It had barely been a couple of months into Ana Pinczuk’s new job when she found herself on set with Argent and our Spring/Summer 2023 Work Friends. Though it may be a bit premature to list out her accomplishments as the recently appointed COO of Dexterity, a robotics software company, her 30+ year career track record speaks volumes.
Born in Argentina and raised in New Jersey, Pinczuk was the child of two PhDs scholars. To this day, she jokes that she “failed” to become one herself, however, her entire career trajectory has been driven by her desire to learn. She’s been consistently at the forefront of the newest technologies, earning multiple engineering and business degrees, leading teams at Cisco, Hewlett Packard, and Anaplan, and, now, embarking on her latest venture at Dexterity where she’s exploring the future of robot coexistence.
In her role, Pinczuk sits at the intersection of business, technology, and measurable positive impact across the workforce, particularly for those whose jobs may be too unsafe to perform and can benefit from the help of robots, as well as the education on how to operate them. Below, she tells us more about what she believes are misconceptions about robots, the importance of representation in tech, and why learning is the ultimate career adventure.
“We’re creating a future where robots are working side-by-side with people, enabling a healthier and more engaged workforce.”
ON BUILDING THE INTERNET BACKBONE
I started my career working at AT&T Bell Laboratories in manufacturing. At the time, the internet was about to bloom, so I moved to the telecommunications and networking part of the business and got involved in building the AT&T internet backbone. This was in the mid-'90s and it was super exciting to see this explosive growth.
From there, I ended up going to Cisco for 15 years where it was about building the network infrastructure supporting the explosion in data services. I loved the potential to digitally transform businesses, and this led me to other roles, including at HPE where I ran the Services business and at Anaplan, a SaaS company focused on enabling financial, sales, and supply chain planning.
ON MOVING TO ROBOTICS
I like to be continually learning and gaining new insights. And it’s important for me to be at the forefront of new technology shifts. If you look at my career, I’ve been part of the internet buildout, the rise of software and services, cloud, and Saas. My latest interest is robotics, which is really coming back home as I started my career in robotics for manufacturing.
If we think about it, there are a lot of jobs that are dirty, dull, and dangerous. The idea of robotics for logistics automation is to offload the jobs that are not suited for people to do. For example, one of our applications is robots that rove around, go in trucks, and load and unload boxes for logistics companies. These are tough jobs, not very satisfying, and prone to injury. It’s a great place to insert robotics and offload activities that people don’t want to do.
ON ROBOT COEXISTENCE
A lot of people think that robots will take away jobs, but the reality is there are many jobs that we cannot fill today. Labor attrition rates for these jobs can exceed 20% a month and logistic providers can’t fill shifts. We need to recognize that it’s about robot augmentation and coexistence so we’ll see people work alongside robots to meet business needs.
In fact, when we talk to our customers, there is tremendous energy and enthusiasm. Workers go from monotonous tasks like sorting boxes to overseeing and directing robots that offload these repetitive tasks. People gain new digital skills and are able to do different things within a warehouse. We’re creating a future where robots are working side-by-side with people, enabling a healthier and more engaged workforce.
ON LEADERSHIP STYLE
My leadership style has three elements. First, I'm a big believer in being close to the people that do real work. The second piece is I feel like a pied piper, and love the process of creating a vision together with a team and marching up the hill together toward that north star!
The third element is just having as much authenticity and transparency as possible. I want people to understand where we're going—good and bad—treat people like adults, and be open and transparent so everybody's vested in our mission and journey.
ON TECH’S LACK OF REPRESENTATION
When I started out over 30 years ago, there were very few women in engineering and I can’t remember a single other Latina. My role model was my mom, who is a Ph.D. scientist, and my parents always made me feel like I could be whatever I wanted. So I went into tech with the mindset that I was well-trained and capable, and I would just need to be resilient and plow through. It has not been easy, especially when I was early in my career, but I learned to survive, thrive, and strive to create a path for others to follow.
ON A GENERATIONAL SHIFT TOWARD GREATER DIVERSITY
It's not perfect by any means, but it starts with a feeder pool to tech. I'm associated with several universities where we now have 50%+ female representation in areas like computer science and engineering. I'm excited that we now have a generational shift.
Representation matters. It’s important for companies to drive diverse and inclusive environments to attract and retain the best talent. And with government-led legislation regarding diversity on boards, we are seeing a shift towards broader representation within companies and in the boardroom.
ON PERSONAL STYLE
I work at a startup, so everybody shows up in jeans, sneakers, and hoodies. That said, I like to dress business casual and mix some things that are both tailored and comfortable. I want my style to exude confidence mixed with a sense of fun, and to represent how I can be approachable, engaging yet powerful. What it tends to look like then is colorful jackets and jeans.
I think standing out, in a good way, is part of style—it portrays a fun personality, but also the confidence to do things the way you want to do them.
ON BEING PART OF A MOVEMENT
We're at such an inflection point on technology—with AI, robotics, software, cloud, autonomous driving, all these movements—and so one piece of advice is for people to put themselves at the intersection of where things are going. Lean forward into these technological changes and be at the middle of that change, because there's no journey better than learning. Don't put yourself in an old-style place, especially for a young person. Do something where you're going to really learn as part of a movement that's happening, because when else are you going to take that chance? And frankly, when the rules are not set, you get to define the rules and that is very life-affirming.
“I want people to understand where we're going—good and bad—treat people like adults, and be open and transparent so everybody's vested in our mission and journey. ”