A day in the life of… an AI language technician – Econsultancy

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Molly Elisha-Lambert is an AI language technician at Phrasee, a marketing platform that uses AI to create impactful email subject lines and social ad copy.

She has the fascinating job of programming language generation frameworks that will produce copy authentic to a client’s brand voice. Econsultancy caught up with her to find out how her role combines art with science, how she came to work with AI, and her favourite brand copy.

(For a wealth of facts and commentary about marketing careers and development, subscribers can download Econsultancy’s Career and Salary Report 2019).

Please describe your job: What do you do?

Phrasee empowers brands with AI-powered copywriting. This means a client can log into the platform, brief Phrasee on the type of language they need, and then generate multiple versions of human-sounding and brand-compliant copy in just a few minutes.

My role within this is to build language generation frameworks for each client, programming in a client’s voice and the necessary vocabulary. I manage and train the rest of my team and ensure everyone’s using our internal systems properly.

Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?

I oversee the language team and I work really closely with the client success and development teams, reporting to the VP of Customer Success.

What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

An innate understanding of language and how it works, as well as an enthusiastic (read: nerdy) interest in its nuances. Due to the computational side of the job it really helps to be a logical thinker and problem solver; it’s a good job for puzzle lovers.

However, verbal and diplomatic skills are also pretty important, as I liaise with other departments and head up my team (and you can’t communicate in crosswords!)

Tell us about a typical working day…

My job is a bit of a juxtaposition of science and art. So, one moment I will be exploring the complex technology of the ‘Phrasee Brain’ or having a heated debate over the intricacies of grammar and the next I could be delving into a client’s tone of voice.

I get to work with cutting-edge technology that didn’t exist three years ago, which means we are always looking for new efficient processes and ways to maximise our awesome clients’ digital marketing campaigns. And at the end of the day you might find me at rehearsals singing with our choir, the Phrasee Phonics!

What do you love about your job? What sucks?

Seeing the effects world-leading technology can have is really exciting. AI and machine learning may be the buzzwords of the moment, but when you see the results they generate you know the tech is much more than a fad.

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Also, something I don’t take for granted is that Phrasee is an awesome place to work – the people are a bit nuts (in a good way!) and everyone excels at their job and genuinely cares; together we have created something ground-breaking.

The hardest part of my role is probably explaining the complexity of the tech to different internal stakeholders. Our team has big imaginations, but there are boundaries with all technologies.

It can be very hard to know when something is never going to be possible, or when it’s something we just need to figure out a creative solution to. But as we’re a tight-knit organisation I’m usually able to work closely with the development and customer success teams and work towards a solution everyone is happy with.

What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

We get each client’s engagement results from all their tests. Whether it’s subject lines, push notifications or Facebook ads, our main goal as a team is to please the client when it comes to brand voice and get great results when it comes to engagement. So, we have two stakeholders – our clients and their customers – and our goal is to keep them all happy!

What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?

Along with the development team we’ve created bespoke, internal tools to make building and maintaining our NLG systems as efficient as possible. These tools do a range of things, including reports for debugging and evaluating the ‘quality’ of the language, but as they’re not something you can buy off the shelf we’re continuously working on them and developing more.

How did you end up at Phrasee, and where might you go from here?

I graduated from Queen Mary University of London in 2016 with a degree in Linguistics. Throughout school I had been really interested in the sciences, but also liked the more creative side of English and the arts. Basically, like many people, I had no clue what I wanted to do.

It wasn’t until I was at college that I even knew there was a subject that would marry my enjoyment of language and the analytical. The thing I most enjoyed about studying linguistics (and language in general), is that it’s so ubiquitous. Linguistics crosses over with pretty much every other discipline to some extent: sociology, maths and logic, history, physics (acoustics), anatomy and even neuroscience – it really is the subject for someone who wants to learn about everything.

I joined Phrasee just before my graduation, in 2016. Throughout my final year I had been following Phrasee’s development, since it posted a job that (very unusually) explicitly asked for my degree.

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The timing wasn’t right, as I still had my degree to finish but up until this point whenever I had told people what I studied, they had told me “you’re going to be a teacher.” I didn’t want to be a teacher. So, it was at that point I had decided to stalk Phrasee’s job page until something came up I could apply for. I started as a language technician as a graduate, and I’m now managing a growing team.

Favourite copywriting from the advertising and brand world?

My favourite copy comes from brands with a strong idea of their own tone of voice. A good example of this is Innocent, which goes against the modern advertising standard of being concise and easily digestible for the sake of developing an authentic personality and telling a story. You could read its copy separately from its products and because of its strong tone of voice you know exactly who is talking to you.

“Remember when your mum wouldn’t let you play out until you’d finished your peas? Being told to eat your greens was a bit of a pain, especially when there were go-carts and BMX’s in the world. That’s why we’ve made sure that drinking them is easy.”

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I also love a brand with a sense of humour; one language algorithm that was really fun to build was Domino’s – it’s packed full of pizza puns. It might be a little ‘cheesy’, but the more fun and flexible a brand is, the more creative we can be when building the language generation system.

Do you have any advice for graduates considering the world of marketing?

Some general advice for graduates would be: spend time finding a company you actually want to work for – this makes getting the job much easier as your enthusiasm shows through! Also, taking a risk working for a start-up means getting a greater breadth of experience as everyone has to muck in, and your responsibilities could grow very quickly.

When it comes to those interested in marketing, my advice would be that it’s becoming a much bigger industry, so you could be involved without being a marketer in the traditional sense. With the emergence of marketing technology there are so many diverse opportunities: analytics, tech, copy, all sorts!

If you’d like to feature in our Day in the Life series, get in touch!

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