After spending more than two decades working for a global engineering and construction company, Pinar Akgun Gursoy brings her diverse analytical, commercial, and strategic skills to BrightAI as its new chief financial officer.
Passionate about connecting with the start-up’s innovative staff, she shares why she’s so keen to be “at the edge of change” with AIoT, and how her engineering and construction backgrounds influence her work in finance.
What attracted you to BrightAI after spending much of your career in global engineering and construction?
Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things are in the middle of virtually every industry, with the potential to revolutionize each sector they touch. And the technology is changing so rapidly compared to a decade ago. The construction industry is still in its early stages of adopting AI and IoT, but BrightAI puts me in the middle of it. Just like with any new industry one dives into, it comes with challenges, but also provides the opportunity to learn and grow.
What does your typical work day look like?
As a CFO, my role demands a comprehensive grasp of our company dynamics and what's happening on the business side. It's not just the numbers, but really understanding the company as a whole. I frequently engage with our team at all levels to understand their experiences on the ground floor. Where are we going? How are we progressing? What are the potential challenges? What are the hold-ups? But also, what are the opportunities? These help me assess likely financial outcomes and how they might impact the company’s financial health.
Is finance the most important thing in a business?
Finance is very important, but it doesn’t exist in isolation. While the numbers ultimately tell you how the business is doing, if it is profitable and if it will grow, they’re driven by the actions and approach of the company.
For a business to survive, financial success is crucial. It's almost a “virtuous” cycle, as one impacts the other. While the financial outcome is a result of the strategy and the actions of the company, finances impact the company’s strategy and the path it’s going to take. They are intertwined.
What do you most look forward to in your job each day?
What I really enjoy in this role is the opportunity and the ability to see the big picture and the regular conversations with the team members about what's happening so I can make sense of our financials and forecast for the future. This interactivity is truly fulfilling. While I always enjoyed the analytical side of a finance role, I don't want to be confined to my laptop, working on reconciling numbers in isolation. I’d like to be able to put them in a broader business and commercial context.
Do you feel you have more opportunities for connection at BrightAI than you would at a larger corporation?
BrightAI’s smaller organization size offers the distinct advantage of quick access to virtually everyone in the company, thanks to few horizontal and vertical layers in the organizational structure. For a CFO, this close-knit environment is invaluable, as it enables a comprehensive understanding of the entire business. Especially in a start-up environment, where things change and evolve so rapidly, one should be able to stay in touch with various departments and groups continuously to see the full picture.
Talking to engineers, for example, helps me gauge what the company is really doing, what we're putting together, and what we're offering. Meanwhile, collaborating with our customer success team provides invaluable insights into our customers’ objectives and our strategic approach to building robust customer relationships, meeting their needs, and exceeding their expectations.
How does your background in engineering and construction benefit you in your current role?
My education and time spent working in the field have served me throughout my career. My engineering education played a pivotal role in honing my analytical thinking skills and providing me with an understanding of what engineers do and how certain aspects come together. It also equipped me with the ability to communicate with them effectively, as it can be a different mindset. Working in a construction environment helped me visualize how physical assets come together, and how infrastructure can be optimized for efficiency and output.
BrightAI is all about transforming business results by digitizing physical environments. Having spent many years developing large physical asset projects, planning and budgeting their design and construction phases, and seeing them being built, I can clearly envision how BrightAI can help with that transformation and how I can leverage my insights to assist along the way.
How has your experience been working as a female in predominantly male-dominated industries?
In university, being a woman in an engineering program meant I was in the minority. I began adjusting to this reality when I entered college at 18, essentially growing up with it.
On the technology side, there is greater female participation in the workforce than in the construction industry, though still quite far from true balance. We still need more female presence in the industry. We're all capable and can do it.
At BrightAI, everybody's so open. It's not a challenge, because we don't see each other by our gender identification. We're just colleagues. Once people have the drive and the desire to add value and do something better, they work together seamlessly as a team.
What do you enjoy most about working for an innovative start-up?
It's being at the edge of change. You're right there at the tipping point that's taking you to the next Big Bang, and that keeps you on your toes. You have to adapt on a regular basis. I see this as a learning opportunity and a place where I can add value, and bring a unique point of view and different type of experience.
What’s been your favorite discovery in what BrightAI does?
What was astonishing was how close BrightAI is to providing tangible assets and services. While I was aware of AI applications for the digital world and intangible concepts, I was pleasantly surprised to find how closely BrightAI projects are aligned with what I've done before. In the construction industry, we built physical assets. BrightAI is improving the efficiency of the physical world. By retrofitting the physical operations of businesses with loT technology, it is ultimately unlocking hidden data and transforming businesses with Al-driven intelligence and control.
When you've got an ambitious company such as BrightAI, how do you balance the need to be financially conservative with the desire to push boundaries and engineer imaginative solutions?
That is truly a challenge, because people have the ambition and the drive to bring the company to a better place, but that requires resources. What is the right balance and allocation? Can we take those risks now, or should we take them later? Can we afford those resources now, or not? Part of it is really understanding whether the request is coming from a true bottleneck. If so, how can I help them? Maybe you shift resources from one area to another.
You can’t be in a start-up and be completely conservative because these organizations are all about taking the next step to grow. It is a balance, an evaluation on a case-by-case basis. It's also not just about assessing your current financial position, but also evaluating the risk-reward balance and forecasting the implications for the future.
Where do you see Bright in five years' time?
You’re asking me a question that is challenging to answer with not even two months at the company. That's a true exercise in future forecasting! I cannot help but recognize the huge potential for BrightAI to expand. There's a massive market out there, with so much opportunity to improve efficiency in physical operations across virtually every industry, while simultaneously unlocking invaluable operational data and implementing AI-driven control. And I'm discovering that five years is a long time in this industry. Things change so fast. They grow so fast. They sometimes disappear so fast. I can see BrightAI emerging as the go-to solution for companies seeking to transform from traditional operating models to cutting-edge digital operating systems using AIoT, and ultimately creating tremendous business value.
Interested in reading more from BrightAI’s thought leaders? Discover how our team is innovating with AIoT to unlock unimagined potential across industries. To learn more or schedule an interview, email us at email@example.com.