My Journey To Ambi: The Series
Meet, Sandra Kazee
Mastering a Different Type of Art: Accounting
Sandra Kazee, VP of Finance at Ambi Robotics, brings a wide breadth of experience from Fortune 500 companies to startups. From a young age, Sandra Kazee dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. She dedicated her time in high school to building a strong portfolio to get into the best art school possible. However, upon arriving at UC Berkeley and getting introduced to economics and accounting, she switched career paths and has never looked back.
“I hadn’t originally considered going to UC Berkeley, but once I did, I found that I had a passion for subjects outside of art and that’s where I started my journey into the business world by pursuing economics and accounting.”
She might not be a fashion designer, but Sandra is building the runway for Ambi’s success.
Seeing Through Numbers
Crunching numbers, synthesizing data, and developing strategies – these skills came naturally to Sandra and guided her journey into the world of finance. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, Sandra worked at numerous companies before landing at United Parcel Service, known as UPS. She worked as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Implementation Consultant. After six years at UPS, Sandra continued her career in logistics at Walmart.com. There, she was quick to move up the ladder and held many titles, the last of which was Senior Director of Transformation. During her time at Walmart.com, she oversaw strategic global projects and founded the Hispanic LatinX Resource group.
After nine years at Walmart.com, Sandra worked at a renewable energy company in San Francisco, where she continued leading finance transformation work. This experience provided Sandra with her first exposure to the people aspect of operations.
“At NaturEner, I was offered the opportunity to oversee the People Operations function. It was something I hadn’t done before, but I took the challenge, dove deep to understand the different work streams and continue my passion for learning.”
Fast forward to today: though Sandra’s official title is VP of Finance at Ambi Robotics, her responsibilities don’t stop there. “I’m head of finance, which in the startup world really means you wear lots of different hats. For me, I oversee finance, accounting, and human resources (HR). I love it all because I feel like it brings in a lot of pieces of my background together,” says Sandra Kazee.
Finance: Looking Forward
Through Sandra’s eyes, finance requires a strong understanding of the business and strategic analysis to enable future modeling and planning. At a high level, these plans include building the company budget for the next year, and building the strategic outlook for the next three years.
“There are economies of scale, so building all of that really means understanding how the business is going to be driven, and how that impacts the financials.” Sandra points out. “This also requires the building of business assumptions and a strong understanding of what resources are needed to meet these projections.”
Accounting: Looking Back
Just as finance is geared towards preparing for the future, accounting is about looking at what happened.
“Accounting is so important because you are keeping historical financial records to understand the health of the company as well as to gather insight for future decision making.”
Building a Future of Female Leaders
Sandra is the seventh out of eight siblings and was the first in her family to attend college. This experience played a large role in shaping her true passion – giving back to her community, specifically young females interested in pursuing tech careers.
“At Ambi Robotics, we are on a mission to create more meaningful jobs for supply chain workers with AI-powered robotics and automation. However, today, women only make up 19% of the engineering field, and only 10% in robotics, there are just too few women in engineering. In the future as we work to solve these problems, we need greater representation from women.”
Shortly after Ambi Robotics’ move back to Berkeley, Sandra reached out to the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at UC Berkeley. SWE is a national nonprofit organization that strives to highlight the achievements of women and non-binary individuals as leaders and engineers. Sandra spearheaded the planning of the first joint event – a Women in STEM panel. The event was a hit, and incurred a waitlist of members eager to learn more about the Berkeley-born startup. Students started their morning with a tour of the new office and watched an AmbiSort demo led by two machine learning/computer vision interns. Then they spent their afternoon hearing from three brilliant female engineers, and ended their day networking with the Ambi Robotics team.
From finance to HR, Sandra has led Ambi in a multitude of critical areas. How does she do it? By leading with fearlessness and allowing her true passions shine through in all that she does.
“My advice for those interested in breaking into tech is to not be scared, jump in, and most importantly, try. Never stop being curious. I recommend that you keep exploring classes, opportunities, and taking on different types of projects, which will give you a well-rounded background, and you’ll get to figure out which area and technology you want to pursue because the possibilities are endless.”
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