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Why I Pivoted from 8 Years at a Hedge Fund to Becoming a Voice Industry Expert

4min read
Career

Being an expert in the voice space wasn't always my calling - I was previously in the finance world as Senior Vice President and Head of Corporate Strategy at a global alternative investment firm where I spent eight years.


I had been on the sidelines of emerging tech for many years because my husband is in the tech space, and I saw a huge opportunity in the voice industry. I believe it's the next frontier in tech and will be as important as web and mobile and as a way we interact with technology -- after all, speaking is the most natural way that we communicate. Voice is one of the fastest adopted technologies ever -- just 5 years after Amazon first introduced the Echo in 2014, 1 out of 4 adults in the US has a smart speaker. It's also on the cusp of a huge wave of monetization as smart displays with screens get in the hands of more consumers. Voice commerce is where mobile commerce was, not that long ago!

As a consumer, I also noticed the disconnect between, on the one hand, the fast adoption and remarkable capabilities of smart speakers with built-in voice assistants like Alexa, and on the other hand, how people were using their smart speakers. Half of smart speaker owners have never even tried a third party voice app (that's like saying half of iPhone owners have never downloaded an app from the App Store).

It was clear to me that the millions of people with Alexa in their homes are not unlocking the full potential of Alexa and other voice technologies -- and that they needed a trusted third party resource to help guide them. That's why I started VoiceBrew as the first-ever digital media company fully dedicated to helping people get the most out of Alexa. We're a one-stop shop for everything you need to know to get the most out of Alexa.

VoiceBrew offers comprehensive guides on a range of Alexa features and devices, advice for users, and a variety of simple and insightful tips & tricks for unlocking Amazon Alexa's full potential - and it's a great resource for busy female professionals.

Here are VoiceBrew's tips on 4 easy ways Alexa can help boost productivity:

#1. Alexa flash briefings provide your daily news in just a few minutes

Why?

If you find that your mornings are crunched for time, but still want to hear the latest news before starting your day, you'll love listening to your Alexa flash briefing.

Alexa flash briefings are short, 2-4 minute clips from your favorite news sources. Whether you prefer to listen to NPR, BBC or even your local TV station, there are thousands of briefings to choose from! And since the clips are so short, you can easily enjoy a few as you go through your morning routine.

How?

You can easily start listening to flash briefings with one minute or less of set-up.

To add your favorite news sources' flash briefings to your personal flash briefing list: Open your Alexa app, tap the hamburger icon in the upper left corner > tap "Settings" > (scroll down and) tap "Flash Briefing" > tap "Add Content" > search for a flash briefing by tapping the magnifying glass in the top right corner > tap "Enable to Use" > repeat for additional briefings.

To listen: Just say "Alexa, play my news" to hear your daily briefing.

#2. Linking your calendar to Alexa enables hands-free time management

Why?

Need to add a new event to your calendar? Put your phone down and give hands-free a try! Gone are the days of picking up your phone, opening the calendar app, creating a new event… you get the idea. Alexa integrates with all popular calendars, making it easier than ever to hear your daily schedule or even create an event.

How?

To link your calendar to Alexa: Open your Alexa app, tap the hamburger icon in the upper left corner > tap "Settings" > (scroll down and) tap "Calendar & Email" > tap "Add Account" > tap your calendar service name (Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc.) > toggle "Calendar" on > tap "Connect Account" button > follow simple linking instructions.

To get or add calendar info: For a birds-eye view of your schedule, ask "Alexa, what's on my schedule today?" And the next time you need to schedule an event, just say "Alexa, schedule (appointment name like lunch with Kathy) on (date) at (time)."

#3. Let Alexa guide you through a five-minute workout

Why?

Crunched for time, and finding it hard to sneak in even a short workout? Alexa can help. Whenever you're ready for a small burst of activity, use Alexa's Five Minute Workout skill for five minutes of fat-burning fun.

The best part? These exercises can be done in a small area, making it perfect for a 3pm pick-me-up at the office — or even a morning workout in your hotel room when you're traveling (you can always access Alexa via the Alexa app on your phone).

How?

To enable the skill, tap/click here > tap/click the "Enable" button.

To get started with your workout, just say "Alexa, open five-minute workout."

Pro Tip

When you're ready to step it up a notch, set an automatic Alexa reminder by saying "Alexa, remind me to exercise every day at 3 pm."

#4. Calm your mind and increase focus with a meditation led by Alexa

Why?

Exercising the mind is as important as exercising the body. Research has shown that meditation can help you make smarter choices and increase your ability to focus by 14%. Even a short meditation equal to the time it takes to grab your afternoon coffee can work wonders.

And if you're new to meditation, don't worry: the Headspace Alexa skill has everything you need to get started. The first time you use it, Alexa will walk you through a brief demo to bring you up to speed.

How?

To enable Headspace, tap/click here > tap/click the "Enable" button.

Then, just say "Alexa, open Headspace" to get started.

Pro Tip

To unlock more meditations, create a Headspace account (or connect an existing account by following Alexa's prompts).

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
4min read
Business

Kegs, Cans And Sustainability: How These Women Are Making Billions In The Wine Industry

Universally loved, and, (especially at this time of year) drunk merrily and in excess, wine is the answer to much if not all our prayers, on a regular basis.


The wine industry also happens to be home to some major female leaders, and it's become apparent, that the barriers to entry women face in almost every other industry don't apply here, as long as you've the work ethic and brains behind your operation.

"This is a people's business," says Delia Vader, CEO of Viader Wines, who's vehement about the gender neutrality of the wine industry, and hopeful for it's future, (even with the hefty factors of global warming, and recent wildfires, contending with the grape-producing vines).

Naturally, we were all too excited to sit down with five leaders in the industry working throughout the globe, that are innovating and shaping the future vintages from California to Italy and beyond. Below are five such women, ranging from vineyard to store owners, and one woman who's completely shifting the way we think about wine consumption.

Francesca Planeta

Francesca Planeta, Wine Director, Planeta Wines

Francesca Planeta has been a rising star on the Sicilian wine scene for the last few years. Planeta is devoted not only to promoting her own vineyard, but promoting all the wines of Italy's largest island, which is most famous for the wonderful, Nero D'Avola.

Sicily's wine scene veritably boomed around Planeta as she was growing up. So when she finally began working on the Planeta Wines vineyard in her early twenties, she quickly learned the nuances of the land and the grapes she would ultimately come to produce. “I had begun to help out at the winery, using a graphics studio to create the logo and the first labels, and then I returned to Sicily, during the time of that first harvest. (This) was the moment when I decided that I would take on the challenge of working with the business that bore our family name."

Given that the business was family owned, Planeta did not encounter any barriers to entry because of her gender, but instead made sure that women are integral to the process on the vineyard. “Women have a fundamental role in our business," says the winemaker. “They are entrusted with many responsible positions; from wine making to directing exports and from the hotels to the entire marketing and communications office."

A worrying factor for both Planeta and the women at the vineyard however is global warming, something which has plagued wineries across the globe in recent years. Given that the taste and production of wine depends heavily on its “terroir" (or, surroundings), changes in environment are immediately a factor for anyone in the industry to consider when its coming to harvest season. “It generally seems to us that global warming presents not only a problem of warming in itself," she comments. “But in extremes of weather phenomena, with heavier rainfall – when it occurs, and rather longer periods of drought. (However), living and working in the centre of the Mediterranean gives us better conditions and the last twenty years have shown greater climatic stability."

Selling upwards of 2.3M bottles of wine a year, her chief markets (apart from Italy), are the United States, Germany, England, and Russia, followed by Canada, Switzerland and Japan. And she recommends that for the chillier months, if you're drinking a Sicilian wine, to go for Merlot, Syrah, or Burdese.

Delia Viader, CEO, Viader Wines

Argentinian-born Delia Viader was in the midst of an M.I.T degree, with three children at home, when an opportunity arose to purchase a vineyard in Napa Valley. “The timing was perfect for relocating my very young family," she says, who quickly got to grips with their new surroundings as their mother began constructing a powerhouse wine team to launch Viader Wines.

It hasn't always been easy for Viader and her team however. Before the financial crash of 2008, Viader was sold in every state throughout the U.S, and exported to 24 countries abroad. Since the crash, and an arsonist fire at a warehouse of theirs containing the entire 2003 vintage, they've changed their business model drastically. Now, they sell 90 percent of their collections direct-to-consumer, with the remaining 10 percent sent abroad or to the bigger markets of New York, California and Texas.

She has also become naturally concerned by the Californian wildfires of late, and their threat to both the vines, and the warehouses where the barrels are kept. “The biggest impact on our vineyard has been the change of weather pattern we have been experiencing for the past 35 years that we can speak of," says the CEO. “We are learning a lot about how resilient affected vines can be, and how wine made from those grapes needs to be processed to perhaps reshape stylistic performance of the resulting wine. The winegrowers as an industry will be learning a lot from this."

