Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Rhonda Scharf about her life and career, what inspires her, and why she wrote her new book, Alexa Is Stealing Your Job.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Rhonda Scharf, and I am a professional speaker and trainer. I live in Canada in the summer months (read: warmer), and like a true Canadian snowbird, I spend the winter months in Florida (read: warmer). I’ve been a professional speaker for almost 30 years. I love learning; I love sharing; I love looking at things from an entirely different perspective and learning from that. I love wine too.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I started writing in creative writing contests when I was a teenager, so the desire to write came long before I started to compete. I never won, and I never came close. I wrote a children’s book when I was a teenager, and it never went anywhere. It feels like I have always wanted to write books.
When did you take a step to start writing?
Like I mentioned above, when I was a teenager, I tried to get a children’s book published. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, so it was quickly shelved as a dream going nowhere.
I have always loved writing, so as a speaker, a newsletter was the best way to share knowledge, advertise, and become a thought leader within my community. I’ve been writing a newsletter since 1995. It started as a quarterly newsletter, became monthly, and has been weekly for a long time.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
My first two books were compilation books where I wrote a chapter. That was an easy introduction to saying I had a book. I wrote those chapters in a day. I was so excited to say I had a book. I tend to do my best thinking in the middle of the night, so I am often awake and writing in my head during the night. I get up, get into the office, and boom! The words come pouring out of my fingers onto the keyboard.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
The title of my book came to me in a casual conversation, and I recognized immediately that it was the title for my next book. It took me about a month to write the outline (chapter breakdown) to ensure I had enough content for the book and ensure the title was going to be allowed. My book is titled “Alexa is Stealing Your Job: The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Your Future,” and I created the entire Alexa theme.
Alexa is a smart speaker developed by Amazon, so I was concerned about trademark issues with the title. Once I was confident the title would be okay, I continued and completed the outline. Once the outline was done, the book came easily and quickly. From the first keystroke to the final edited transcript, it was less than six months.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Alexa Is Stealing Your Job?
I specialize in inefficiency. I help office professionals do their job better, faster, and with a better attitude because they love with they do. I am often asked to look into my “crystal ball” and predict where the office professional is going. Everything seems to be changing so quickly, and people are always nervous some computer program will put them out of a job. One day I was asked about the future, and I flippantly said, “Oh, Alexa is going to steal your job. You’ll have to get another one,” and it was stuck. I realized that everyone was afraid that technology would replace them, and they would all be unemployed and unemployable.
The title is scary; the content is reassuring. Yes, Artificial Intelligence and Automation will take away a lot of the tasks that many people currently are responsible for, but my book gives you the solutions, the workarounds, and the future perspective on what you do.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Alexa Is Stealing Your Job?
My biggest challenge was that in 2018 Artificial Intelligence was changing so quickly. The examples, case-studies were outdated almost as quickly as they were released to the public. Many of the well-documented examples of Artificial Intelligence and Automation were not practical at the small business level. I needed examples that made sense, could be applied easily, and didn’t cost billions of dollars. My reader needed to see how it impacted them at the end-user level and not how it impacted large corporations.
What was your research process for Alexa Is Stealing Your Job?
I had my eyes and ears glued to all the tech publications and online sources. I followed hashtags and outliers as well as traditional mainstream. It was easy to fall into a rabbit hole of information online and come up empty-handed.
How did you plan the structure of Alexa Is Stealing Your Job?
I thought about the educational component of the book the same way I would play a training workshop. I had to share the history and bring everyone to where we were at the same point and make no assumptions about my reader. I started with history and then the current reality.
I approached several different professions in subsequent chapters and then finished with a bit of foreshadowing of the future. Throughout each chapter, I had a section called AQI (Ask Intelligence Questions), so the reader could approach the book as a workbook or manual by asking themselves how the information in each chapter applied to them.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Alexa Is Stealing Your Job need?
I have been working with the same editor for 15 years, so she knows my writing style, thinking, and intent. And, I am a grammar geek to begin with (I wanted to be a high school English teacher), so according to my editor, it didn’t need an unreasonable amount of editing. We didn’t have any structural issues, so she could edit the book fairly quickly.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Just start it. That’s my advice, pretty much always. Just start. You can’t finish until you start. Once you start, you keep going until you decide you are done. Don’t worry if it is perfect. Just start.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
The title always comes first for me. The Admin GPS – Your Guide to Your Future. It will have some similar components as I am clearly obsessed with the future of work. This one is specifically for administrative professionals, whereas the Alexa book was more generic.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes, absolutely. I realize that while most people want to write a book, very few will ever finish it, and even fewer will get it out to the public. It is a risk to put your thoughts on paper for people to disagree with. However, it is always worth the effort!
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Alexa is Stealing Your Job – The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Your Future
All social media: @RhondaScharf
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