Jessica Mann-Amato of Mancini Duffy: “Seamless Technology”
Seamless Technology — Technology to handle everything from health checks to video meetings will become seamlessly integrated into our spaces, so they function as an invisible layer in our surroundings, much like how Alexa, Siri, or others operate in our lives now, we will say a simple command, or it will be automated.
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 Jessica Mann-Amato.
Jessica Mann-Amato, IIDA, is a natural design leader. With over 20 years of client-focused design experience, she oversees workplace strategy, space planning, and interior design for Mancini’s New York office as a principal and co-owner. She works diligently to bring her colleagues and clients together to achieve a shared vision, infused with a creative edge, that meets — and exceeds — expectations. Jessica utilizes Mancini’s cutting-edge technology to further the design process and bring each client’s vision to life. She uses the company’s state-of-the-art Design Lab to lead clients through proprietary 360 Design Sessions, which immerse them in their future spaces and allow for a truly collaborative and interactive design process, which Jessica has always promoted with her clients.
Jessica cut her teeth by devising beautiful and functional interiors for consumer goods companies, digital media movers and shakers, and boutique financial firms. Her career highlights include design projects for a wide array of clients that met unique business goals, integrated new workplace strategies, and delivered design that significantly impacted clients’ company culture. She has created spaces for clients such as Indeed, Rent the Runway, McGraw-Hill, Rauxa, Pernod Ricard USA, ALM Media, and Citigroup, among many other innovative companies.
A graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design, before joining Mancini, Jessica worked with Spector Group, HLW International LLP, NELSON, Furnstahl & Simon Architects, and Conant Architects. In addition, she served as the 2009–2010 International Interior Design Association (IIDA) NY Chapter President.
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 grew up in Florida. However, I’ve worked as an interior designer in NY for 21 years, so I feel like a New Yorker. I’ve worked my way up through the architecture and design community, starting as a bright-eyed young interior designer, cutting my teeth at a handful of great firms with wonderful mentors along the way, and really coming into my own over the last ten years culminating in being a principal and shareholder at Mancini Duffy, a 100+-year-old tech-driven architecture and design firm in New York City. I have an amazing husband, who is an architect; we met when we worked together 17 years ago. And we have a beautiful, artistic, vivacious 5-year-old daughter who makes me look at the world in a whole new way every day.
Two experiences have shaped my life. First, I was blessed to study abroad in London my senior year of college and travel throughout Europe; it sparked my love of travel. That period of my life opened my eyes to the power of design after I experienced firsthand everything from ancient architectural marvels to modern cutting edge fashion design. After that, I decided to live in a larger metropolitan city, so I moved to NYC, and I’ve created an amazing life here. The second experience was my tenure as IIDA NY Chapter President 2009/2010. It gave me the tools to navigate all types of professional and political situations and introduced me to a network of people that have become my tribe.
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?
Technology — I think many services will become automated to some degree, so we must embrace technology and adapt to working and growing with it, utilizing it to extend our capabilities instead of resisting the evolution.
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?
I had student loan debt for many years post-college, and it made me think about this very question often. What I realized was that my tenure in college not only gave me a foundation of basic knowledge about my chosen profession but, most importantly, it gave me a toolkit of skills that have enabled me to succeed in many facets of my life: critical thinking, design thinking, problem-solving, professional and ethical conduct, the importance of advocacy and volunteerism. In addition, I made lifelong friends, and the professional relationships I gained in college opened many doors for me at the start of my career. The network that I started building in college has been a support system to help me navigate every step of my professional career.
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?
There is currently — and will continue to be — a shift in what employees seek from employers. We are all aware that we can perform well when working from anywhere and that there is not as much of a need to have people in one place all the time. I think this will create a shift in what people want from their jobs, and they will look for work that better suits their interests, and through technology will be able to showcase their talents from anywhere. As a result, I think the approach to searching for and being hired for a job will become more individualized and less rigid, and we will see a rise in nomadic working.
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?
I am honestly not sure how to tell people to plan, as it is inevitable to some degree. However, I think people’s fear is potentially holding them back from being open and receptive to how technology can potentially enhance your work or create new and different work opportunities. We talk about this a lot at our firm because we have embraced and continue to embrace technology to automate some of our processes and enhance others. We have chosen the path of innovating through technology, allowing us to become more efficient and, in many ways, more creative. So far, our innovation has created more jobs and more opportunities. I think it boils down to being open and receptive to the next big idea and being willing to explore. I have found that big ideas tend to spark other big ideas, which creates a cycle of innovation and ideation, which in many cases creates jobs instead of taking them away.
Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?
