AI is no longer a tool, it's a teammate. Meet Asana's new AI teammates.Join our beta

Celebrating Black History Month: The past, present, and future of Asana’s Diaspora

February 8th, 2021
7 min read
facebookx-twitterlinkedin
BHM-Main-Blog

This year for Black History Month, we reflect on the Black experience with the theme, Celebrate & Connect our Community: Asana’s Diaspora – Past, Present, Future. This theme grounds us amid a turbulent year; in 2020, we experienced two violent plagues—a global pandemic and racial injustice. We are taking this month to come together as a community and look closely on the inherent need to understand our past, so that we may harvest the power of our shared imagination in the present, to envision a new and more just future. Through it all, we commit ourselves to “seeing the light, and being the light”, as beautifully stated by Amanda Gorman at this year’s presidential inauguration.

Our month of programming includes creating spaces for learning and connection while celebrating our employees and community. As part of the celebration, get to know a few members of Blacsana, our Employee Resource Group for Black employees, and how they plan to honor Asana’s Diaspora.

Okori Puryear, Research Operations Program Lead, San Francisco

Q: What energizes you around your career? 

Okori: I’m a big believer in the idea of helping humanity thrive. I love to help build and implement processes and frameworks to help my teams succeed. I also love being part of learning about how our customers use Asana in service of making it more useful for them.

Q: What are you passionate about? Do you live by any piece of advice or motto?

Okori: I’m very passionate about the environment and social justice. I spent a chunk of my early childhood abroad in the Federated States of Micronesia. I learned to love the ocean and all the creatures in it at an early age and that has carried through my life. I got to grow up in a culture where a lot of people were brown like me. This gave me the freedom to grow into myself without being warped by the racism of the United States. This experience informed my growing awareness of systemic racism in the United States when we moved back to NYC. I had to have “the talk” with my dad and became hyper aware of the societal framework that discriminated against people like me. Combined, these experiences have instilled in me a passion for environmental improvement and justice for Black people in the United States.

Q: What does the Blacsana community at Asana mean to you? 

Okori: It’s been really important to me, especially working remotely, to have members of the community reach out to me and include me. It’s really helped me feel part of the larger Asana family. It’s also been super important in this particular time in the social justice movement. Most of all, it’s cool to see how multifaceted the Black community is at Asana—both in background and what they contribute to Asana and their own communities. As someone who recently got into searching for family history and ancestors, I am blown away by the varying backgrounds and origins within the Black community at Asana.

Q: How do you plan to honor Black History Month this year? 

Okori: I’m hoping to be able to safely join my local Oakland community and Asana community to celebrate Black History Month. I’ve become especially interested in my own family history in advance of becoming a father. I hope to honor my ancestors this month by expressing gratitude at their success in creating a lineage in the face of slavery and white supremacist terrorism.

Q: How do you plan to take care of yourself and your community in 2021?

Okori: I’m going to be a new dad soon! This year is all about growing my family and taking care of my partner, my lil one, and our dog, Snacks. I’m hoping to help support my local community through service and philanthropic support when things are safer.

Q: What energizes you around your career?

Charlotte: The people with whom I interact with and the opportunity to learn new things in tech. I work with fantastic folks from in-house legal teams who are involved with all sides of the growing business. Additionally, Legal Operations combines my two loves of law and tech, and I am constantly intrigued by tech products and services. In my role, I’ve gotten the opportunity to work on exciting initiatives such as our Legal Diversity Program, privacy operations, and technology and process management. 

Q: What are you passionate about? Do you live by any piece of advice or motto?

Charlotte: Besides tech and the law, I’m passionate about all things creative. In particular, dance, music, and art have been lifelong interests and sources of comfort and inspiration, especially during the pandemic. Something that’s always resonated with me is, “Everyone you meet is your teacher.”

Q: What does the Blacsana community at Asana mean to you?

Charlotte: This community has shown me there is top-down sponsorship and support for those within the community. Before joining Asana, I attended the fantastic Gradient SFMOMA Artist Panel featuring Black creatives. Shortly after I joined, I was fortunate enough to represent Asana during the virtual Afrotech 2020 conference and connect with the broader black tech community. I have also seen firsthand how management and allies have leveraged the community’s resources to further support me and others in the day to day.

Q: How do you plan to take care of yourself and your community in 2021?

Charlotte: For self-care, Black and Indigeous People of Color (BIPOC) meditation has helped a lot as well as being mindful of what media I consume. While it is good to be informed, it is also important to take breaks when needed. For my community, I will lend an ear, share resources when appropriate, and remind folks to rest.  I also have a lot of friends who are small business owners, so I will continue to buy their products, book their services, and spread the word.

