Matt Muldoon of ReadSpeaker: “The workday never ends”

The workday never ends. As an overachiever, I struggled with work/life balances in my career. Early on in my career, late nights in the office quickly became the norm. I have found great success in “chunking” time, like the methods behind agile scrum environments. This isn’t to say that I don’t have any more late […]

Thrive Global invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive Global or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

The workday never ends. As an overachiever, I struggled with work/life balances in my career. Early on in my career, late nights in the office quickly became the norm. I have found great success in “chunking” time, like the methods behind agile scrum environments. This isn’t to say that I don’t have any more late nights working at the office, but I have learned that it is okay to step away to take time with colleagues and family to enjoy life. In doing this, I have found myself to be more energetic and more importantly, be more creative. With the recent pandemic and the shift to working remotely, this practice has become much easier.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Muldoon.

Matt Muldoon is a technology solutions leader focused on growth through innovative technologies. He has worked closely with companies across industries to advance them into the latest technology and platforms in delivering their products to market. For the last 12 years, his work focused on building two successful SaaS technology companies, FSE, Inc, and Syndigo, that focused delivering innovative data supply chain solutions. Matt works to enable delivery of industry and customer specific solutions through a keen understanding clients’ needs and managing process to ensure successful results. Internally, he focuses on delivering value through motivating, managing, and developing efficient teams and skilled employees. Matt is a certified Six-Sigma Black Belt. He has served on global data standards and healthcare, food service, and retail distribution industry boards.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thanks for having me! Prior to my role at ReadSpeaker, I spent 12 years in a B2B data/eCommerce role. In that role, I started to see consumer habits shift from making in-store purchases, to ordering products through desktop computers and laptops, before moving again to tablets and mobile. After this final shift, I spent the last 4–5 years building out e-commerce strategies for brands and began noticing how voice was being used in how consumers were researching and purchasing items. For example, more people were switching from typing their searches to instead speaking into whatever device they were using. Realizing that voice was going to become the future, I joined the ReadSpeaker team to help companies recognize how voice can be used to increase customer loyalty and develop deeper relationships with consumers.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Throughout my career, I’ve learned that it’s okay to be first and to be wrong. At the start of my career, I would work on a new product or a product update and wait until it was completely done, before bringing a product to market. However, when following this approach, I found that someone else would beat me to releasing the product or product update. Now, I’ve realized that it’s better to be first when issuing a new solution, and through the journey of working on a project, finetune it in real time.

That said, while products can be finetuned, the details in the data — no matter the industry — are critical in everything you do. If the data is incorrect, it can delay product rollouts or frustrate customers. I try to encourage my team members to look at all of the details and attributes in the data to ensure our success right from the start.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

From a natural language processing perspective, Deep Neural Network (DNN) engines are new and are making a difference in how people leverage text-to-speech technologies. These engines help companies develop user-centric, expressive voice interfaces quickly that capture various aspects of voice — including speaking style, dialect and gender. With companies harnessing the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI), we are seeing a surge for high quality voices. In the last year, that need has shifted to become a personalized or specific voice to the company. Some companies are using celebrities as the voice of the brand, while others are leveraging ReadSpeaker capabilities to create unique voices that speak to their values. So, whether it be a paid voice actor, spokesperson or celebrity, the paradigm shift is occurring.

Although DNN engines improve the quality of digital voices, it remains to be seen how this breakthrough will help people.

How do you think this might change the world?

From a DNN perspective, digital voices are already changing: the words and language the voice uses, and the voice nuances are that much crisper, and the robotic sounds found in early voice assistants are gone. If you think about your experience with contacting a call center, the voice guiding you through the menu option sounds rehearsed and mechanical. With DNN voices, there are emotional tenses in the voices, which is a huge game changer — they help foster a connection between the company and the person calling in. With call centers using digital voices, sometimes the voices are so lifelike that people don’t realize that they’re talking to a machine and think they’re speaking to a person. These technological advancements improve efficiency from a voice perspective because customers and prospects will be more inclined to continue the conversation to get their issues resolved if they aren’t frustrated by limited automated response options.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

One thing that we find is that people rush to get content out, but they don’t look at the quality of the content. This leads to customer frustrations and in some cases, inaccessibility issues, where a certain voice may not work for different demographics. For this reason, I think we’ll start to see more companies investing in custom voices, instead of using standard voices (i.e., the voices that are automatically programmed into voice assistants), to ensure that members of every demographic within their target audience can understand and interact with the voice the brand is using.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

On a personal note, there are two instances that I can think of that drove me to move into the voice space. A few years ago, I went to a conference in Las Vegas and noticed that the hotel room came equipped with a voice assistant, which made it easy for me to make reservations at the hotel restaurant without needing to call the concierge or pull out my phone and go through the restaurant’s website. Around the same time, I bought a new car that came with a voice assistant built in. Although most cars now have Bluetooth technology built in, this car had a real voice assistant, which was a game changer for me.

Based on what we’ve seen with COVID-19, voice technology is the future. In the past, people didn’t think twice about pressing a keypad at an ATM or in a checkout line but now, consumers are wary of touching physical surfaces and have requested that voice be an option to complete tasks. COVID-19 has shown that consumers want voice interactions, and companies have stepped up to create voice-enabled interactions to meet these demands.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We’re currently living in the age of voice adoption. In order to create more widespread adoption, you have to look at the innovators who first took a chance on voice tech and have them help others realize the potential that voice technology has, both in everyday and professional usages. As more people use voice, more brands will be looking for a way to stand out from the competition. Custom voices that speak to and represent a company’s brand to their target audience will be key to driving widespread adoption, as they can foster wider brand recognition and drive greater customer loyalty.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

At ReadSpeaker, we rely on our customers and partners to tell us what’s working with custom voice, what needs improvement and input they may have on product ideas. Our clients are driving us to further enhance voice technology, which helps us continually innovate and ensure that our customers have access to the latest solutions. And, by relying on our partners to get our voice technology to the right market, we can publicize the benefits of voice to an expanded customer base.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Over my career, I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many terrific mentors who have helped me be successful both personally and professionally. The conversations that I’ve had in mentoring relationships have focused on always being innovative and having an entrepreneurial mindset, which helped me make the choice to pivot my career to the voice tech space. Having excellent mentors has also helped become a mentor to several people. Giving back and investing time in someone’s career is such a rewarding experience. I continue to learn from mentorships and pay it forward at the same time.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Since ReadSpeaker was founded more than 20 years ago, our mission has been to provide technology for those who have disabilities, such as blindness, or learning impairments, such as dyslexia. Our goal is to bridge the learning gap so that everyone has an equal playing field when it comes to accessing information. We pride ourselves in our work with the K-12 and higher education industries to provide every student with equal access education opportunities.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

The workday never ends. As an overachiever, I struggled with work/life balances in my career. Early on in my career, late nights in the office quickly became the norm. I have found great success in “chunking” time, like the methods behind agile scrum environments. This isn’t to say that I don’t have any more late nights working at the office, but I have learned that it is okay to step away to take time with colleagues and family to enjoy life. In doing this, I have found myself to be more energetic and more importantly, be more creative. With the recent pandemic and the shift to working remotely, this practice has become much easier.

Perfection is subjective. I believe we all strive for perfection and work hard to achieve it. I learned some hard lessons early on in my career striving for perfection on a project, during which I spent an enormous amount of time on some details that were overall insignificant to the greater project.

Always take the risk. Being too concerned with the “what if’s” will not get you anywhere. If I could go back, there are some “risks” that I wish I had executed on. Instead, I was more concerned with my fiduciary responsibilities to the organization.

Provide real-time constructive criticism. Being able to provide feedback that may not be greatly accepted by the audience or individual person is and can be challenging. I have found by providing on-the-spot/real-time feedback helps team members grow and learn. In addition, providing feedback in the moment makes rework easier, and often prevents the behavior from reoccurring.

Set stretch goals. As human beings, we all live to push ourselves to perform at our best potential. Setting goals in general is in our DNA (or at least mine!). By going the extra mile and developing stretch goals with the team sets clear expectations. By setting stretch goals, the team is more creative and feels aa level of adrenaline that is both exciting and admirable. At the end of the day, who does not want to succeed and knowing that you contributed to the stretch goal? With a little bit of hard work and energy, the team is energized and inspired to meet these goals.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

On a professional level, I want to inspire my team to be accountable and responsible for everything that they do to ensure that we’re able to serve our customers and partners in the best way possible. By creating a tidal wave effect of accountability and responsibility, we can create positive work for our customers and prospects.

On a more personal level, my daughters are two of my biggest inspirations. To help them learn that women can be great leaders in business, my wife and I have implemented something in our family called “Life and Business Lessons on the Golf Course,” during which my wife and I take our daughters to the golf course to talk about the importance of being vocal, standing up for themselves and teaching them leadership skills. We talk about how business can be conducted on the golf course and talk about how everyone can work towards becoming a better individual. With this in mind, I want to inspire young kids everywhere that they have the option to go into business if that’s something that they’re passionate about.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life” — Bill Gates

To me, this quote sums up the modern conveniences we all appreciate as part of our daily routines. Whether it be during work or enjoying time with family, knowing that technology is making life more enjoyable, safer, efficient and convenient is something I am grateful for and embrace.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

As voice technology continues to gain popularity, VCs should start taking a look at investing in emotional voice and AI in voice. As consumers become more comfortable leveraging voice technology, emotional voices allow companies to separate themselves from the competition and create more dynamic voices with which customers and prospects can interact. And, by backing AI in voice, companies can more quickly train and deploy voices to get them to market more quickly, helping to drive faster ROI.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter, or check out ReadSpeaker’s LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Kendra Niedziejko: “Words are important”

by Phil La Duke

Parenting During the Pandemic

by Don Antonucci
I used to have a bad habit of checking and answering my email and texts when I got out of bed at 6:00 in the morning. While doing that, I gulped, never savored or enjoyed, two cups of coffee.

The Eight O’ Clock Coffee Rule and Other Rules for a Balanced Life

by Kristen Houghton
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.