Catch-up with Syndeo CTO – Alan BeckElaine Armstrong
This week I took some time out to speak with our very own CTO, Alan Beck. As a relative Syndeo newbie I wanted to learn about what has led him to his current role, find out more about his management style and what attributes are important to him in a team member. I also quizzed him on his vision for the Syndeo AI and digital messaging platform and what excites him about his work now and in the future.
It is amazing what you can find out over a virtual coffee and a chat. It is good to talk. Thanks Alan!
Q: Tell me a bit about your background and what has led you to your current role.
A: My childhood career aspirations were to be either a Game Designer, a Scientist or a WWF Wrestler. The third option was ruled out whenever my favourite teddy bear didn’t survive a triple reverse inverse suplex off the top rope. Computers and gaming have interested me since my first Commodore 64 when I was around 5, so I always knew I was going to do something computer related. I had a real interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) from a gaming perspective and wanted to create AI that was able to emulate human behaviour, something which I wrote my dissertation on while studying my Master’s in Computer Science at Queen’s University Belfast. After graduating I started out my career as a Trainee Software Developer at Kainos, one of my first projects there saw me working on face recognition prototypes. Following my time at Kainos I then moved on to SpeechStorm where I worked as Technical Architect and Product Architect developing Interactive Voice Response (IVR) software. This really opened up my experience in the development of Customer Experience (CX) technologies. Global CX software company, Genesys acquired SpeechStorm in 2015 and I worked with them as Senior Development Manager right up until co-founding Syndeo. It was the perfect career move for me given my interest in AI and I could work on emulating human behaviour as applied to bots. AI was also exploding with possibilities in the background at the time too and still is!
Q: Talk me through a typical working day for you.
A: My work varies from low level to high level activities. I’m involved in standard agile scrum work, stand-ups and managing the development team, and carry out code reviews in keeping with quality assurance processes. I do architectural work to continually improve reliability, scalability and all those wholesome things on the Syndeo conversational AI platform as well as constantly looking at emerging technologies, algorithms and methodologies to either improve the product technically or our way of working. I’m also responsible for the platform roadmap and reviewing how the product can be enhanced and applied to other industries. For example, I am currently looking at how we can leverage our software platform to help people adapt to virtual learning in a way that ensures the best possible levels of mental health and wellbeing. As Syndeo is also a provider of CX consulting services, it is not unusual for me to be engaging technically with many of these customers as well.
Q: Syndeo is expanding its team right now. What attributes or skills do you look for in a team member and how would you describe your management style?
A: It goes without saying that we are looking for people who meet the criteria on the job specifications we put out. However, for me a candidate who is enthusiastic about the problem domain they will be working with will stand out above someone with the same skill set. From experience they tend to be more creative, more productive and are generally more enjoyable to work with.
I believe strongly in the power of brainstorming and empowering my team to get the job done. I like to create an environment where people can share their ideas freely and know that their opinions are valued and will be considered. This is absolutely key to facilitating innovation.
Q: What excites you about your work now and in the future?
A: There are many aspects to get excited about in this space. I get excited about how we can use our technology and expertise to help drive efficiency and improve CX in businesses of all sizes from small enterprises right up to the world’s largest provider of credit card services. It’s personally very fulfilling to work on creating a product that supports mental health and wellbeing. Having the opportunity to make someone’s life better and to genuinely help them is fantastic. I’m really looking forward to launching our wellbeing product in the coming months.
Text generation AI excites me. At the minute, our AI works off curated messaging and uses our AI to know how to navigate these conversations with the user. Whereas generative text AI can formulate sentences dynamically from training data. The possibilities for very bespoke and natural conversations are endless, but at the same time there are huge risks with this in saying something very inappropriate. However, a future whereby this approach is viable in real world settings is very exciting indeed.
Q: Can you summarise your vision for the Syndeo platform?
A: I want to make AI accessible to all and to ensure that crafting conversational experiences is as easy and intuitive as possible.
Interviewed by: Elaine Armstrong
Syndeo is currently recruiting, for more information on vacancies visit – https://syndeo.cx/careers/