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Untitled: How we use (and don’t use) job titles at Asana

March 27th, 2017
3 min read
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Job titles are a complicated terrain to navigate, and one that we don’t take lightly at Asana. After weighing many options of how to approach titles—and being very deliberate about how we use titles internally—we’ve established a system that we feel lends itself to supporting our valuesempowering all employees, and scaling our teams.

How we use (and don’t use) job titles

At Asana, we use titles in varying ways, but we use them primarily to describe a person’s role or the type of work they do.

For example, we have software engineers, recruiters, product managers, designers, and salespeople. We use the word “Lead” to refer to both people managers (“He’s a Marketing Lead”) and individual contributors who run a function (“She’s the Diversity and Inclusion Lead”).

People that run functions of all kinds often use “head of” to describe their role, such as Prashant Pandey, our head of engineering, Brian Boroff, our head of customer operations, or Devon Watts, our head of product and content marketing.

We specifically don’t use job titles to indicate level or seniority (Software Engineer III or Senior Director of Marketing), but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have any management structures in place. We believe in the role of the people manager as an important, unique role, just like any other.

One of the most common places we use more traditional titles is in the job descriptions we use in recruiting new people to Asana. We view job descriptions as marketing materials that help us use keywords to attract the attention of qualified, interested candidates. While the job description is a way for candidates to get an initial sense of the job, we make sure that the interview process gives them a deeper understanding of the role and responsibilities.

We also sometimes use traditional titles when we send an employee to speak at conferences or external meetings where it’s often important that they represent Asana with a title that quickly signals their role.

We’ve decided to use—and not use—titles in these ways in part because it’s really hard to get titles right when they signal level or seniority. Getting them wrong, even in a handful of cases, ends up being demoralizing to many people at the company.

Titles vs. impact

A fundamental tenet of the Asana culture is that you can have a huge impact independent of a title granting you authority, which is reinforced by our Areas of Responsibility (AoR) system. Through this system, we designate accountability for each area of the organization to ensure everything that needs to happen in the company does, while giving every team member opportunities to grow by owning their AoR(s).

For example, we have a product manager that owns internal communications and we’ve had an engineering lead take ownership of refreshing our company values.

Other examples include early employees — from product engineering and business operations alike — who took it upon themselves to start running hackathons in the company. We didn’t have a formal “hackathon manager,” but hackathons were important elements to our culture since they helped work toward many business goals and they were in line with our company values such as “create and play together”.

Similarly, another employee who was passionate about personal growth helped shepherd employee learning and development by organizing regular “learning lunches”. As we grow, these opportunities will continue to grow as well, and there’s no doubt staff will step up from all corners of the company to take on new projects and initiatives — regardless of title.

Finally, our use of titles supports our practice of taking and giving full responsibility and our commitment to egolessness. Our team is creating Asana together, and every member plays a role in achieving our mission.

Titles, externally

While we hope that employees feel empowered by an organization where authority is distributed and the absence of titles, we know that eventually, some people will move on from Asana.

We want every Asana to have a long, thriving, impactful career here, and we don’t want them to feel nervous that our job titling system will negatively affect them when they leave—perhaps with a title that doesn’t reflect the growth they experienced or the impact they had during their tenure here. While our titling system is designed to help our organization as a whole thrive, we also strive to be practical by empowering every Asana to succeed beyond their tenure with our team.

When employees have questions about what their title might be outside Asana, we encourage them to talk to their manager or other colleagues that have experience with how hiring and titles work at other companies. Many Asanas emphasize the details of their AoRs and how they’ve contributed to their teams and objectives in places like their LinkedIn profiles and resumes.

We know that titles can be complicated, confusing, and sometimes emotionally charged, which is why we’ve put a lot of thought into using titles in a way that supports our cultural values and company growth. As with almost everything, we’ll continue to evolve how we think about titles as the company grows.

Does our view on titles align with yours? If so, our team is growing and we’d love to hear from you—check out our jobs page.

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