2020: The Year in Review

2020 has definitely been a chaotic year, but from a learning perspective, it has also been very productive. I was lucky enough to speak at many conferences (both in-person and virtual), and I have learned so much about Alexa and programming. Since 2020 is coming to an end, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the work I have done within the Alexa community.

I started off 2020 with my very first conference, Project Voice. It was a great experience to attend many different sessions as well as speak about my journey with Alexa.

After the excitement of Project Voice, I decided to create a new Alexa skill, and after some brainstorming, I thought of Word Party, a spelling game in which kids can spell along with Alexa. For example, if the chosen word is “dog”, Alexa will start it off with “d”, the user answers “o”, and Alexa finishes with “g”. One thing I remember in particular is that my brother enjoyed the skill very much, and he still plays it to this day.

After that, in March, I learned more about APL (Alexa Presentation Language), a great way to add engaging screens to your skills. I had recently learned how to include a video inside an APL document, and I thought it would be a great topic to create a YouTube video on. In my video, I explained how to add a video in an Alexa skill, and I hope someone out there benefited from it.

In April, with lockdown in place, I wanted to help others with learning something new, so I hosted my first webinar on creating Alexa skills. I’m happy to say that over 350 people signed up, and my webinar was a success! That was my first time teaching others, and it was awesome! In the weeks after my first webinar, many people asked if I could do a second one, and I happily agreed. This time, I presented along with my cousin, Dhanvi Modi. It was just as fun as the previous one, and thanks to everyone who attended my webinars!

After a while, my good friend and mentor Bradley Metrock asked me to write the foreword to his new book, the sequel to More Than Just Weather and Music: 200 Ways to Use Alexa. It’s an honor for me and I readily accepted. I can’t wait to see the foreword when his book is published!

In June, I had an opportunity to speak at VOICE Global 2020, which was sponsored by Google and Reuters and featured over 170 speakers from all facets of the voice industry. Thanks to Pete Erickson for the opportunity.

In July, I worked with the AWS team to put together an Alexa Skill Challenge for kids. I created the content, helped make the program curriculum, and helped kids fix programming difficulties. It was a great experience, and I’m so grateful to AWS for this.

Before the summer ended, I conducted 5-day camps about Alexa Skill for other kids. After planning out the content, I was able to teach three weeks of classes, and they were awesome! It was great talking to, working with, and teaching other kids my age.

In September, I had the chance to speak at VoiceTech Summit India, and once more, it was amazing. The upside to virtual conferences is that anyone in the world can attend and present. If the Summit had been in-person, I wouldn’t have been able to attend.

About a month afterward, I spoke at VOICE Summit, one of the largest annual voice conferences. During this presentation, I spoke about techniques to enhance your skill’s engagement and offered tips for increasing retention.

In November, I completed my first ever AWS certification. I became an AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder! Preparing for the exam was difficult, but my hard work had paid off – I received an 884 out of 1000, with 750 being the minimum passing score.

My AWS Certificate!

And now, this month, I have shifted my focus away from Alexa and towards mobile development. I am currently taking an AMAZING React Native beginners tutorial on Udemy.

Overall, this year turned out better than I could have possibly expected, and I hope 2021 brings more of the same.

Written by

Aariv Modi

37   Posts

Aariv Modi is a blogger, programmer, Alexa skill developer, and AI enthusiast. He is in 9th grade at Round Rock High School and has created several Alexa skills and mobile apps. Aariv was recognized as the Voice/AI Pioneer of the Year by Project Voice in 2021 for his contributions to the conversational artificial intelligence industry. He is also the youngest AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder and AWS Certified Machine Learning professional. Aariv has contributed much of his learning with the Alexa and voice community through his blog and social media channels such as LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. During the COVID-19 lockdown, he taught hundreds of kids how to develop Alexa skills through webinars, camps, and posts on his website. He was the youngest presenter at several international voice and AI conferences, such as Project Voice 2020, VOICE Global 2020, and VOICE Summit 2020.
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