Catalyst Conference 2016: Interview with Amy Bunszel of Autodesk

The content for Catalyst Conference 2016 includes more than three dozen luminary speakers. Among them: Amy Bunszel, Vice President of Digital Engineering Products for Autodesk. View Amy’s bio here and see who else will be presenting.
What will you be speaking about at the Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference?
I’ll be speaking about how to develop an innovation mindset. How it’s important to take small steps that can lead to giant leaps and big breaks.
What’s a typical day like for you?
My days typically focus on enabling my team to do their best work. This usually means removing obstacles and road blocks. I work on helping them advance whatever they are doing. And that sometimes means attending a lot of meetings and responding to a lot of emails!
What do you think needs to happen to encourage more young women and girls to pursue tech?
I’m a mother. What’s most important all through elementary and middle school is making sure kids always feel encouraged. That should be based on gender tied to aptitude, whether it’s math, science, English, history or language classes. It’s important to instill passion and to let kids know that they can try anything. Thankfully, I had a great math teacher in high school who encouraged me to excel.
What do you love most about your career?
I absolutely love building teams. Whether it’s with my direct staff or working with customers. I love working directly with our customers. That part really makes me proud to work at Autodesk.
You manage a global team of over 600. How do you do it?
That’s a lot of what I spend timed doing—I spend a lot of time communicating. I make sure my team is hearing the important messages from their direct managers on strategy, company direction, products and customers. I work so that my team has the information they need to make good decisions and not be stuck. Most of my time is spent communicating and working with others across Autodesk.
Your background includes founder experience. How do you think that’s shaped your corporate career?
When we started the company I was in my early thirties. And everything was important and everything was a priority, the big things and the little things. Over the years I’ve mellowed out. I’m much better at deciding what’s really important versus what seems urgent but may not be important. This goes for everything now, from how clean my car is to how I prioritize where I spend my energy. When I was at the start up, we thought everything was critical, like the amount of time we spent arguing over the colors of the logo. Now that I’m with a much bigger team, I’ve found that I’ve matured and focus on empowering people rather than controlling everything.
What’s your advice to those who are early on in their tech careers?
I wish I had thought more about what was truly important and where I could best make a difference. I wish I had had better focus. That’s the startup mentality. Everything is urgent, and you only have so much funding and that can drive a warped sense of urgency. Looking back in hindsight, I can see how we should have prioritized better and I should have focused on where I could make the biggest impact and leave others to do that in different areas of the business.
Do you ever get the itch to do a startup again?
I would love to be an advisor and also be on a board. But I’m not interested in actually doing a startup again. I’d love to share my experience to help others, but I don’t need to do it again.
How do you think women can best support other women, in general, not just in tech?
They can be open to offer coaching, mentoring and advice. But also sponsorships. It’s great to have a sounding board for ideas and to provide advice and that’s where mentoring is helpful. But I also try hard to connect people with opportunities in the way of sponsorships, and leverage my connections to benefit others. I’m very happy to do all of that. I always try to look out for other women.
Have you had sponsorships along the way?
I feel like I’ve always had people in my corner. I’ve been so grateful for that. I’ve always tried to cultivate those relationships. But my biggest job change was actually one I had to ask for. The company didn’t immediately think that I would want to leave my current job or would be willing to move to California. Sometimes you have to ask for the opportunities you want, and make it known that you’re willing to take on new opportunities and stretch assignments.
What advice do you have for founders who feel they’ve encountered a road block?
Reach out to the people you know you can count on and confide in them. Get past the problems and start thinking about solution and use your key people as a sounding board. These days, we all have better networking options available to us then when I started in the 90’s. Look for communities of like-minded people and explore new connections with people with similar issues, or even outside your industry, that can give you another perspective on your challenge.