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Asana Voices: Meet Yasmin Kothari, Product Team

April 27th, 2022
5 min read
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Meet Yasmin Kothari, a thoughtful leader on Asana’s Product team. Yasmin joined Asana in April 2020, just one month after the company transitioned to remote work. Now, she’s looking forward to working with her growing team at Asana’s New York office. Learn more about why Yasmin joined Asana, her advice on empowering teams, and how she approaches scaling Asana’s platform alongside our largest customers. 

What attracted you to Asana? 

Three distinct things come to mind. First, I knew I wanted to work for a mission-driven company. If I’m going to dedicate 40+ hours a week on solving a specific problem, I need to be sure that the solutions I’m working on are ultimately helping people and making the world a better place. 

Second, it’s important to me to be a lifelong student. I distinctly remember my interview with Asana’s Head of Product, Alex Hood. A couple questions in, I asked, “What will I learn here?” He responded that I would master a playbook for designing and scaling high-quality innovation at a large organization. 

Asana has a structured way of going about the product decision process—from deeply understanding our customers to envisioning the world we might create to honing in on the initial minimum viable product (MVP). Learning this playbook has sharpened my product intuition and, as Alex predicted, it has been one of the most valuable tools I’ve learned in my career.

Third, Asana’s supportive culture shone through in the interview process and felt perfectly aligned with my values. I recently had my first baby and witnessed firsthand how that supportive culture empowered me to succeed before, during, and after my parental leave.

You work on the “Align” area of Asana’s product. What does that mean, and how does it fit into the broader Asana Product organization?

Asana’s product team has three pillars: 

  1. The Adoption & Enterprise Pillar aims to make Asana easy to adopt.

  2. The Workflow Pillar aims to simplify and streamline cross-team processes.

  3. The Clarity Pillar aims to create clarity at every level of the organization. 

Within the Clarity Pillar, the Align area focuses on helping cross-functional teams move in the same direction in service of common goals. 

As Asana continues to grow alongside its biggest customers, our north star is to make sure it’s seamless to view work and monitor progress across multiple teams and divisions at scale. As larger and larger organizations are managing work in Asana, we are working to make Asana work for teams that are collaborating across departments and time zones.

How do you support your team’s growth at Asana?

We often say that growth at Asana is more like a climbing wall than a ladder—you can choose different paths, get stronger with each foothold, and truly enjoy your journey along the way. For our PMs, we have a set of core competencies that are critical for their career growth:

  • Growth Mindset: Be open and curious when building, growing, and leading

  • Strategic: Create the best and boldest ideas with a boundaryless mindset, making decisions with the company mission in mind first, team second, and self third

  • Get Stuff Done: Find the best solutions with the highest ROI to deliver value to our users fast

  • Grow Team Asana: Take collective responsibility for growing the size and quality of our team 

  • Customer Centric: Deeply understand our customers’ pain points and build the best solutions to meet their needs

  • Communication and Collaboration: Master cross-functional co-creation to deliver high-quality results

What advice do you have for PMs deciding between a career path as an individual contributor versus a manager? 

There comes a time in everyone’s career when they face a key question: “How do I want to scale my impact?” As a PM, there are many ways to grow in impact.

A senior individual contributor (IC) scales their impact through the work—being able to manage highly complex and critical projects across multiple teams, providing nuanced strategic leadership in making decisions, and building and innovating for our customers. They build deep subject matter expertise and are a role model for others. On the other hand, a manager scales their impact through their team—empowering others through coaching and providing the right opportunities for growth.

Many employees switch between the manager and IC career paths. Both opportunities are equal in terms of seniority, prestige, and accountability. At Asana, we want to make sure people have the flexibility to work in the right capacity for themselves at different points in their lives.

As a leader, how have you navigated remote work with your team these past two years?

Like most teams that shifted to remote work, we faced a new set of collaboration challenges. We had to think about how to innovate, test, and iterate our product without the benefit of in-person working sessions, frequent interactions with cross-functional partners, and a shared sense of space and time.

Our latest Anatomy of Work Index found that knowledge workers continue to spend more than half of their time (58%) on work about work, which includes menial tasks like writing emails, compiling status updates, and searching for information. 

My team has not been immune to many of today’s work challenges discussed in the report. However, over the past two years we’ve worked hard to tackle these challenges by:

  • Creating a shared source of truth: Not all teams can say they get to work inside the product they’re always aiming to improve. At Asana, everything we work on lives inside our work management platform. It creates accountability by ensuring everyone knows who is doing what by when and helps foster intrinsic motivation by empowering employees to attach their individual work to the company’s most important goals. 

  • Optimizing for asynchronous collaboration: We are also intentional about how we spend time together. We use synchronous meetings for creative or complex decision-making work. We move as much of the other work as possible to asynchronous collaboration in order to free peoples’ time to focus on the strategic work they were hired to do.

  • Testing and iterating our processes: I’m a firm believer that process shouldn’t get in the way of progress. We constantly revisit our processes to ensure they enable high-quality decisions, fast. In fact, we view our processes as products. We constantly gather internal feedback, iterate, and improve them.

What are you most looking forward to about Asana’s office-centric hybrid model and working from our offices?

Our Anatomy of Work Index found something that resonated with me: More than ever, the office is being favored for collaborative-centric activities like onboarding, 1:1 meetings, and strategy sessions. Home is the preferred location for skilled work. I couldn’t agree more. I’m psyched to welcome new teammates in person and dig into our strategy face-to-face with my team.

Beyond that, I can’t wait to hang out with people around the office. I look forward to casually catching up with folks in the hallways or being able to swivel my chair around for a quick chat without having to set up a series of 30-minute video calls just to say hi.

What’s your personal mantra, and how has it influenced your leadership style?

“If you’re always comfortable, you’re probably not growing.”

I’ve had the biggest personal and professional growth when facing something scary and uncomfortable. I often encourage my team to lean into a sense of discomfort and view it with excitement. We strike a balance by finding opportunities for them to stretch into the uncomfortable zone while still being achievable. When that balance is found, amazing growth is inevitable!

Asana Voices is a regular series that features one-on-one interviews with the talented individuals on our global team. You’ll get to know the people inside the company, including the twists and turns in their career journeys, what it’s really like working at Asana, and what they value most about their unique impact on our company, customers, and mission.

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