Delia Viader

Learning and innovating are at the core of Viader's vineyards, where her son, Alan is championing new ways to irrigate their 92-acres of land, and fine tuning an understanding of “the exact optimal time to harvest at each vines' peak ripeness." And while she may be the CEO, she heavily depends on him for his expertise and blending capabilities. “I am the owner and CEO but I call myself the wine mother because I am the mother of the vines (I had them planted myself, my way); the mother of the wine (I 'created' our Cabernet-based wine to be highly influenced by the terroir with a high dose of Cab franc and remain, highly influential at the final assemblage-blend); and I am the mother of the winemaker, my son Alan Viader."

What is Viader most likely to be drinking at this moment? “I am very susceptible to a vibrant Pinot Noir from Burgundy most times," she says. “But my choice really depends on two variables: the food I am going to have and the company, the people I am going to share that bottle of wine with. I love harmony in the wine, the food pairing and the conviviality that springs from sharing a great wine."

Julia Jackson

Julia Jackson, Propietor, Jackson Family Wines

As one of the largest family-run wine groups in the U.S, The Jackson Family has garnered quite a name for itself. Leading the way within the group is Julia Jackson, daughter of mother Barbara Banke and Jess Jackson who built the group up from the ground, which is now worth an estimated $2.3 billion.

Today, their portfolio boasts wines from 52 wineries throughout the world, and integral to that is building relationships from within and amalgamating abroad. For Jackson, that means working in almost every facet of the business in order to cover all the projects she wishes to pursue. “I wear a few hats in my family business," she comments. “I'm spearheading my first acquisition project in another country, (and) I work with our international sales team to be one of the faces for Jackson Family Wines." On top of this, she's also involved with the group's environmental and philanthropic efforts, which, given the wildfire situation in California, will be work much needed in the years to come. “All my philanthropic efforts are focused around our environment and I created a charitable program that gives grants to women within the eco-space through our Santa Maria based winery Cambria."

Jackson's favorite wine at this time of the year? Gran Moraine from Willamette Valley Oregon.

Hortense Bernard, General Manager, Millesima Wines

Hortense Bernard was working with global industry leaders Moet Hennessy Diageo in Paris as a brand manager before she made her big move to the U.S. Now, she stands as one of the youngest female General Managers in the world of a large international firm, atop the Millesima USA group.

Millesima, a leading retailer in Europe, who branched into he U.S in 2006, owns upwards of 2.5M bottles of fine wine that are housed in the company's cellars in Bordeaux, France, (which is also the largest AOC vineyard in the country).

Bernard, who had her first glass of wine at eight years old, works primarily with direct-to-consumer retail and educating the U.S market about Bordeaux wines from their shop on the Upper East Side here in New York. "My goal is to educate as much as I can," she says. "In store, we speak about Bordeaux, and try to explain (because Bordeaux wine can be really complex), the wine."

"When I arrived here, I didn't know anything about American consumption," she laughs. "So it took me quite a bit to learn about it and understand how Americans see wines, and what they mean when the ask for a Chardonnay."

On top of chatting with customers, Bernard plays host to a lot of cultural events throughout the city, accompanying her wines whenever there might be a chance to express the history and significance of the wine for both France, and the industry at large.

So naturally, when asked what she'll be drinking on the celebratory occasions of December, it will be a big full-bodied Bordeaux " because that always takes me back (home)."

Hortense Bernard

Marian Leitner, Founder, Archer Roose

Once it dawned on Marian Leitner that Millennials were drinking more wine than beer, she saw an opportunity to modernise the way we purchase, consume and enjoy wine.

"In the U.S, you actually pay more for the shipping and the packaging than you do for the wine itself," says Leitner. "So I started to ask why and learn more about the alternative packaging market."

Branching away from bottles, Leitner looked to packaging wine in every way beer is packaged - from cans and kegs, and then also, in boxes.

"You have to separate consumers into two buckets - the super high-end collectors, who make up less than 1 percent of the population, and then you have people who are drinking, "value" wines. And then the rest of America are basically beer drinkers."

Upon the realization that Millennial wine drinkers are more than beer drinkers, she also came to understand that they're also very brand-loyal. Brands that represent qualities and values they share, are the ones they're consuming the most. "So we decided to leverage the alternative packaging movement (which is keg, can and box), to cut through all the noise of the bottles in the wine store, and really connect with consumers." In doing so, she launched the company, Archer Roose Wines.

This move means, that apart from the ultra-hip way the wine is presented, you're also economizing. One box of Archer Roose wine contains the equivalent of 4 regular bottles. And inevitably, the kegs contain a huge volume.

Wine kegger, anyone?