Meet The Women Leading The AI Industry: “I am an optimist; Any new technology can represent a risk, but the world moves forward and adapts” with Amy Guarino COO at Kyndi

Jason Hartman
Nov 6 · 7 min read

I am an optimist. Any new technology can represent a risk, but the world moves forward and adapts. It is up to humans to adapt, as well and take advantage of new opportunities ahead.


As part of my series about the women leading the artificial intelligence (AI) industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Guarino, COO at Kyndi, Inc., the artificial intelligence company building the first Explainable AI platform. Over the past 25 years, Amy has been an accomplished business leader who uses sales, marketing and management methods learned at IBM to quickly drive results at startup and mid-size companies. Prior to joining Kyndi as chief operating officer, she spent eight years at Marketo, as vice president of business development. At Kyndi, she is responsible for all aspects of the business, except engineering and research. Amy has a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame. She was selected to the Forbes Forty over 40 list and recognized as one of the Top 100 Women of Influence in Silicon Valley. She has served on numerous boards, in addition to advising leaders of Silicon Valley startups.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the backstory of how you decided to pursue this career path?

I grew up on the East Coast and was always around technology and sales, since my dad was an IBM’er. I graduated from University of Notre Dame with a liberal arts degree, but knew that I wanted to pursue a career in business and technology. I took math, computer science and business classes as electives to prepare. Upon graduation, IBM offered me a job as sales representative in Sunnyvale, California, the heart of Silicon Valley. I loved sales because I am curious and love to learn about all kinds of businesses and people. I also quickly understood my good fortune of being in Silicon Valley with access to interesting people who were building companies based on new technologies and who were looking to change the world. My career led to opportunities at a number of startups across a broad set of technologies and markets. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of two IPOs, a number of acquisitions and even had an opportunity to start a business in Tokyo called Marketo Japan.

What lessons can others learn from your story?

One of my first managers shared with me his keys to success for a business career: 1) Always do your absolute best at whatever task you take on. 2) Develop an expertise so that you become “known” for something. Today we talk about that as your personal brand. 3) Make people aware of your contributions. This guidance helped me progress in my career across companies, technologies and roles.

Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

I’m working on Explainable AI at Kyndi. In the past handful of years, people and organizations have started to see how AI can solve real customer problems. Most of those efforts focus around using deep learning/machine learning techniques. That progress is good, but humans want to know the “why” behind it. Deep learning/machine learning efforts are a black box with sparse understanding of the why. Kyndi is able to show the why in terms that business users can understand. AI will change every aspect of business over the next 5–20 years and likely every aspect of life. It’s thrilling to be a part of that revolution.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have many people who have helped me along the way and feel very fortunate for that support. One of those people is Phil Fernandez. Phil was the CEO at Marketo and one of the founders of the company. Phil has a reputation for being a tough boss. He is. He has high expectations of himself and of the team. He has an amazing ability to understand the operations of a high-growth business and is absolutely committed to customer success. Phil gave me the opportunity to move to Tokyo to start Marketo Japan. My husband and I will be eternally grateful to Phil for that opportunity, as it changed our lives.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?

1. The knowledge revolution as a result of AI will be as life changing as the industrial revolution.

2. Systems that can read and understand text to help point users to the right information more quickly so they can make smarter business decisions.

3. Augmented intelligence vs. artificial intelligence. Helping people think and create well beyond anything we can imagine today.

4. Advanced healthcare biometrics. It will be fascinating to understand all of the insights we will be able to gain from lots of different data sources in order to improve the quality of our health.

5. Robotic process automation/intelligent process automation — focusing humans on higher-level tasks and capabilities by allowing bots to take on repetitive, lower-level tasks.

What are the 5 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?

1. Considering that the knowledge revolution as a result of AI will be as impactful as the industrial revolution, we don’t yet know all the implications. We will need to run models and simulations to plan for the changes.

2. There’s so much to learn. Users will need to build basic skills and an understanding of what is possible using AI.

3. Rethinking the hard questions. With new capabilities, we have the opportunity to ask and answer harder questions or look at data in different ways.

4. Education. All educational systems need to uplevel their curriculum to better prepare young people for the AI-enabled world. AI will change the types of jobs available. I am optimistic that there will be lots of new opportunities in the future that we cannot even imagine now. But people will need to improve their education and training in order to take advantage of these new opportunities.

5. Bias in training data. If you have data that is biased, your results will be biased. If you are building a self-driving car and only used training data based on daylight video, you would have issues driving at night. Data needs to match the expected outcome/use.

As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?

I am an optimist. Any new technology can represent a risk, but the world moves forward and adapts. It is up to humans to adapt, as well and take advantage of new opportunities ahead.

What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?

Modeling and building scenarios around possible outcomes can help us think through potential challenges. Thoughtful discussions with outputs from those modeling exercises can help address these concerns. By providing explainability in the outcomes, AI can help the public understand the reasons behind the results and build trust in the output.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

As a manager and a leader, the most impactful way that I’ve been able to bring goodness to the world is by helping people realize that they have skills and talents far beyond what they themselves believe. My favorite calls are from former employees letting me know that they just received a promotion or a new job — something that we had imagined during our employee development discussions from years before.

As you know, there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would advise to other women in the AI space to help them thrive?

1. Don’t be afraid to be technical.

2. Be curious about everything.

3. If you are dealing in a technical topic where you do not have a deep background, ask logical questions. The person you ask should be able to explain the issue without using jargon or an overly complex explanation. If they cannot, it’s likely they do not really understand the issue.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the AI industry?

More women beget more women. Thank you for making women in AI more visible. That alone is a big help.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” The opportunity to move to Tokyo was fraught with concerns about being uncomfortable. I did not speak the language and I knew that it was going to be a difficult and challenging market for U.S. companies to succeed in. I had heard that it could be particularly challenging for women in business in Japan. But I took the risk and went for it. Yes, not speaking Japanese was challenging, but we figured it out. We laughed a lot. We ate a lot of different food, including food that to this day I still have no idea what it was. We survived and we flourished. It’s OK to be uncomfortable. You learn a lot about yourself and others.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I am excited about the idea of national and international service opportunities where people of all backgrounds can get together on a project. That provides an opportunity for them to get to know each other and realize that although they may have different backgrounds, they are all humans with the same common concerns. If you learn about someone and get to know their story, it makes it a lot easier to get along. Be kind.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter @amyg44 or Linkedin.com/in/amyguarino

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Jason Hartman

Written by

Author | Speaker | Financial Guru | Podcast Rockstar

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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