Conversational Chronicles | A Letter to my Younger Self

Conversational Chronicles: Letter to My Younger Self, by Julia Anderson

Julie Anderson

Conversational UI Writer

Dear Mini-Me,

Hello from the future - 18 years in the future, to be exact. Yes, it’s a long time and maybe even longer for you who has barely experienced a decade of life. A lot has changed since then. It’s true what they say - that time moves fast once you get older. But maybe that is because of the way technology makes things so instantaneous. As a designer who works with artificial intelligence, the speed at which machines ‘get things done’ these days is unbelievable.

Let me take a step back for a moment. I’m not here to tell you everything that’s happened these past few years because it will be more exciting to experience that yourself. But I am here to give you some advice that might help answer that famous question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” However, what I’m about to say might not ‘click’ until you have time to explore your interests and learn what makes you, you.

In its simplest form, my job is to make machines sound or act human. My official title of “conversation designer” is still something many people aren’t familiar with. This is just one of many challenges you’ll encounter on this journey. While you might be referred to as one thing, it might entail doing something different. For example, while I spend a lot of time thinking about how people use phones or devices that talk back (literally), I also write out what these conversations would sound like in an ideal interaction.

You’d also be surprised how much translation between an idea and reality is lost. As a designer, a lot of your job will be as the middleman between what the users, who are talking to AI, expect to happen vs. what the engineers or company on the other side think should happen. Lucky for you, a brief stint as a consultant (back when you didn’t know what to do with that Economics degree) helped with balancing psychological actualities with business priorities. 2020 was a weird time (you’ll see) that left me questioning what I really wanted out of a career. Consulting seemed far removed from the fascinating problems around how technology influenced social behaviors and vice versa. Many conversation designers found this profession after trying out something you wouldn’t expect.

Do you know that feeling of being in a sandbox where everything you create is in motion? That’s what it feels like to be a designer, and that’s part of the reason I love it. On the way to that sandbox, you’ll encounter a lot of structure, whether in school, jobs, or daily life. Don’t get me wrong, academics have a lot of value (do your homework!), but artificial intelligence wouldn’t be what it is today without unstructured time like brainstorming sessions, walks amongst nature, or experimentation that you do just for fun. Learn how to have a conversation and enjoy its dance. 

Teachers were my greatest inspiration throughout this journey. Of course, Dad will always be there to help you write, and Mom will give you a hand when you’re down, but the people who teach you about science, technology, and the arts will leave lasting impressions. Please pay attention in history class because what Mr. Cavanaugh says is ahead of its time. When you get to high school, Mrs. Gilbert will believe in your writing when nobody else does. And in college, Mr. Bess will teach you about a new reality, one that is the foundation of modern technology and civilization.

I don’t know what the future holds with technology that has seemingly done the impossible of bringing human sensibilities to a series of wires. Just as there were many trials and tribulations with the pioneers of AI, you will experience similar setbacks. Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t do the work of a man, because a woman, Ada Lovelace, was the one who invented modern computing back in the 1800s. You might need to do more to have people listen, especially in this male-dominated field. But once you have their attention, you will not only be given the chance to design for a major voice assistant but will mentor those who want their voice to be heard in this exciting field of conversational AI.

As cheesy as it sounds, your network is your net worth. That includes your family, friends, mentors, and colleagues who are part of your journey to success. Lean on them when you aren’t sure of your next move. You will feel pressure to keep up with this rapidly advancing technology when really the only person’s judgment and pace that matters is yours. Never stop learning, be kind, and stay curious. With that mentality, you will be unstoppable.

See you in the future,


Thank you to Julia Anderson for writing a letter to your younger self for Bot Jobs Conversational Chronicles.