Amy Bernal (MBA ’14) is the Vice President of Customer Experience at Aira.io, a local startup that is changing lives of individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired through the interaction of smart wearable devices, artificial intelligence and real, remote people, called Aira Agents. Founded just over two years ago by CEO Suman Kanuganti (MBA ’14), the company has grown quickly, with almost 200 users, and plans to scale to over 2000 this year. Aira was recently awarded “Best New Technology” from PCMag, “Bet Accessibility Tech” from CTA, as well as “Most Innovative Product” by CONNECT San Diego.
Prior to Aira, Amy was a Senior Program Manager at Intuit in the Consumer Tax Group. Before moving into tech, Amy worked for West Health and the Gary and Mary West Foundation, partnering with organizations to reduce the cost of health care for older adults through technology or preventative care. She is a proud alumna of UC San Diego Rady School of Management, Flex Evening class of ‘14. In her personal time, Amy promotes women in technology through her involvement with Athena, Women Give San Diego, and the Rady Alumni Board. During her time at Rady she was part of the first US/Israel Center for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship trip.
What impact has Rady had on your career progression?
Rady has changed my career path in three major ways: allowed me to break out of the “non-profit” sector, something I felt was going to be extremely challenging to accomplish without a new network, it brought me into tech, and most recently, it brought me into the Startup Sector.
Has your Rady MBA enabled you to change industries or functional areas or even achieve a promotion?
All of the above! My first answer covers the high points but I would say when I started Rady I intended to get into the marketing field, however in the Evening program it is hard to swallow when someone’s advice is to quit your job and get an internship with the hopes you get hired on. I didn’t find a path to marketing, and when I graduated felt a bit dismayed with the ability I would have to radically change my career. It took almost 3 years but I did just that through joining Aira.
What event or realization served as a ‘turning point’ for you during your Rady School and/or professional career?
Half way through the first year I went from a Foundation to Intuit- that transition helped class material come alive for me, it felt relevant from operational costs to innovation frameworks.
Why did you decide to come to the Rady School?
I knew it was the best, and if I was accepted, I needed to challenge myself and go. I seriously feared how math and science heavy I perceived it to be, and I felt that it would be the only way I could actually challenge myself to get the new skills I was seeking.
What was your favorite class and why?
Strategy Planning — I had never thought this way before. I felt like a whole new world was opened up, a new conversation, that clearly had always been happening without me participating. I was fascinated by the ability to see industries a decade ahead, and the balance in planning for that future state and current state.
What is the best thing about being a Rady alumni?
You go to school to become an Alumni — you get an MBA to connect yourself to the best and the brightest, the Rady School offers deep, meaningful connections and resources that I would never achieve on my own.
Tell us a fun fact about you, or something people may not know about you.
I am from a really small town outside of Yosemite National Park, the elevation is higher than the population.