As regular readers of this back page probably already know, Marshall Lager has ridden off into the sunset. (Collective moment of silence.) In my mind, I picture him riding a Big Wheel and blowing raspberries at us—maybe that’s just me? Marshall provided us with more than a decade of laughs, groans (many, many groans), and a boatload of insight. But all good things—and Marshall’s column—must come to an end.
So, what’s next for this august back page? Well, me. Although I’ve been a presence as a columnist in the inside pages of this magazine since 2006, I now get to take pride of place. Or last place. Or something like that. Whatever this place is called, I’m here now.
So, who the heck am I? In my day job, I am a principal analyst at Forrester Research. For the most part, I help our customers move toward a digital-first approach to customer service. For the past almost two years, much of my time has been taken up with research and consulting around chatbots, virtual assistants, artificial intelligence, natural language understanding, and machine learning technology, processes, and best practices. I’m obsessed with the rising import of agent experience in a world where automation starts to gobble up most of the simple customer interactions. And I work hard to convince our clients that their customers don’t want conversations; they want simple, emotionally satisfying resolutions, just as they have always done.
Outside of my day job, I’m a San Franciscan, a beer and wine snob (I mean I have to have something in common with Marshall!), a lover of the arcane, a geek of many stripes, and a voracious reader. I love TV shows prominently featuring small kick-ass blond women who toss off snappy comebacks every two seconds. In my world, there is a straight through-line from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Veronica Mars to iZombie. I used to be a reggae DJ at a San Francisco nightclub, but that was back in the days when staying out until 3 a.m. on a Sunday night didn’t cause me to inevitably miss work the next day. I have lived in many places that start with the letter B: Budapest, Bangkok, Brooklyn, the Bay Area, da ‘Burgh (OK, that last one is a stretch). And a great weekend for me involves getting a slight sunburn while hiking 10 miles on the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains—or just drinking some lovely cabernet sauvignon somewhere in the Sonoma Valley.