How Arianne Walker Used Her Passion to Become Chief Evangelist at Alexa Automotive

'Everything that we do at Amazon is about being customer-obsessed'

While Arianne Walker has always lived life passion-first, her career started in a different lane.
Headshot of Ronan Shields

Arianne Walker has a big title at Alexa Automotive: chief evangelist. And she thinks big when it comes to taking the online giant’s vision to the road.

Walker liaisons with stakeholders, listening to their perspectives on the automotive industry’s biggest challenges before explaining the role that voice-led technology can play in its development and how Alexa Auto can make customers’ lives “more delightful in the car.”

“Alexa has been around for several years now, but it wasn’t until recently that we began to make her available in more places,” she said. “Everything that we do at Amazon is about being customer-obsessed, so one part of my job is to ensure we’re meeting—and exceeding—customer expectations for voice in the vehicle.”

That’s right: Walker is, indeed, an evangelist for voice. But while she has always lived life passion-first, her career started in a different lane. After earning her doctorate in higher education and organizational change from UCLA, she started out working with deaf students before moving to J.D. Power in digital automotive marketing. From there, she led automotive industry strategy at Oracle Data Cloud until shifting into her current role at Amazon.

Walker said her grounding in research and data made her “a good fit for Amazon in general,” and her 15 combined years of making presentations at Oracle Data Cloud and J.D. Power helped her cut her teeth as an evangelist. Her current role involves adopting an expansive mindset: one that has helped broaden her career from academia to tech and voice.

“Of course, it helps to understand the complexity of what you’re discussing, and my previous experiences—especially at Oracle—helped me wrap my head around the hard machine learning, artificial intelligence and speech science work that goes into Alexa,” she added.

Using behavioral and traditional survey data, then applying such learnings on how to prepare for industry changes, is a technique she hopes to carry through to the closing days of her career.

“If you really think that all you ever needed to know you learned in [school], you will be sorely disappointed,” she said. “Although it is worth maintaining those lessons … because they’re a great foundation.”

Big Mistake

As an academic with grounding in data-led decision-making, “waiting too long to get data to make a decision” has led her to spend too much time and money in the wrong place, she warned.

Lesson Learned

“The world continues to move faster and faster, and I learned the hard way that I couldn’t always wait for solid data to make a decision,” Walker explained. … “[It] made me a better fit for the ever-changing digital media landscape—and for my current role in a company that moves fast by balancing information with intuition.” 

Pro Tip

“Keep expanding your skills and your knowledge, and don’t be afraid of change—embrace it,” Walker advised.

This story first appeared in the November 26, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@ronan_shields ronan.shields@adweek.com Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.
Publish date: November 26, 2018 https://dev.adweek.com/creativity/how-arianne-walker-used-her-passion-to-become-chief-evangelist-at-alexa-automotive/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT