3 Things I Learnt From Building My First Chatbot

Dec 4, 2017

Few months back, I jumped on the chance to embark on one of the best (and most bizarre) adventures I’d had so far — working in a chatbot company (Rikai Labs) in Shanghai, China. I do not have a technical background, am not quite out of university, and was thrown into the deep end of my first real job (not to mention a tech startup!). It’s been a mega rollercoaster, but here are a few key thoughts I pieced together in between all the crazy times.

#1 Hold on to fear

I remember the first time I spoke to my boss in person — here’s the idea, here are the tools, now go build a chatbot. Part of me was afraid, but a bigger part of me was excited. I know nothing about chatbots, but I also know that you can’t be any worse — the only way to go is up. That was when I realised that you learn and grow in uncomfortable situations. I sometimes hate it. I mostly love it. Fear keeps you challenged. Fear keeps you alive.

Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.- Mark Twain

The top question I get from people since I started this job is people asking me how I entered the field of technology given my background. And… my response is that I just went for it. I’m so glad I did.

#2 Be Jack-of-all-trades, master of where-you-contributions-are-most-valued

Because the nature of startup is small, you can’t pick and choose the work to be done. Some days you just do. Take the chance, learn all of it, but absolutely identify your value proposition to the company, and be the expert at it.

I work on products, BD, and marketing all-in-one at Rikai Labs. Being hands-on both product and BD helped me to know what to sell when I’m out there talking to clients, and to know what I sold when building the product. Marketing is one way I create added value for my company.

My boss made me take the HBDI Test (a way to measure and describe thinking preferences) a few weeks ago and the interesting part for me was to learn how the most successful startups’ founders’ profiles had a variety of results. Different people contribute in their own ways, find out if what you can contribute is what the company needs, and vice versa.

#3 The job is never done.

If there is one thing I know about products, it will be that they are useless without users. What is your user journey like? How does your user personas look like? What problems are you trying to solve?

When you have a chatbot, you want to make sure that your product:

  • Is representative of your brand’s voice
  • Provides personal engagement
  • Sets expectations and acknowledges its limitations

This takes the understanding of business, people and technology, and if you have dabbled in any of the 3, you’d know that businesses develop, preferences change, and technology evolves. Nothing ever really stays the same, and there are always things to improve on. Finding the sweet spot is a lot like trying to balance on stacked wheels.

It’s all good for me, because it just means that everyday you learn and experiment a little bit more than yesterday ;)

Please drop me an email at regine@rikai.co if you’d like to chat about chatbots. Thanks for reading! 🥂✨