Navigating the New Era of Work: A Conversation with Tech Entrepreneur and Coach, Ksenia Votinova Arnaud
In today’s rapidly evolving work landscape, where the convergence of technology and entrepreneurship defines a new era, individuals with the ability to integrate diverse skills and passions seamlessly are at the forefront. Ksenia Votinova Arnaud, a seasoned tech entrepreneur, stands prominently at this intersection. She co-founded Le VPN and, beyond her entrepreneurial feats, has logged over 2,000 coaching hours as an ICF-accredited Professional Certified Coach (PCC), showcasing her commitment to guiding others on their journey in crafting digital and innovation projects.
In this insightful interview with Ksenia, we explore her dynamic journey, shaped not only by her entrepreneurial prowess but also by her dedication to coaching and mentoring. Recognizing the transformative potential of the new era of work, Ksenia remains steadfast in supporting present and future tech entrepreneurs, providing actionable insights and invaluable resources.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Portfolio Careers and Entrepreneurial Journey
New Metrics: The concept of a portfolio career is gaining traction as one of the future trends in work. Could you share your experience with a portfolio career and how it has shaped your entrepreneurial journey?
Ksenia Votinova Arnaud: A portfolio career places the individual at its core. It allows individuals to leverage their diverse skills, experiences, expertise, passions, and values across different projects. For example, in my portfolio career, I co-founded and run a company, engage in leadership within the team, serve on the company’s board, coach for INSEAD executive education programs, provide executive coaching for leadership and startup founders, and I am in the process of creating a new startup in online education for entrepreneurs. Each component of my portfolio career receives a dedicated fraction of my time, allowing me to balance different projects and even include volunteering work for organizations important to me.
New Metrics: How can individuals diversify their careers, especially those in traditional 9 to 5 jobs?
Ksenia: Increasingly, individuals are exploring portfolio careers while maintaining their 9 to 5 roles. Some companies, like Google, allow employees to spend 20% of their time on different projects. Consulting based on existing expertise is a common starting point. People can choose projects aligned with their passions, such as working with startups or contributing to sustainability initiatives. The key is to allocate time wisely, balancing responsibilities in different areas.
New Metrics: Juggling multiple roles can be challenging. How do you manage deadlines and prioritize tasks in your diverse career?
Ksenia: Balancing a portfolio career is a constant act. Deadlines rarely align across all projects. I prioritize based on the urgency and importance of tasks. For example, if coaching programs have specific weeks with deadlines, I allocate more time to that aspect for those weeks. It’s about being adaptable and recalibrating priorities when necessary.
New Metrics: Have you ever had a traditional 9 to 5 job? What prompted your transition to a portfolio career?
Ksenia: While I did have a corporate career initially, I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Observing my parents’ entrepreneurial journey, I learned the challenges and rewards. Eventually, while working on a corporate digital marketing project, I realized the impact I was making for the business and decided it was time to start my own venture. It wasn’t a drastic leap; I had a plan in place with savings and consulting options to sustain myself while building my company.
New Metrics: What qualities make a good leader in a portfolio career?
Ksenia: Being a good leader is a learning journey. Experience, mentorship, and continuous learning are crucial. Leadership education or having a mentor early on can help avoid mistakes. I learned from my mistakes when managing a team in Bali, adapting to cultural nuances. Flexibility, empathy, and understanding others’ perspectives are vital for effective leadership.
Flexibility, empathy, and understanding others’ perspectives are vital for effective leadership.
Balancing Advocacy for Freedom and Privacy
New Metrics: Your work involves promoting digital freedom through Le VPN. How do you balance advocating for freedom with ensuring privacy and security?
Ksenia: Le VPN focuses on protecting users’ internet connections, ensuring data privacy and security. Users can remain anonymous online, leaving minimal digital footprints. Our mission is to provide individuals worldwide the freedom to access information despite regional censorship. It’s about striking a balance between privacy, security, and the fundamental right to access information globally.
AI: Future of Work, Upskilling and Education
New Metrics: AI is increasingly integrated into various fields. How do you utilize AI in your company, and what’s your perspective on its role in the future of work?
Ksenia: AI is a game-changer for us. We’ve integrated AI in client services, creating an AI-powered support agent. The AI outperformed human agents, offering accurate and fast responses, working 24/7 without emotional biases. I see AI transforming the future of work by automating repetitive tasks, allowing humans to focus on value-adding activities and promoting a healthier work-life balance.
New Metrics: With AI potentially replacing certain jobs, what’s your perspective on upskilling employees to adapt to the changing landscape of work?
Ksenia: AI will likely replace some jobs, especially repetitive ones. However, this presents an opportunity for humans to concentrate on tasks where their unique skills, creativity, and leadership shine. By integrating AI, we can potentially reduce working hours, allowing individuals to engage in meaningful, value-adding work and pursue diverse career paths.
New Metrics: AI in education has its proponents and critics. Where do you stand on incorporating AI into education?
Ksenia: AI should be integrated into education to enhance personalized learning experiences. INSEAD is already experimenting with AI tools for strategy projects. AI can provide efficient feedback, assist in market research, and cater to individual learning styles. It’s crucial to strike a balance, ensuring ethical use and preparing students for responsible AI utilization.
New Metrics: How can AI provide a humanized experience in education or other sectors?
Ksenia: AI, when designed with empathy, can offer a humanized experience. Personal experiences with AI assistants, like ChatGPT, have shown natural empathy. AI can be programmed to understand and respond to human emotions appropriately, making interactions more relatable. The key lies in thoughtful design and continuous improvement.
Thriving in the New Era of Work
New Metrics: Considering your experience in entrepreneurship, coaching, and navigating the dynamic landscape of work, what would be your key piece of advice for individuals aspiring to thrive in the new era of work?
Ksenia: My key piece of advice? Embrace adaptability and continuous learning. The new era of work is not just about having diverse skills but also about being able to evolve with changing trends. Whether it’s technology, market needs, or work culture, everything is in a state of flux.
Be open to learning new things. This could mean upskilling in your current field, exploring new technologies like AI, or even developing soft skills like leadership and empathy. The future belongs to those who can blend their expertise with an eagerness to learn and adapt.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of networking. The connections you make can open doors to opportunities that might not be visible yet. And remember, in a world where change is the only constant, resilience and flexibility are your greatest assets. Stay curious, stay adaptable, and keep pushing your boundaries.
From the innovative paradigm of portfolio careers to the dynamic intersection of digital entrepreneurship, coaching, and technology, these are pivotal aspects defining the new era of work. Ksenia’s experiences provided a real-world perspective on navigating these shifts, highlighting the delicate balance between advocating for digital freedom and ensuring privacy and security.
In an age where technology, entrepreneurship, and coaching intertwine, our discourse extended beyond individual narratives to emphasize broader implications. The integration of AI in education, with its potential for personalized learning experiences, and the humanizing dimension of AI applications resonate as integral considerations in shaping the future of work and education.
As we navigate this new era of work, the conversation underscores the imperative of embracing diversity, fostering innovation, and preparing for the exciting challenges and opportunities in the unfolding narrative of this transformative period.