Dheeraj Jalali Of Voices: How AI Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Understand how you can utilize AI/innovation to create a competitive advantage: Take a comprehensive look at your industry and identify opportunities where AI can drive innovation and efficiency. Whether it’s automating repetitive tasks, optimizing processes, or personalizing customer experiences, leveraging AI strategically can differentiate your business from competitors.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dheeraj Jalali.

Dheeraj Jalali is the Chief Technology Officer at Voices and has more than 15 years of experience as a technology transformation leader in the utility and computer services industries. After completing his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Pune University in India, Dheeraj held several senior positions in and around the Greater Los Angeles Area at Fortune 500 companies. He obtained his MBA in 2009 from Hult International Business School in Boston. In 2013, he was named Director of Information Technology at London Hydro, where he planned, coordinated, and executed company-wide technology strategies.

Dheeraj brings global experience to the Voices team. He also holds PMP and change management (ADKAR) certifications, helping him provide the necessary expertise to keep the ever-growing, ever-changing IT Department up-to-date. Harnessing the power of the Voices platform, Dheeraj is tasked with growing the company through a technology lens.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

From a young age, I’ve always been fascinated by technology and its profound impact on society. Growing up, I was captivated by how innovations could transform everyday life, making tasks easier, connecting people across the globe, and opening up new realms of possibilities. This early passion naturally steered me toward a career in the tech industry.

My primary motivation has always been the desire to better people’s lives through technology. I firmly believe that technology is a powerful tool for solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Whether it’s through developing software that enhances productivity, creating applications that improve healthcare delivery, designing state-of-the-art communication systems that connect people seamlessly, or building efficient marketplaces that empower businesses and consumers alike, I am driven by the potential to make a positive difference.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

At Voices, we believe success is built on strong relationships. Whether it’s with our voice over talent or our clients looking for voice solutions, for years we’ve put an emphasis on fostering a thriving community.

We’ve built an impressive platform which has made the process of finding and hiring voice talent seamless, and in turn has helped thousands of customers with a wide range of projects — from straightforward voice over projects to large, multi-language campaigns. But beyond our platform, we’ve built a team of passionate individuals that has enabled all this to happen — across technology, product development, and customer support and more, our teams collaborate seamlessly to ensure our platform provides the best experience possible.

That’s why working at Voices has felt so special. A human-centered approach fosters trust, builds genuine connections, and creates an environment where each of us are empowered to put our best foot forward, think outside the box, and keep us ahead of the curve.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Empathy-Driven Leadership. Leading with empathy is one of the most instrumental traits to my success. Understanding and valuing the perspectives and emotions of my team members has always been crucial. For example, during a particularly challenging project, one of our key team members was facing personal difficulties that were impacting their performance. Instead of focusing solely on deadlines and output, I took the time to have a sincere conversation with them. By providing flexible work hours and additional support, not only did their performance improve, but it also fostered a stronger sense of loyalty and trust within the team. This experience reinforced my belief that empathetic leadership creates a more committed and motivated workforce.

Stay Informed and Learn New Skills. In the fast-paced tech industry, staying informed and continuously learning new skills has been vital. Early in my career, I noticed a shift towards cloud computing and its potential impact on our industry. Rather than relying on my existing knowledge, I enrolled in courses to understand the intricacies of cloud technologies. This proactive approach allowed me to lead my team effectively during our transition to cloud-based solutions, ensuring we stayed competitive. For instance, when we adopted a new cloud platform, my updated skills enabled me to guide the team through the cloud transformation smoothly, which resulted in increased efficiency and cost savings for the company.

Mentor, Empower, and Step Back. Nurturing talent and then giving them the autonomy to shine has been another key trait in my leadership style. I believe in identifying and cultivating the strengths of my team members, and then stepping back to let them take ownership of their work. A notable example of this was when we were developing a new product feature. I recognized a developer’s potential and assigned them as the project lead, providing guidance but not micromanaging. They not only delivered the feature ahead of schedule but also introduced innovative ideas that significantly enhanced the product. This approach not only boosted their confidence but also fostered a culture of trust and innovation within the team.

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

Generative AI is undoubtedly shaking up the way we access and employ voice solutions. With the power of AI, it’s fairly easy to create synthetic voices that are increasingly human-like and capable of responding in real-time. While synthetic voices have been around for a while, advancements in AI are making them sound remarkably realistic, and more importantly, accessible to a wider range of users.

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

There’s no doubt that generative voice AI is the AI technology most disruptive to the voiceover industry. AI can now create realistic-sounding synthetic voices with varying tones, accents, and emotions, making the experience of interacting with an AI voice more natural and generally, more enjoyable.

This opens the doors for entirely new applications where an AI voice wouldn’t have been suitable prior. Additionally, the more capable AI becomes at understanding and emulating natural language, we can expect to see a greater adoption of voice technology into our everyday technology, devices, and applications.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

One pivotal moment that stands out in my career was when I first delved into the world of generative Voice AI. At the time, I was exploring various AI technologies and their potential applications, but it wasn’t until I encountered generative Voice AI that I truly grasped the revolutionary impact AI would have on our sector.

