Homework features AHAM members’ insights on careers, success, life outside of work, and AHAM membership. This month, we spoke with Vikram Shrivastava, Senior Director of AISonic Edge Processors at Knowles Corporation.
How important is it for leaders to foster a culture of mentorship in their organizations? What makes an effective mentor?
Mentorship and culture play a significant role in the success of our team – from our engineers to our executives, to the community – being a leader and supporting continued success, confidence, and growth is a key value of the company. It is as valuable and rewarding for our seasoned staff as it is the budding engineers, as we can identify and welcome untapped potential into our teams to remain on the bleeding edge of technology. Effective mentorship is rooted in community and mutual interest, and it’s essential both share lessons learned while finding inspiration from others for mentorship to be truly meaningful. 

What personal and professional goals are you currently pursuing?
At Knowles, I’ve enjoyed being in the throes of our evolving AISonic product development. Over the past several years, so much of my professional motivation has been centered on finding ways to make voice and audio processing more accessible to more people. The evolving partnerships we have with customers in the appliance space and beyond grant me the opportunity to help explore new use cases for edge processing, voice recognition technology, and AI/ML applications that improve the audio experience for all. 

Personally, I enjoy being involved in the audio technology profession because I am an audiophile and have recently been taking steps to learn about music production. It’s great to see how traditional music mixing and mastering technology using consoles in big studios is being replaced by new software AI techniques in a home studio. I am currently learning a lot by being able to hear finished tracks and identify simple techniques to mix and master tracks. I don’t think that AI is ready to replace an audio engineer but it’s amazing how well it guides you to a good starting point.

How has a diverse and inclusive workforce helped your company to meet its objectives?
Knowles has always been proud to push boundaries and disrupt industry standards to benefit both the community outside of Knowles and our internal team alike. We certainly credit our 75 years of success to our diverse teams, whose perspectives continue to drive innovation every day. We prioritize diversity in recruitment at all levels, and our range of outreach and inclusion programs – from sharing STEM education advocacy and scholarships at racially and ethnically diverse high schools to advancing opportunities for young women in STEM through a perennial sponsorship to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Women in Engineering Summer Program, we’ve been able to provide fruitful beginnings for many employees while simultaneously amplifying the voices of innovation that have too often gone unheard.  Nurturing the diversity of our workforce keeps the flow of curiosity and opportunities for growth at the forefront of everything we do – inside and outside our corporate offices. 

We also recognize the importance of diversity in training voice models to be more inclusive. It is important to develop products that include men, women, and children but also the vocally impaired and the many accents that are heard in our multi-cultural world. By including these AI can prevent things like young kids operating large kitchen appliances with voice and to easily recognize a “cry for help” detection for seniors.
Predict an innovation that will revolutionize the next generation.
With voice UIs becoming more accessible than ever before, we’re going to see a rise in opportunities for OEMS to integrate it into their products, basically any product that has a user interface to control it could be controlled via voice. Pretty soon, I predict voice control will be a standard feature that graces more industries – from consumer smart home and smart appliances to machine learning and Industrial IoT and beyond. 

How did you come to work in the appliance industry?
On the personal side, I love small kitchen appliances from the first Bullet blenders to the InstantPot and have always been an early adopter. Also, one of my past employers was involved with smart home technologies and there was always an angle I was looking for to see how everyday appliances could benefit from becoming smarter and with voice, AI and a cloud ecosystem. I think there is lot that can be done.

Voice has become a critical component of how end users access their smart devices in the home. In 2021, as Knowles worked to bring voice solutions and edge processing technology to more industries and markets, we recognized the growing demand for voice support in smart appliances. To help support OEMs in the space, we created the AISonic White Goods Standard Solution development kit to make adding voice support for whitegoods fast and easy. The solution enables voice-activated control and speech recognition capabilities with advanced voice processing algorithms, with much of the audio processing residing at the edge and away from the cloud. This has helped deliver an accurate voice recognition solution so that a consumer’s voice can always be heard, even in even in noisy kitchens or laundry rooms where there is a lot of background noise. As voice and sound technology in whitegoods continues to evolve, Knowles is excited to support the industry. 

What do you gain from your involvement in AHAM?
AHAM allows our team to get to know manufacturers and other pioneers in the appliance industry, and from there we’re able to understand their needs on a deeper level and begin to see the challenges that they face. We can connect with industry members and get to know what paths they’re on, what they need to grow in terms of technology and voice processing, and how Knowles can help provide the best possible solutions for them.

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Manfred Staebler 
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Darryl McCartney
Viren Shah
Mark Bissell
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Joe Liotine
Lucian Strong
Robin Liss
Stephen Gatz
Julie Rippy

Vikram Shrivastava
Senior Director of AISonic Edge Processors
Knowles Corporation