Kenan Kigunda, Product Engineer, New York 

Q: What energizes you around your career? 

Kenan: When I started as a developer, I was lit up by the chance to create elegant systems. For me, building software gives me a feeling of joy and accomplishment in putting all the pieces together and seeing the seamless final creation. I love that feeling of seeing things come together, but recently I’ve been more and more invested in the process of how we work together as teams to create that same sense of perfect fit for the people who have no tech experience but who ultimately use our apps—the opportunity to build that is what lead me to be a product engineer at Asana.

Q: What does the Blacsana community at Asana mean to you?

Kenan: One of the things I looked for when job searching was a particular company culture. One of the biggest things that stands out to me about Asana is how much we commit to creating a space where each of us can show up as our full selves. For me, the Blacsana community is a critical part of it: It allows me to know that there are others here who share my experience as a child of the African diaspora, to hear what’s on their mind, and to speak or sometimes just find catharsis in the knowledge and practice of living in, but also beyond, the legacies of colonization. It’s tremendously important to me that our company is one that creates the space for us to do that.

Q: How do you plan to honor Black History Month this year?

Kenan: This is a month that reminds me not only of the millions of the African diaspora who have lived and fought and laughed and cried so that I could have the opportunities I do now, but also to all the people who create the space for us to imagine our future.

Q: How do you plan to take care of yourself and your community in 2021?

Kenan: I can’t wait to eventually take the time to recharge and refresh through long conversations and dinners with friends once we reach that point. But until then, one thing this period has reminded me is the importance of taking the time to have those long conversations with the people I trust most in the ways I still can. When the Zoom fatigue is too high, the importance of a long, hot bath with a lavender bath bomb.

Hamida Khalifa, People Partner, San Francisco

Q: What energizes you around your career?

Hamida: As a member of the People Ops team, I have the amazing opportunity to find ways to support the success of our employees in service to our company mission and their own growth. It is rewarding to see the impact that our employees have on moving our mission forward in service to our amazing customers. I also get the chance to see people grow up close and achieve goals they set out for themselves.

Q: What are you passionate about?

Hamida: Showing up in each situation I am in with purpose. It can be hard to find purpose in every single situation but it helps to keep me rooted in both the bigger picture and my presence in the moment. If I’m struggling to find purpose, I get a chance to explore why and what it means for what I want to be spending my time doing.

Q: What does the Blacsana community at Asana mean to you?

Hamida: It is amazing to have a community of cross-functional peers that I can build meaningful connections with. I get the opportunity to learn and share experiences with this community in a way that feels open and safe.

Q: How do you plan to honor Black History Month this year? 

Hamida: I have a 4 year old son, and we have a collection of black history and black character children’s books we are reading each night. It’s important for him to learn about and through figures that look like him, so he can feel proud and represented as he begins to interact with the world around him.

Q: How do you plan to take care of yourself and your community in 2021?

Hamida: I’m starting to focus more on my physical health and well-being, and sharing what I learn with those I care about to support their health too. Access to health resources and information should not be a barrier for communities of color, so I am supporting organizations and finding other ways to get involved directly.

Sydney Johnson, Software Engineer, San Francisco

Q: What energizes you around your career? 

Sydney: I love working on and creating technologies and products that positively impact the lives of others. Interestingly, my love of video games and robots led me to where I am now! I really like to wow users, which is what interested me in my current role on the First Experience team; I get to work on what is, essentially, the user’s introduction to Asana and I enjoy being a part of that initial impact.

Q: Do you live by any piece of advice or motto?

Sydney: When I was a child, my mom used to tell me, “You can do anything that your [little] heart desires.” I believe living by that advice is what has allowed me to always find a way to make things happen for myself and others.

Q: What does the Gradient / Blacsana community at Asana mean to you?

Sydney: I’ve been at Asana for a few months now and already, Blacsana has positively impacted my experience. I believe that having a support system is indispensable. The Blacsana community has provided mentorship, fun events, and a space to talk about experiences and ask questions.

Q: How do you plan to take care of yourself and your community in 2021?

Sydney: My plan is to continue limiting my use of social media, taking breaks from the news, spending time with friends and family, investing in myself and my hobbies, and giving back to my community wherever I can.

Celebrate with us

Celebrate with us by listening to our Black History Month playlist, and check out our Events page for exciting opportunities to join the conversation. Follow along with us on LinkedInTwitter and Instagram using #teamasana to see even more from our Asana community.

Related articles

Team Asana

Building Connections: Networking and Learning at the Work Innovation Summit Breakfast with Blacsana