I vividly remember the first demonstration I attended, where a generative Voice AI system was showcased. The technology created remarkably natural and realistic human speech, something that traditionally would have taken years of painstaking refinement to achieve. I was astonished not only by the quality of the generated voice but also by the novel approach the AI employed to solve this complex problem.

This experience was eye-opening for several reasons. First, it highlighted AI’s ability to rapidly create solutions that would have otherwise required extensive time and resources to perfect. The generative Voice AI system was a testament to AI’s power to accelerate innovation and bring groundbreaking ideas to fruition in a fraction of the time.

Secondly, it demonstrated AI’s capacity to tackle problems for which no prior technology existed. Before the advent of generative Voice AI, creating such lifelike synthetic speech was a daunting challenge with no viable solutions. This AI breakthrough not only provided a solution but also opened up new possibilities for applications in various fields, such as customer service, entertainment, accessibility, and more.

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

Getting our workforce ready for the integration of AI is a comprehensive effort that encompasses education, training, and a cultural shift toward embracing technological progress. Here’s how we are approaching this transformation:

  • Education and Training Programs

We have implemented comprehensive education and training programs to ensure our team is well-equipped to work alongside AI. We have partnered with top cloud providers to introduce skill-based training that covers AI fundamentals, data analysis, machine learning, and specific AI applications relevant to our industry. These programs include workshops, online courses, and hands-on training sessions. By providing our employees with the necessary knowledge and skills, we empower them to leverage AI tools effectively in their roles.

  • Fostering a Culture of Continuous Learning

The ability to adapt and continuously learn will be crucial in an AI-enhanced future. Under our continuous learning initiatives, we collaborate with vendors to introduce system-specific workflows driven by AI. We encourage our workforce to stay curious and proactive about learning new technologies and methodologies. To support this, we have created a culture that values and rewards continuous learning.

  • Collaboration and Cross-Functional Teams

AI integration requires collaboration across different departments and expertise areas. We have established cross-functional teams that bring together diverse skill sets, including data scientists, software engineers, domain experts, and project managers. This collaborative approach ensures that AI initiatives are well-rounded and address various aspects of our operations.

  • Transition to Data-Driven Machine Learning Solutions

We are moving our traditional algorithms to more data-driven machine-learning solutions to create more efficient systems. This transition allows us to harness machine learning’s predictive power and adaptability, improving the accuracy and performance of our processes. For example, by replacing heuristic-based models with machine learning algorithms, we have optimized our marketplace workflows, resulting in significant cost savings and reduced delivery times.

  • Utilizing New AI Developments Across Technology Ecosystems

We are actively incorporating new AI features offered across our technology ecosystems, whether in sales, marketing, customer support, or other areas. By integrating AI-driven tools, we enhance our capabilities and streamline operations. For example, in customer support, we have implemented AI chatbots that provide instant responses and resolve common issues, freeing up human agents to handle more complex inquiries.

Valuable Skills for an AI-Enhanced Future

  • Data Literacy

In my opinion, understanding data and being able to interpret and leverage it effectively are the most important skills in an AI-driven world. Data literacy involves skills in data analysis, data visualization, and the ability to draw insights from data. Employees who can work with data will be better positioned to harness the power of AI.

  • Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

AI can process vast amounts of information and identify patterns, but human critical thinking and problem-solving are irreplaceable. The ability to approach problems creatively, ask the right questions, and make informed decisions will be invaluable as AI tools become more prevalent.

  • Technical Proficiency

While not everyone needs to be an AI expert, a basic understanding of AI and its applications will be important. Familiarity with AI tools, programming languages like Python, and machine learning frameworks can be incredibly beneficial. Additionally, skills in software development, cybersecurity, and cloud computing will continue to be highly valuable.

  • Emotional Intelligence and Adaptability

As AI takes over routine tasks, human-centric skills like emotional intelligence, empathy, and adaptability will become even more important. The ability to manage relationships, work effectively in teams, and adapt to changing environments will differentiate successful employees in an AI-enhanced workplace.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

One of the biggest challenges that the workforce in general is facing in this new AI-enabled environment is the fast pace of change. The swift advancement of AI technologies requires employees to update their skills continuously to stay current. Yet, this presents a notable challenge as employees may struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of change. Furthermore, upskilling in AI demands a significant investment of time and energy, which can be difficult for employees who are already committed to full-time responsibilities.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

We believe ethical development of AI adheres to the Three C’s: consent, control, and compensation. Even outside the AI voice sphere, people are concerned that their data, art, or likeness are being used to train generative AI models without their consent. While we are excited about the opportunity and innovation that AI brings, it’s of utmost importance to us that it’s done in the right way. Respecting people’s autonomy is incredibly important — no one wants their data or their property taken and used without their permission.

