Meet Susan Hendrich, the woman who gave Cortana her personality in Windows Phone 8.1


Meet Susan Hendrich, the woman who gave Cortana her personality in Windows Phone 8.1

We are all quite familiar with Cortana by now. Microsoft rolled out a preview of Cortana, a Siri-like digital assistant, with Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview a few days ago. Cortana is unlike Siri or Google Now, in that she acts as your personal digital assistant. So what’s the back story on Cortana? Meet Susan Hendrich, the woman who gave Cortana her personality in Windows Phone 8.1.

“My PM [Program Manager] role on the Cortana team has been the perfect combination of new technology, creating unique experiences, and working with one of the best teams in the industry. For Cortana, I owned personality (written, spoken, and the circle) as well as chit-chat. Moving forward, I’ll also own the natural language experience for Cortana,” Susan said in an interview on Microsoft’s Jobsblog.

Susan has been with Microsoft since 2003 and has been working on Cortana for two years. She has been the Program Manager in charge of bringing this cool personal assistant whose persona is inspired by the character from Halo. “Cortana is competent, caring, confident and loyal. She’s always prepared to help, but not bossy. She’s eager to learn. When she’s chatting, she can be outright funny, peppering her answers with banter or even a sparky comeback. She assumes friendly familiarity with you, but her job is to be your personal assistant,” Susan explains.

Susan and her team set out to ensure Cortana’s animations used as little RAM as possible, as well as cultivated a relationship with the users that build trust. Cortana needed to bring delight to a users life every day. Susan also worked on creating a natural language experience that feels like you are speaking to a friend.

To develop Cortana, Microsoft apparently spoke to a number of “real personal assistants” and learned that they kept track of the interests and preferences of their bosses in a notebook. So Microsoft thought, what if Cortana curates all the stuff in Cortana’s Notebook, which allows Cortana to be proactive and helpful throughout the day.

Jen Taylor, the same lady who voiced Cortana in the popular Halo franchise, is the voice of Cortana. “She is a combination of advanced technology across areas like search, natural language and machine learning that Microsoft has been able to bring to life, along with a distinct personality that is inspired by one of the biggest franchises in Xbox history,” says Windows Phone Group Program Manager Marcus Ash.

Susan goes on to give advice for women who are seeking a career at Microsoft. You can check out her thoughts by heading over to the VIA link below.