and wants to have a chatbot to improve his sales processes or present his services. My task is to first find out what exactly this chatbot should be used for in detail. In a second step, I think about his identity. One must not underestimate: Anyone who communicates with a bot builds relationships in some way. As soon as we speak, certain emotional reactions take place. That’s why the identity of the chatbot is so important. These include questions like: Should it be a male or female bot? Should gender clichés be used? Like technology: man, services: woman – or could it be consciously broken down. There is also the possibility of circumventing this and using a neutral chatbot. In addition to the question of gender, the question of age is also important. You have to know that everything that has to do with technology is prone to errors. If you use a “younger bot”, users will forgive this bot more quickly. These psychological processes are universal; they also apply to human-machine communication. It is important to me to deal with them transparently. Humans should know and understand that they interact with a robot and not with a human. Ethics and morality are essential in this context.

The next question is: What is the character of this bot? Does it speak formally or casually to customers? And I think about his biography. Because these questions always come: Do you want to marry me? Who are your parents? How old are you? I think about all that. And when it comes to the conception of the actual dialogue, I consider: How do people communicate with each other on this subject? I take a piece of paper and write down a prototypical dialogue. I consider: What are the questions and answers that my bot has to understand and be able to answer? I often test this with other people to see which questions are asked at all. I also make sure that there is a certain variance, that there is not always the same answer and the same sentence. And in this context, the topic of corporate culture flows in. That’s important. Because the way I communicate as a company conveys certain values. And of course this can also be used well by programming the chatbot in such a way that it matches the identity of the company.

How long such a process takes depends on the complexity of the topic. With a pizza delivery service, for example, this is fairly straightforward. A first test version can be scribbled within two hours. The final work is basically never finished because the technology behind it is a self-learning process and is constantly evolving. The question simply arises: Where do I put the end, because a certain susceptibility to errors and error rate always remains. And technology also (still) has its limits: The chatbot cannot react to everything. At the latest when sarcasm or irony comes into play, it is overtaxed.

It is about the interplay of sociological, psychological, cultural and communicative aspects. As a humanities scholar, you are excellently suited for these tasks.

So you can say: The dialogue architect is the one who thinks about the language of a messenger. She gives him an identity and thinks about how and with which target group and what is being talked about. It is about the interplay of sociological, psychological, cultural and communicative aspects. As a humanities scholar, you are excellently suited for these tasks. The Solutions Architect, on the other hand, takes care of the technology and needs completely different skills.

My second major area of responsibility is corporate culture. We consider the anchoring of strategic topics and measure the impact of corporate culture on the success of a company. I conduct employee surveys, evaluate them and create options for action. Ideally, before programming a chatbot, a client should first create a cultural analysis. Especially with digital topics there are reservations and fears within the staff. Worst case scenarios are conjured up, the introduction of chatbots nourishes reservations in the direction of: robots replace humans. That’s why it’s important to take these concerns seriously and address them in advance.

My entry into the digital industries

After graduating from high school, I started an apprenticeship as a marketing communications specialist. I quickly realized that this was not for me. I dropped out and started studying German, Cultural Anthropology and Political Science. And, of course, I had to constantly listen to myself that this was breadless art, that is, driving a perspective taxi. I got my job by chance. After her studies, my sister started working for an IT consultancy and took me to the company’s summer party. There I met my current boss and talked to him about my studies with beer and bratwurst and what you could do with it. I told him that cultural anthropologists in English-speaking countries work for management consultancies as a matter of course. Because our specialization, our knowledge of everyday culture and communication, is becoming more and more important. To make a long story short: He offered me a position as a student trainee in classical marketing. When he founded his second company, deep white, I went along with him and built the new company from scratch.

Jobs in digital industries for humanities scholars?

There is still a lack of knowledge about what can be done in the technical field – even without a technical background. There are so many interesting jobs for humanities scholars. These soft skills are enormously important – and are becoming increasingly important.

I’ve understood in the meantime: The way of thinking that I learned during my studies distinguishes the humanities scientist from other disciplines. It is important to me to pass on this experience. There is so much to get. There are so many occupational fields that we don’t even have on our screens or that we don’t even know yet. And there is also a lack of female role models – especially for technical jobs. We just had a workshop at a school in Düsseldorf, where all who took part in the course on chatbots were boys again. That’s a pity, because they don’t see what they’re missing. There should no longer be these classic boys’ and girls’ professions – these professions are there for everyone. And everyone brings their own strengths and skills. I want to encourage and give women a voice in a male-dominated world; I want to show what exciting occupational fields there are in the context of AI.

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