When it comes AI and voice, the Three C’s can be explained as such:

  • Consent: Voice actors should have the right to decide whether or not they want their voice used for any purpose, including AI.
  • Control: Once a synthetic voice is made, the voice actor should be ensured that it stays where it is supposed to and isn’t used beyond the scope of any agreement made between the actor, AI company, and end client. Any usage beyond the original agreement is to be cleared with the voice actor whose voice is being used.
  • Compensation: Actors should be paid fairly for the use of their voice print and the licensing of their voice and/or likeness.

For any AI voice projects we work on, we collaborate closely with participating voice actors to ensure they have the autonomy and control they desire. Voice actors are worried that their voice will be cloned without their consent, or that their voice clone will be used in ways they did not intend. Strict adherence to the Three C’s leaves power in the hands of the actors so they can decide if, when, and how their voice clone will be used.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

  • Understand how you can utilize AI/innovation to create a competitive advantage: Take a comprehensive look at your industry and identify opportunities where AI can drive innovation and efficiency. Whether it’s automating repetitive tasks, optimizing processes, or personalizing customer experiences, leveraging AI strategically can differentiate your business from competitors.
  • Retrain/Upskill your workforce to take advantage of AI: Invest in retraining and upskilling initiatives to ensure your workforce is equipped with the necessary skills to harness the power of AI. Provide comprehensive training programs that cover AI fundamentals, data analysis, and machine learning techniques. By empowering employees to leverage AI tools effectively, you can unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation.
  • Double down on customer engagement and use human touch to create unique and genuine interactions: While AI offers immense potential for automation and efficiency, it’s essential to balance technology with human touch. Prioritize personalized interactions and genuine connections to double down on customer engagement efforts. Use AI to enhance, not replace, human interaction and leverage customer insights to tailor experiences that resonate with your audience.
  • Embrace data-driven decision-making: Utilize AI to gather and analyze vast amounts of data to make informed decisions. By leveraging AI-powered analytics, businesses can gain valuable insights into customer behavior, market trends, and operational efficiencies. This data-driven approach enables organizations to make strategic decisions with confidence, driving growth and innovation.
  • Invest in ethical AI practices: As AI becomes increasingly integrated into business operations, prioritize ethical considerations. Develop and implement robust AI ethics frameworks to ensure fairness, transparency, and accountability in AI-driven processes. By prioritizing ethical AI practices, you can mitigate risks associated with biased algorithms and build trust with customers and stakeholders.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

One common misconception about AI and voice are its many benefits and its range of applications; there are so many ways AI voice can improve efficiency, improve technology we already use, and more.

Some examples of benefits and applications that are often overlooked include:

  • Scalability: AI voice technology enables scalability, allowing businesses to handle large volumes of audio content without compromising quality. Whether it’s generating voiceovers for thousands of e-learning modules or personalized messages for customer service, AI can meet the demand efficiently.
  • Accessibility: AI voice technology will improve accessibility by providing audio content in multiple formats and languages, ensuring that individuals with visual impairments or language barriers can access information effectively.
  • Innovation: AI voice technology enables innovative applications such as dynamic voice generation, interactive storytelling, and personalized content delivery, opening up new possibilities for creative expression and user engagement in various industries.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Change is the only constant in life. Embrace it, adapt to it, and grow from it.”

In my personal journey as a tech professional, I’ve witnessed frequent industry changes that have significantly influenced my path. Each wave of innovation has shaped my career trajectory from the dot-com era to the rise of mobile technology, followed by the advent of cloud computing and now the era of AI. I’ve observed that individuals and companies who embraced these changes early on thrived, while those resistant to adaptation struggled to keep pace. Therefore, I’ve learned to embrace change and be an early adopter, recognizing that it’s often the key to success in a rapidly evolving industry.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

While technology presents abundant opportunities, its misuse can have significant societal impacts. I am committed to ensuring that our technological advancements are developed responsibly, with a focus on benefiting people. This is particularly crucial in the realm of AI, where ethical considerations are paramount. As a tech leader, it’s imperative to prioritize the ethical development of AI, safeguarding against misuse by malicious actors. By implementing robust controls and frameworks, we can establish a solid foundation for the safe and ethical usage of AI technology.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

If I could start a movement for the greatest good, it would focus on educating children about AI concepts to prepare them for the future and empower them to shape new innovations. In our fast-changing technological world, AI influences everything from healthcare to education. Teaching kids AI basics early on gives them the tools to navigate this landscape responsibly. It’s about inclusivity, ensuring all children can access these essential skills regardless of background. By democratizing AI education, we empower future generations to use technology for the benefit of all.

How can our readers further follow you online?

There are a few ways readers can keep up with what’s happening at Voices. The best place to start would be our site, www.voices.com, or you can follow our social channels — we’re active on XInstagram, and LinkedIn, and YouTube. As for myself, I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. You can keep up with me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/dheerajjalali/.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.