Lead(H)er: Marie Myers, CFO at UiPath
Marie Myers never intended to become a pioneer in AI and robotic process automation. But when her boss at HP asked her to make huge operations cuts right before a major launch, Myers turned to these technologies to make it happen.
Myers’ prior employer, Houston startup Compaq, was acquired by HP in 2002. She became heavily involved in HP’s analytics operations, ultimately taking on the majority of financial roles available at the company. Thanks to this experience, she was asked to lead the financial and legal setup of a new company that would be spun off from HP.
“I had this opportunity to create a big startup in less than 10 months, which was a pretty exciting experience, to say the least,” Myers said.
She, her husband, and her three small children moved to California to complete the job. Just before the new company went live, though, Myers got the directive to cut costs. With more than 600 people on staff, she had no idea how to make that happen.
That’s when Myers discovered how robotic process automation, or RPA, and AI technologies could not only solve her current problem, but allow HP to continue expanding in unprecedented ways.
Myers has expanded her own career in robotics at UiPath, the leading enterprise RPA company promoting an automation-first approach to doing business. The company’s proprietary platform uses software robots to execute repetitive processes and save clients time.
This time-saving measure is one of Myers’ primary reasons for advocating so strongly for AI and RPA, two technologies that have caused some unease during their rapid growth. In her ideal world, future generations will see workweeks of 30 to 35 hours or less thanks to these tools. They’ll also be spared from completing the routine and time-consuming data transactions that took up the bulk of Myers’ own time during the first job she held after receiving her MBA in economics.
“You’ll get a better quality of life, where you’re able to contribute on a schedule that works in terms of work-life balance, and contribute more meaningfully to your work,” Myers said.
As an expert in the field, Myers is also aware of the many challenges that come from the fast, widespread adoption of RPA and AI technologies. The industry is still an emerging one, and Myers is just as strong a supporter of effective regulation surrounding data privacy as she is of the tools themselves.
Myers plans continue spreading the word about the rewards found in AI and RPA technology, beginning with a book she’s writing and with her position at UiPath. The company’s unique environment means that there’s always momentum towards something new, and both Myers and her colleagues have found ways to use that energy to work together on the company’s next steps.
“UiPath has this phenomenal attitude towards getting stuff done,” Myers said. “People are moving quickly but moving with a sense of excitement and a sense of doing the right thing, and I think that creates tremendous opportunity.”
Myers is particularly focused on helping women seize these opportunities. She’s noticed a hesitancy in many women, from the time they’re children all the way up to the C-suite, towards getting involved in the digital world.
“There’s so much opportunity for women to get involved, and as society’s going through this big, digital transformation, I’d like to see women be at the forefront of that movement,” Myers said.
Rapid Fire Questions
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to bike ride to work, so I ride my bike to and from work on most days when it's not raining. I like spinning, too—I'm a big spin maniac. I like to get up early in the morning and spin and do yoga on the weekends, so I've got a strong exercise dimension in my life. And obviously I love my family and my kids, so any other free time I have, I spend with my family.
How do you typically manage stress?
Exercise is a great way for me to get recentered. I love to work out first thing in the morning. I think it allows me as a person to feel energized and to be centered for the day. You're going to have a lot of stuff come at you for the day, and if you get yourself mentally and physically centered, you can get through the day in a way that is good for you and good for the people you work with. A good cappuccino doesn't hurt either. I'm a big coffee fan.
How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?
Well, the doctor told me I had to cut down recently! My twins were very young when we were going through the process of splitting up HP, and I barely got four hours of consistent sleep some nights. I went back to work only 10 weeks after they were born while I was working there, so it was pretty demanding, and I didn't sleep very much. So I learned to enjoy coffee, and I probably would drink three cups until recently. I'm half Italian, too, so my mother and I are are very fanatical about coffee. She could drink coffee at midnight and go to sleep, but I can't do that. I have to stop and switch to green tea for the afternoon.
What’s one of your favorite places in the New York area?
I’m a big lover of Indian food, in addition to coffee, so I have a fabulous Indian restaurant called Pondicherry near our New York office that I love. That's one of my favorite things to do. I've actually interviewed people for work from there. My husband doesn't like it as much, so I have to go out with my girlfriends, and it's one of my favorite things to do.
What would you say is one of your greatest accomplishments?
You know, I suppose I'm really proud of being one of the earlier adopters of robots in the world. I fought a lot of battles to try to make it work, but I’m really glad I took that chance. I look back now and think wow, that was bold. I wasn’t very techy—I was a finance person. The IT guys might say I’m a closet geek today, but I was self-taught when it came to IT.
Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?
I had no idea I'd be where I'm at today. I never imagined I would get into robotics and AI. If you'd asked me that even five years ago, I probably would have looked at you cross-eyed. I just follow what I love doing. I'm very passionate about life, and I believe you have to do things you really enjoy. I think I found my passion, and that's what motivates me everyday. I get to wake up and do something I love.
My old CFO asked me how my new job is, and said that it just doesn’t get any better than this. I get to ride my bike to and from work, and I get to talk about robots and AI all day. Plus there’s a great coffee shop nearby. These are all the things I enjoy doing, and if I can do them and make a difference and build something that I think is going to change the world, I don’t think it gets much better than that.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
I think there's never been a more profound moment to get involved in what's happening to the world's digital voice. Take an opportunity and get involved in the new technologies that may not be perfect yet. Develop that passion and interest in it early, from the first opportunity you get, and go for it. It will pay off in the long run. Understanding those new technologies will really put you in a premium spot a few years down the track.