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Defining career moments: a Q&A with Asana leaders

January 28th, 2021
5 min read
Defining career moments: a Q&A with Asana leaders

At Asana, we’re committed to supporting our employees as they grow personally and professionally. We believe the best way to support career growth is to provide a framework, benefits, and culture that allows growth to happen. Then, the path to actually getting there is up to them.

Growth isn’t linear—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. According to the Anatomy of Work Index 2021, global employees want work that is personally and professionally fulfilling. The number one New Year’s resolution for global knowledge workers is to advance their career in 2021, followed by a resolution to build confidence at work.

To learn how we can get there, we spoke to a few Asana leaders about how their career trajectory has been shaped by different experiences. Hear from them as they share some of the most defining moments of their career, times they’ve experienced personal and professional growth, and taken their work to the next level.

“In 2021 I’m leaning into my value of growth”

Kayla Vatalaro, Head of Talent Acquisition, Social Impact, & Nonprofits, San Francisco: “At the start of the year, I went through an exercise to name my values, with the goal of being more intentional about living them everyday. My primary value emerged as growth: both personal growth as well as appreciating and supporting the growth of others, both at Asana and in my community.

In my role as Head of Talent Acquisition, Social Impact, and Nonprofits, I’m committed to leading the company in learning and long-term transformation. I’m asking myself: how can living this value of growth support uplifting our Black and Brown communities? How can my role at Asana be a force for transforming our practices, while also modeling how other organizations can authentically engage and show up? 

  • In my recruiting work, Asana will prioritize deeply evaluating our hiring and promotion practices to identify where bias exists and how to erase it. We’ll leverage apprenticeships that target individuals from nontraditional backgrounds as our primary candidate pool for entry-level roles, and we’ll continue to cultivate a culture that actively works to eliminate systemic inequality vs. one that creates pressure to conform.

  • As a Lead for one of our Company Objectives, I’ll drive accountability beyond philosophical intentions to focus on measurable results by assigning tangible Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion OKRs

     to company leadership (including myself).

  • As an ERG sponsor and member, I’ll commit to taking ownership for listening to and educating myself about the issues and oppression facing marginalized communities. I’ll provide mentorship, confidential spaces, and forums for unity among our ERG communities. 

  • In my social impact work, we’ll strive to be innovative in our approach—showing parallels between innovation, creativity, diversity, and humanity. We’ll actively work to align our social impact and community investments with our DEI strategies and prioritize supporting underserved communities and addressing opportunity gaps.

With an outpouring of companies making promises to confront racism in the workforce that are at risk of running hollow, in 2021 I’m leaning into my value of growth to ensure both myself, and Asana as a company, remain steadfast and focused on a change agenda.”  

Beth Toland Coworkers

“From the very beginning, I was shown how much I was valued and how much of an impact I could make”

Beth Toland, Head of Experience Research, San Francisco: “At Asana, the most defining factors in my career have always been the company culture, our Areas of Responsibility (AoR) system, and our leadership team. Trust in all of these things is what has propelled my career here. I’ve taken a lot of risks at Asana, and I’ve been able to do that with the support of world-class leadership who have created a culture of collaboration, support, and risk-taking. 

At Asana, every employee’s ability to do their most impactful work starts with our leadership team upholding a culture of trust and transparency. I’ll never forget back when I first joined seven years ago, we used to have design reviews and critiques with our co-founder, JR. Teams brought ideas, sketches, concepts, and research to discuss. Every single time, he was not only interested to hear our opinions and customer insights, but he was also hungry for opinions that were contrary to his.

Our co-founder and CEO Dustin Moskovitz has prioritized hiring the most exceptional leaders who actually seek out differing opinions. That’s what I find with leaders at Asana: they lead by example, they set the expectation for openness, curiosity, and rigor. From the very beginning of my time here, I was shown how much I was valued and how much of an impact I could make.” 

“There is such a strong emphasis on growth at every stage of your career” 

Niranjan Ravichandran, Engineering Manager & Site Lead, Vancouver: “I’m constantly impressed by the internal career mobility, mentorship, and manager support at Asana. There is such a strong emphasis on growth at every stage of your career. I initially joined Asana as an individual contributor to help build out our mobile app. A recent phase of much personal growth for me was moving to Vancouver to help set up and lead the brand new product development office here. As the Site Lead, I’m responsible for leading a cross-functional team and growing Asana’s footprint in Vancouver, in addition to the site’s product development efforts. 

As with a lot of decisions, choosing a location for a new office involved some trade-offs, and a big one here was navigating a new talent market and country logistics. It required me to get out of my comfort zone and better understand how to build a unique office identity, craft a localized office culture that aligned with Asana’s values, and grow the local team by engaging and hiring talent. I was strongly encouraged by my manager to take 100% responsibility and approach this ambiguous change as a way to learn, try new things, and iterate towards our goals.” 

Asana Vancouver office

“I worked on the largest and most in-depth product vision of my career”

Catt Small, Product Designer, New York: “After the launch of Asana’s Goals feature in July, my team had a roadmap of short-term improvements but hadn’t spent as much time on a long-term vision. We decided to co-create and present a product vision for the future of Goals. It was an ambitious undertaking that involved many stakeholders from departments across the company and took three months to solidify. I used Asana to plan and execute the project in collaboration with the Goals Product Manager, our UX Research Partner, and other designers.

Our work was incredibly thorough, yet concise. Together, we learned to balance brevity with deep thinking. It’s the largest and most in-depth two-year product vision I’ve ever designed, and leadership was incredibly excited by what we presented.

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I am grateful for the opportunity to stretch my skills, for the time we were given to do this right, and for my thoughtful, collaborative teammates.”

I learned the value of pulling in collaborators to help you deliver large projects, breaking that work into small chunks, and prioritizing a high-quality experience over quantity of content. To me, Asana’s mission is about providing the clarity and focus necessary for teams to do their best work and make an impact on the world—and we were able to do just that.”

Catt Small

“The opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone and learn skills that I never expected to.” 

Jack Hanratty, Head of Commercial & New Business EMEA, Dublin: “There are so many factors that motivated me to initially join Asana two years ago. The main driver was to learn, grow, and add value. I believe it’s important to think about your end destination and work backwards from there. That way you can map out the skills you want to develop over a period of time, and have something to motivate you. My end goal is to help our sales teams in EMEA scale and achieve greatness by transforming talent and delighting our customers. 

I was hired for potential. When I started at Asana, I was given the opportunity to build out multiple sales teams across EMEA—something I had never done in my career before. This was an exciting opportunity to build something from scratch and I feel my professional growth has been accelerated by 10 years, just by being here.

In order to build a strategy for an entire region, I really had to hone in on my strategic thinking around building a GTM plan. What regions would I invest in and why? Where would I hire, and when? How can I best enable and develop new and existing talent? During the process, I’ve gotten to collaborate with teams and regions on projects I simply couldn’t have imagined. It’s been a real opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone and learn skills that I never expected to.  

Lastly, I became a Dad for the second time in 2020. I have to acknowledge the personal growth I’ve been afforded thanks to our incredible Paternity Leave program. This benefit gave me time with my son and my family, which gave me a new perspective on why I am doing what I’m doing professionally. I will be eternally grateful to Asana for that.” 

Find your career defining opportunity at Asana—we’re hiring

It’s an incredible time to be at Asana. Come explore career-defining opportunities where you can grow and learn. We’re hiring across our global offices—apply now

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