Women in AI
Liliana Mantilla has a bit of unconventional advice for women who are convinced they want to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM): “Ignore whatever people say to you.”
Liliana is an IPsoft Cognitive Delivery Manager and an 18-year veteran of telecommunications company Telefónica. She says her uncompromising advice is a reaction to how she believes society responds to women who show an interest in STEM fields.
“This profession has traditionally been followed by men, and that’s why maybe your parents or closest friends tried to discourage you from pursuing this career,” she says. “Stereotypes are just opinions, not rules. If you are convinced this is your career, you should believe in yourself.”
In addition to maintaining a high level of confidence, Liliana says women must be willing to fight for their opinions and positions. “Be aware that developing a career in STEM means entering a world in which women are still a minority, and for which we must be prepared,” she explains. “That means you have to be ready to make [men] listen. It happened to me many times – there were times when I had to raise my voice to be [heard]. And I have to be prepared to not allow situations where my presence was downplayed.”
Liliana’s Start in Technology
Liliana never intended to pursue a career in technology. She studied economics in college and got a master’s degree in business administration in Spain. She held various positions at Telefónica, including human resources, marketing and management roles, but it wasn’t until she joined Telefónica Peru as a project and operations manager that she found herself immersed in technology — namely the implementation of IPsoft’s Amelia for contact center automation.
In September 2018, Telefónica Peru and IPsoft implemented Amelia to help the provider limit the number of calls transferred within its contact center to improve overall customer experience and reduce costs. Many customers were spending far too long navigating Telefónica’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, and when those customers were finally able to speak to a human agent, they were unlikely to resolve their issue without being transferred to yet another service representative.
Telefónica implemented Amelia as a voice-based customer service agent with 28 specific skills, including 18 end-to-end automated skills, and 10 skills that would require Amelia to route a call to an appropriate human agent. Amelia’s skills included solving a variety of customer queries including outstanding balances, invoice dates and payment methods. After several months of training and refinement, Telefónica deployed Amelia as a real-time live customer service rep. Now Amelia handles 100% of mobile phone traffic, and recognizes customer intent correctly on more than 90% of calls.
“Customer service AI is very relevant because it can improve the efficiency of the company’s service, and that means increased customer satisfaction,” Liliana says. “When I was at Telefónica, the decision to implement Amelia was to give our clients better treatment. With AI we could increase customer satisfaction by controlling all interactions with clients. Also, with AI we could have a full-time [24/7] operation. We could resolve the problems of the client faster with AI than with a human agent.”
AI’s Impact on Business and in Life
Liliana doesn’t view AI as just another customer service solution. She believes AI can serve a function in most aspects of business life — including HR, an area where she worked previously. “AI can help you with any field. If we can process a lot of data to determine the profile of a good worker, for example, you can compare the information of different candidates that are applying for a job. You can predict, in a more efficient and timely manner, if candidates would fit in the role,” she says.
Liliana eventually left Telefónica to start her own consultancy with the aim of helping to eliminate gender gaps in the corporate world. Today, she also serves as the head of the IPsoft office in Peru. She says she is always seeking qualified candidates who can help improve the work her team does for its clients. She sees it as her responsibility to specifically look out for women who can make an impact.
“Never forget that behind you there is a new generation of women trying to make a place in the world,” she says. “It’s important to remember that to make a career in technology costs you a bit, but the doors you open will help a lot of women to move forward and continue growing. That’s why it’s important to never lower our arms and always keep going, because our presence in the field of science and technology is much more important than sometimes we think.”