We were already moving towards a more nomadic work style because the power of technology has made it possible to work remotely from anywhere. I foresee the nomadic nature of work expanding. Our expectations of what we want from a job are adapting and changing because the pandemic has taught us that what we once thought was impossible is indeed possible. We all have an enhanced desire to be able to balance our life on our terms.
What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?
Working mothers often miss out on opportunities and are overlooked for career advances/promotions in our society. The pandemic has made it exponentially worse because the brunt of childcare and remote learning responsibility has fallen on the working mother in many cases making it more challenging to maintain work responsibilities. I feel exceptionally lucky to have a wonderful husband who is a true parenting partner with our daughter. As a firm, we have worked hard to provide every opportunity for our employees to succeed. However, as a society, we must do better at providing working mothers with the resources and support they need to set them up to succeed, not to fail. In general, we have a lot more work to do.
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?
I think employers will have a hard time adapting to the more nomadic way of working as a long-term situation. We all thought when the pandemic was over, and we would return to working as we used to; however, the pandemic has changed the way we approach work and the freedom we want in choosing how we work. As employers, we are all trying to figure out the right mix to recruit and retain and produce work effectively and provide the right blend of collaboration, culture, and well-being. Logistically, that affects many things, real estate being one of them, and deciding the right solution to meet the company’s real estate needs while balancing employee well-being. We have helped many of our clients navigate this successfully, and we are also making these decisions for ourselves at Mancini. As a company, we have decided to adopt a hybrid schedule and agile work style as a long-term solution for Mancini’s offices as it provided the right mix of what we are all seeking.
As employees, we are all struggling with our work-life balance now that commutes and in-person meetings are back in the mix. Navigating all of that while still dealing with pandemic protocols is difficult. In my group of kindergarten parents, I hear everyone struggling with it as we navigate our work lives and home learning or return to school for our children. Therefore, employees are reassessing work lives and re-aligning their priorities.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped highlight the inadequate social safety net that many workers at all pay levels have. Is this something that you think should be addressed? In your opinion, how should this be addressed?
Absolutely, as a country, we are very behind where we should be in providing an adequate social safety net. One of the most significant pieces of this that is always at the forefront of my mind is for employers to provide stable work support for childcare and family leave and opportunities for income assistance for those who cannot work. I have seen families struggle with this repeatedly throughout my career due to different circumstances, and I have personally experienced it when we had our daughter. As a result, I had to campaign for what should have been my unquestionable right as an employee. As employers, it is our duty to provide comprehensive benefits that address this for the people who work so hard for our company.
Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I have worked through three recessions now, and I have learned that great opportunity arises from struggle. There is so much innovation happening due to the pandemic. It gives me great optimism thinking about the fantastic new products, processes, and places that we will all discover and benefit from in the coming years.
Historically, major disruptions to the status quo in employment, particularly disruptions that result in fewer jobs, are temporary with new jobs replacing the jobs lost. Unfortunately, there has often been a gap between the job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?
The sooner we can all get back to consuming again, the faster we will bounce back. We are getting back to our everyday routines — eating out again, shopping in stores again, partaking in entertainment venues, traveling — as quickly and safely as possible. The sooner we globally bounce back to somewhat normal consumerism, the faster we will reduce the gap.
Okay, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Seamless Technology — Technology to handle everything from health checks to video meetings will become seamlessly integrated into our spaces, so they function as an invisible layer in our surroundings, much like how Alexa, Siri, or others operate in our lives now, we will say a simple command, or it will be automated.
- Sustainability will be at the forefront of everything we do. More companies will start recognizing the circular economy, measuring their performance, and pushing innovation to support it.
- Hygge will be in demand in our workplaces: “a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality, with feelings of wellness and contentment.”
- Migration — I envision people will migrate to different industries and want to try different job types. Living through the pandemic has left people looking for a life change and willing to consider something different — or finally take the leap to do something new.
- Nomadic working will be at the forefront of how we work as we navigate the recruitment and retention of top talent.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?
“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” My mother used to say this when we were kids, and I hated it, but it is so true, and I think about it and now quote it often. There are so many times that we will fail at what we are trying to do; the important thing is to pick ourselves up and try again. I have learned that the magic moments happen in learning from failure and looking at the problem differently. Once we open our minds to a different way of thinking about something, we unleash all sorts of possibilities.
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 have always loved Michelle Obama. She is so down to earth and true to herself with a fierce drive to make the world a better place. I love how she is open about the struggles along the way but has successfully navigated her family, career, and political responsibilities in her own way.
Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?
You can follow me on:
Mancini Duffy: www.manciniduffy.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.