Siri shares the best career advice she ever received (thanks Dolly Parton!)

4 Minute Read | Author: Hannah Tattersall

She gives us directions, tells us what the time is, and answers mundane questions. But what if Siri gave us advice? The Australian voice of Siri, Karen Jacobsen gives directions in more than 400 million GPS and smartphones worldwide. But behind the success is the story of a voice-over artist, singer and performer who overcame adversity to get to where she is today. 

“On September 10, 2001, it seemed as if everything I had been working towards was coming together. Having moved to New York the previous year, that evening I was attending a fancy music business party in a sprawling apartment on Central Park West with sweeping views.  After the event, a small group of us went for dinner to celebrate. We had the final mix of a song we were really excited about. I was writing and recording with Grammy award-winning, Tony award-winning writers and producers, and had the interest of a major label. We toasted the future success of our venture and wandered home down Broadway, memorably happy.

"The following morning (September 11) the world fell apart. And so did my deal.

"On every level it was one of the most difficult, disappointing and devastating times of my life."

Time to recalculate

"When things do not go the way we think they are supposed to, it can knock the wind out of our sails. That experience took quite some time to move past, but little did I know the following year I would audition and book a life-changing job.  Recording for 50 hours in a studio in upstate New York, my speaking voice has ended up in a text-to-speech voice system in over 400 million GPS and smartphone devices, in elevators, cruise ships and software, and as the original Australian voice of Siri.

"Yes, people apologise for yelling at me, for swearing at me and want to tell me about all the wonderful trips 'we' have taken together.

"Ultimately I realised there was a brand to be created. I made the connection between directions in the car and directions in life and business. The empowerment brand The GPS Girl was born.

"Some of the best advice I ever had was from Dolly Parton. Watching her being interviewed was like a bolt from the blue. She was explaining how many of her business successes were as a result of people thinking she was not business savvy, and by the time they had figured out she was, she had done the deal. I remember very clearly realising it was my time to really go for it. The next day, from my cold calling and emailing, I booked my first national television appearance as The GPS Girl.

"We all have highs and lows, but in my experience we can learn how to navigate change more powerfully and actually get better at doing this.

"Whether you are in a business situation or dealing with a personal challenge, being able to identify that it is time to recalculate is key. Recalculating is being able to find a way to move forward even when there are roadblocks or detours, and to not just tolerate it, but to thrive in spite of it."

The GPS Girl’s 5 directions for recalculating: 

  • Notice you are off route 
  • Be willing to change direction
  • Clarify your destination 
  • Embrace the steering wheel
  • Accelerate 

"This five-step process can be used when you are course-correcting in small ways, or when dealing with major upheaval.  

"I have always been an optimistic person, and I suppose at the heart of it, recalculating is building the ability to be solution-oriented, even when you do not feel like it."

Karen Jacobsen’s new book, Recalculate – Directions for Driving Performance Success is available here: