Avinash Misra of Skan: “Determining work vs pleasure”

Determining work vs pleasure. Remote work has blurred the lines of working hours, and made it difficult to shut off work-mode. At the same time, many people have started to realize that tasks they once thought were work have turned into pleasure and vice versa. Look at the Japanese tradition of Bonsai. Is honing a […]

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Determining work vs pleasure. Remote work has blurred the lines of working hours, and made it difficult to shut off work-mode. At the same time, many people have started to realize that tasks they once thought were work have turned into pleasure and vice versa. Look at the Japanese tradition of Bonsai. Is honing a bonsai tree over the course of years considered work or pleasure? With so much overlap between our work and personal lives it has become more difficult to distinguish the two. Moving forward it’s important to firmly establish what, individually, we see as work and what we consider pleasure in order to be successful.


There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute that estimated automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.

To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace.

As a part of this interview series called “Preparing For The Future Of Work”, we had the pleasure to interview Avinash Misra.

Avinash Misra is the Co-founder and CEO of Skan. Avinash is a serial entrepreneur with a proven record of taking ventures from seed to liquidity. He has built successful ventures in the enterprise digital transformation space and his last venture was acquired by Genpact (NYSE : G). Avinash’s insight for Skan took seed in large scale Business Process Transformation projects which he has led over the last decade.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?

I have a typical engineering background, but I’ve never practiced engineering. I’ve focused on building around opportunities for innovation and using technology to solve real problems that people are experiencing right now. Pre smartphone era, the only devices in the hands of working people were PDAs and Windows CE devices. I saw the move from personal computing to pure mobile computing and how that would transform the banking and insurance landscape, which led to the founding of my first venture. After selling my first venture to Genpact, I started Skan because I saw that I could bring similar digital interventions to the front end through computer vision and help companies optimize their processes. The sequence of events in my life has led me to appreciate timing — if you don’t strike when the opportunity is there then you’ll miss out.

What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10–15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?

This disruption and pivot is not just about employers. At every single moment experiences are getting shorter and innovation is getting faster. There is a new challenge for all of us to sew truncated experiences together and create something that people can hold on to and connect to. This means we’ll likely need more short term projects that can tie together to create something huge.

So the challenge for employers, organizations, and society is to bring together these ad hoc moments in time to create and inspire valuable experiences. You can no longer create long term goals and hope that everything falls into place perfectly. There’s a new need to act from moment to moment to achieve your goals. Think about the average tenure of an employee at a company; we’ve seen that time drop drastically. Think about project cycles; we’ve seen these reduced significantly.

We’re all operating at an accelerated clock speed, and all of society needs to adjust and be prepared for what’s coming next.

The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a “no-brainer”. But with the existence of many high profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?

Our understanding of knowledge has been upended. Before, you would go to college because it gave you knowledge and structure that you could use later to get a job. Nowadays, knowledge is no longer locked up in institutions; it’s easily accessible. You can look up videos on YouTube or search online for information on any subject you’re curious about. The internet has created an unprecedented quick access to unlimited knowledge causing a new reason to question the value of a traditional college education. Young adults should still go to college, but technology will change what schools teach and how they teach.

Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment, but employment that fits their talents and interests?

First of all, we need to get over the idea that jobs won’t be available. Let’s go back to the Industrial Revolution — people were caught in the middle of incredible change and a fundamental shift in the system that inconvenienced many people. Yet, others were able to adapt, and in time we’ve all become accustomed to the ingenuity of the telephone, the assembly line, the lightbulb.

The challenge for many people today is finding their own way to adapt to a constantly shifting system both on a personal and societal level. The more economic interactions created, the more jobs created. It’s important for people to focus on what type of jobs are being created and how their knowledge and skills fit into a revolutionized workforce.

The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs, appears frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Dominos is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?

It should come as no surprise that automation will take over monotonous and repetitive tasks that are easily replaced by machines. As I stated before, this is nothing new. But we will always need humans to handle complex tasks that require empathy. The future of work is not all machine or all human; it’s a new world where we will work in tandem. For example, humans will interpret data that machines organize and analyze in relation to business goals. People have always been creative in learning how to adapt to the changing economic landscape and automation is no different. It’s only a matter of five or ten years of change that needs to happen before we see a renaissance of people learning new skills and fully adapting to the technological world.

Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?

For a very large set of people, the move towards working from home is a permanent shift. However, many people will want or need to go back into the office just based on the mechanism of their jobs. For the past eighteen or so months, we’ve seen that, thanks to technology, people can stay connected and collaborative while working from home. So while the trend is likely to continue, the effect on real estate and scheduling will no doubt influence ongoing work from home trends.

What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?

It’s hard to tell exactly. There’s no one sitting down and building these new societal systems. Like a physical system, society experiences significant change then it balances itself out to reach a newly established equilibrium. People and companies are becoming more mindful with working from home, and being more forgiving to the reality outside of work. The personal self is stronger today than it has ever been before and you see this permeating all of our interactions. For example, people finding vocations that allow them to travel and be where they want. You no longer have to live in downtown San Francisco to work in tech or live in New York city to be an investment banker. The idea of strict geography has been taken away and that has had the biggest impact on the changes to work.

What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employers to accept? What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employees to accept?

The most difficult thing for employers to accept is the almost custodial approach to work. Prior to the pandemic, many assumed that if someone was in the office they were working and if they were at home they weren’t. But with the new norm of remote work, employers have had to become more understanding, and develop more trust in their workforce.

From the employee perspective, switching off work mode has become increasingly difficult as there’s no physical separation from work space to recreational space. The natural boundary of a commute is gone, and with that so is the typical 9–5 workday. This isn’t necessarily something employee’s need to accept, but is something that is difficult to balance.

Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

My greatest source of optimism is that the situation is really teaching us what is work and what is joy. Many things that we considered work, like repetitive tasks, will go away and be taken over my machine, which will free us up to do the things that fuel our creative and passionate minds. We’re definitely moving the needle from repetitive tasks to higher levels of work, which fills me with excitement. I’m reminded of a quote from the HBO series Westworld that summarizes this best, it goes, “when all human needs are met, the final need will be purpose.”

Main Question: What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Reimagined offices. What is an office? As demonstrated over the past eighteen or so months, an office is wherever you are able to get work done. One of the biggest trends for the future of work is a complete reimagining of the office and no longer being stuck in one place to work. People will be free to move around and work from wherever they are able to plug in and collaborate with their colleagues.
  2. Boundless geography. With the new norm of working remotely, the idea that you need to be in a certain city or a certain area to be successful in a specific vocation is no longer. The future of work is living and working anywhere in the world and still being successful.
  3. Increased creativity. The impact of the increase of automation and robots is twofold. For one, workers are forced to get creative in their roles, and come up with new approaches and new ways of achieving goals. Second, there’s more time and brainspace for that creativity as automation takes over mundane and repetitive tasks. As the workforce changes we’ll see a reawakening of creative minds bringing innovation.
  4. Determining work vs pleasure. Remote work has blurred the lines of working hours, and made it difficult to shut off work-mode. At the same time, many people have started to realize that tasks they once thought were work have turned into pleasure and vice versa. Look at the Japanese tradition of Bonsai. Is honing a bonsai tree over the course of years considered work or pleasure? With so much overlap between our work and personal lives it has become more difficult to distinguish the two. Moving forward it’s important to firmly establish what, individually, we see as work and what we consider pleasure in order to be successful.
  5. The need for people to be psychologically present. It is easy to be absent when you are doing a task, but it is very important to be present when you have to be creative. Self-direction is imperative to develop mastery over your work. It is not an accident that there’s suddenly a plethora of guided meditation and mindfulness apps. The psychological makeup of our workforce, and society as a whole, needs to change in order to adapt to the future of work.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?

“The secret to life is to be here and now.” While I think this quote is difficult to execute, it’s definitely meaningful to remind ourselves of the importance of being present. With devoting so much time to our jobs while working remotely, it’s become second nature to focus on work when you should be taking time for yourself. The need for presence will go up in the future of work, but if you can achieve this, then you can be happy and completely reconciled with what’s going on around you.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I’m trying to avoid a cliched answer, but one day I would love to have dinner with myself and be completely present. Most of the time when I’m having a meal with my family or colleagues I’m busy focusing on something else like planning my next project. It would be a day of achievement when I can have a meal on my own and be completely present with myself.

Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?

You can follow my work on my LinkedIn, Avinash Misra, or check out our company blog on Skan’s website, Skan.ai.

​​Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

Thank you so much for your time, it was a pleasure working with you on this.

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