Why I joined Asana: Krista Plano, Experience Researcher

March 30th, 2019
4 min read
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Welcome to our monthly series, “Why I joined Asana”! Every month, we talk with Asanas across our teams and offices—from Dublin to Sydney—to get to know the people inside the company and learn why they chose to work here.

Krista Plano is an Experience Researcher in our New York office. As an Experience Researcher, her goal is to take a comprehensive research approach to deeply understand human needs and behaviors. She works on a cross-functional team at Asana to build a high impact product that solves big problems. Read more about Krista and her journey to joining #teamasana.

What was your journey to becoming an Experience Researcher?

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I let my experiences be the guide. By way of art history and graphic design studies, I started to think about digital experiences and how people understand and interact with them to solve problems.

In my first product role I wore many hats: I wrote specs, designed user flows, and led my first research project. I remember analyzing the data from my first customer interviews and a card sorting exercise, and I didn’t look up from my spreadsheet until I got to insights. Eventually, I decided to focus on UX design and quickly realized that research was the piece I was best at and what excited me most.

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How did you become interested in working at Asana?

A close friend of mine sent me an invite about a meet and greet that Asana was hosting. I trusted his opinion and signed up for the event to meet with Asana’s very own Christa Simon. I felt like I was dreaming—chatting about Asana and research with another Christa in a swanky hotel lobby! Christa painted a picture of what sounded like a truly collaborative and cross-functional product team that gave me the chills just thinking about having the potential to be a part of. I walked away interested and motivated, then started my research.

A culture focused on balance and transparency—check! A mission that felt meaningful and aspirational in all of the right ways, one that I’d want to spend my days working toward—check! Variation in customer types within organizations—yes, please!

I was intrigued by the idea of solving collaboration problems between different user types, across a variety of teams. This seemed like a set of problems that would never get old. Layer on Asana’s commitment to working hard and living well, and I was sold. From a career perspective, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from a seasoned Head of Experience Research, Beth Toland, and to work on SaaS. This was an area I hadn’t worked on before and was excited to hone my research craft in a new space.

What team are you currently on, and what are some of the most interesting aspects of your role?

I’m on Asana’s UXR (Experience Research) team. I’m primarily responsible for conducting the highest impact research at the right moments in our product development process, so that insights from our customers can inform product decisions. I support programs in our Clarity Pillar, which focuses on delivering the Pyramid of Clarity through our product, which is a fundamental part of our mission. I’m the voice of the customer when they’re not in the room.

The great thing about Asana is that everyone is the voice of the customer. The team here has high customer empathy, which makes my job delightful. It means I spend less time explaining why customer needs are important, so more time is spent brainstorming with Design, Product, and Engineering partners about how to meet those needs in the most impactful way.

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What are you most excited for as you grow in your role at Asana?

There is so much opportunity to grow here at Asana. Finding the right balance when it comes to communicating with stakeholders on the opposite side of the country has been an awesome opportunity to improve my communication style and skills. Clear communication is so important, especially as a researcher, so this is one area I’m excited to keep improving. I know it’s achievable because I work with stakeholders who are approachable and forthcoming with actionable feedback.

I’m also getting ready to roll out a self-serve process so that UXR partners across the organization have the tools and best practices they need to get answers to their questions. Based on past experience, I have a sense of what works and what doesn’t, and I’m excited to refine my approach and increase the insights and impact we can have as a research team and organization.

Asana, the product, has made it possible for me to “productize” this process. Even more important is that my manager has given me dedicated time and space to focus on this work and give it the attention it deserves. Part of this initiative’s success will involve coaching the team, and that’s my favorite thing to do in my role.

What’s it like to use Asana the product everyday?

Asana streamlines my workflows and over time, I’ve learned how to leverage it as a way to shift from reactive mode to proactive mode. What’s awesome about using it all the time is that we’re hyper-aware of what’s successful and what we can improve upon. We always make sure those product experiences are aligned with our customer needs, so I find myself thinking about that a lot. I’ve left email, sticky notes, and notebooks behind as if I never had any attachment to them!

What principle or value have you carried with you throughout your career?

“If it’s easy, then it’s not worth doing.” There have been a lot of presentations, conversations, meetings, and research initiatives that have been challenging—all for different reasons. Referring back to this principle allows me to keep perspective when things seem extra difficult or stressful. It’s like going to the gym: You’re never mad you went; it was just probably hard to get there.

The best career advice I’ve received was when a mentor advised me to build a network of researchers. Since then, I’ve built connections with researchers who promote my learning and growth. A researcher friend of mine and I even started a small group that gathers quarterly to jam on research topics. In fact, if it weren’t for this advice, I wouldn’t have met Christa that magical evening.

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If you could give someone new to Asana one piece of advice, what would it be?

If you see something that can be improved upon (in the product, culture, processes, etc.), it’s yours to question and yours to improve. Asana is constantly open to change and improvement of all kinds. You just have to be willing to follow through, take initiative, and make an impact. Know that by doing this, you will make everyone better.

Come work with Krista and the rest of the Product & Design teams in San Francisco, New York, and Vancouver. We’re looking for passionate, creative people to help us grow the business. Check out all our open roles!

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