Women in Tech – Asking for Help?

I’m a girl geek and proud of it. So I decided to buy an Electronic personal assistant.

I embraced the palm pilot many years ago, wear a stylish Fitbit band, and loved my blackberry for many years. (Okay, many blackberries including 3 white models, many years, and long after the majority of the planet had given up their blackberry). The point is I enjoy personal technology devices and integrating them into my daily routines.

It was natural then, for me to purchase the Amazon Echo device.

I purchased it, set it up at home, played with it for a few hours, and then unplugged it.

I felt like I didn’t get it. I had a way to execute on everything it could do in a different way. And I decided to give it more thought, but didn’t expect to embrace this technology. And I didn’t really want to ask anyone for help.

Coincidentally, a few weeks later I was invited to a small event the President of Amazon Canada, Eric Gales, was hosting. I was conflicted. The event wasn’t to talk about the Echo (Alexa) device and I wanted to be respectful, but I felt like I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to talk about it. Serendipity of circumstance.

As a CIO, there can be a reluctance to say publicly “I don’t get it.” There is a technology being embraced and I understand technology. I wanted to enjoy it, but couldn’t figure out the value for me or my family. Why use it, how to use it, when to use it? I read about the uses – the smart home devices, the skills – and yet I couldn’t ‘feel it’.

After introductions and business talk, there was a moment I was standing alone with Eric. I took a breath, planned my question, and went for it. I told him I’d bought the device and couldn’t figure out how to embrace it.

I expected Eric to give me a corporate answer on the value of the device and a high level sales pitch. Instead, he took out his phone and showed me his personal set up for the devices in his home. As he described the skills and patterns his family uses, and the nighttime routine both he and his daughter have set up (that are different and yet complementary), it came to life for me.

Forget the technology for a minute. He was describing a family and their interactions and their habits and traditions. It was enlightening. It was educational. It was sweet.

I thanked him for his time and committed to him, and myself, to give it another try.

I did. I tried it and embraced it. I got the family involved. We now have multiple assistants, connected smart home devices, and we’ve created skills. But more importantly, we’ve enhanced our normal and silly family interactions with the technology.

It’s not really about the technology after all. It’s about the people. Thanks Eric for the perspective and the reminder.

I know this every day when I am working with technology in my job. I just forgot for a moment. So I encourage you to think about these personal assistants and wearable technologies in a different way. It’s not about turning up the heat, or locking the doors automatically, or turning on the light for your dogs if you are late getting home. While the devices can help with all of these scenarios, it’s really about interacting with your current and evolving family dynamics.

Ask Alexa to tell you a joke. Check your commute while putting on your shoes. Say thank you to Alexa and have her respond. (One of the things that amuses my husband in a way I don’t fully comprehend.)

And most of all, create or enhance your family traditions.

Girl geek. A quick reminder – don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.

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