Coworking with Amanda Barbour

She is the CFO of Boston Dynamics
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· 3 min read

Coworking is a weekly segment where we talk to CFOs and other leaders in the finance space about their experiences, their companies, and the larger economy.Let us know if you are—or you know—a CFO we should interview.

Amanda Barbour is chief financial officer at Boston Dynamics, an engineering and robotics design company based in Waltham, Mass.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How do you think the CFO role has changed over the past five to 10 years?

In the last 10 years, it’s become increasingly about being an expert at the business as a whole as opposed to just the financial aspects of it. To be successful here, for example, I have to deeply understand operations, sales, technology, IT, product strategy, human resources, and the people side of things. I need to know, as a CFO, where are the knobs and levers? If you don’t deeply understand the business, you’re going to miss an important part of the story.

Do you have any advice for CFOs on getting to know the different parts of a business?

Be curious. I’m incredibly lucky in where I am that the people here are from the academic world. They love to teach and talk about what they’re doing.

Go in with no preconceived notions. Listen to what people are doing. Be interested, be curious, and hear about what they’re working on. And then it’s natural to find areas of compatibility or things that you can learn from each other and build relationships around it.

What challenges do you foresee CFOs facing in the next five years?

The macroeconomic climate is definitely challenging. And that will continue to be a challenge that we have to be thinking about on a global scale. There’s still a tail from the Covid impacts that we haven’t fully realized yet.

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Technology is rapidly changing the way that we think about our businesses, too. From a CFO’s perspective there’s data and things we don’t even know about our own business that we’re going to learn and uncover. As AI, for example, continues to make leaps and bounds, as robotics enters the world in meaningful ways, that’s all going to have an impact on CFOs and how we do our jobs.

What’s next for Boston Dynamics? Can you share what your company has going on?

We’ve only been a commercial business for three years, but we’ve had a brand for almost 30 because of our development efforts. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of being an expert in robotics but a novice at being a full commercial business. We’re learning and it’s really exciting.

There’s a lot that will happen in terms of AI and advanced learning, and reinforcement learning, that we’re going to be doing with our robots. But for right now, we’re trying to figure out how to take a very small commercial business and grow it.

Do you get to see or interact much with the robots on the job?

Yes, my office overlooks the Spot lab where engineers are working on the robots. In every area of the building, there’s big glass windows that overlook different labs that we have. Our entire building is designed from an engineer’s mindset, so all of the business areas are connected to the robots, which really keeps us in touch with the product.

If you weren’t a CFO, what would you be?

Probably a restaurant owner. My daughter and I think about our menu and we lay out business ideas. We would be a small bites, tapas-style restaurant. I love the idea of hosting people and having people be connected and sharing the experience.—CV

News built for finance pros

The latest news and insights corporate finance professionals need to know to keep up with their constantly evolving industry.