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Real Talk: Fostering diversity and inclusion through honest conversations

November 9th, 2018
3 min read
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At Asana, we strive to create a high-performing workplace culture that is welcoming and empowering. This means building a diverse and inclusive team that has a direct impact on shaping our culture and growing our business. We measure the success of these efforts by ensuring that every Asana knows that they can bring their whole selves to work each day.

In many workplaces, though, employees are still limited to “office talk,” having to tiptoe around their true feelings and thoughts. At Asana, we aspire to a different kind of environment where team members thrive in a safe space and feel strengthened by having candid conversations. This is also what we want to bring to the broader community through our Real Talk event series.

The importance of real talk

Launched this year, the Real Talk (#asanarealtalk) event series is hosted by Asana to encourage authentic discussions on issues that are important to various communities. We bring in panelists to speak on a variety of topics that focus on issues in underrepresented groups, and all are welcome to attend and take part in this real, authentic conversation. We encourage both panelists and attendees to speak their minds, allowing them to learn from each other, and ultimately leading them to do their best work. 

As Sonja Gittens-Ottley, head of diversity and inclusion at Asana, as well as event director of Real Talk, said to a roomful of recent attendees,“I want people to understand that my default is that we want you in this room. Even if you don’t identify as a member of the community, we want you in this room, whatever we’re talking about.”

With our Real Talk events, we have honest discussions about overcoming challenges, communicating purpose, and driving positive change in ourselves, the workplace, and our communities. This represents the culture that we value here at Asana, and we think it’s essential to set aside space and time for people from similar backgrounds to come together.

Asana event image

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Previous Real Talk events include a discussion with recruiting professionals on the uncomfortable truths of diversity and inclusion. The goal was to leave the audience with takeaways that would empower them to effectively take action on diversity and inclusion initiatives.

At our most recent Real Talk event in October, we celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month. Event panelists included a passionate group of Latinx engineers across different tech backgrounds from Google, Slack, Airbnb, and Threadloom who discussed the impact of cultural identity on their careers.

By identifying and discussing cultural traits that define and impact our experiences, we wanted our attendees to walk away with new ways to overcome challenges and catalyze positive change in both the workplace and community. For members of the Latinx community in attendance, our panelists shared the following advice:  

  • Allow your voice to be heard in the industry

  • Find or create a community by getting involved in events

  • Be proud of the culture that you come from and allow that to shape your path

Alvaro Morales, Software Engineer at Asana shared the following: “I’ve been truly lucky and blessed to have had incredible experiences and opportunities here. I’ve met incredible people and feel like I can call this place home. Can’t say it’s been easy, though. There was a big adjustment phase, where I went through full-blown culture shock and its different stages.”

Asana event image

Margarita Rojas, International Marketing Lead at Asana shared her story as well. “When I moved to the US, I thought that because I worked at companies with well-known brands and graduated from a top university in Colombia, I was going to find a job immediately. After a couple of months, without any luck, I turned to Latino professional organizations in the Bay Area to see if they could help me. I think if it weren’t for the Latino community and groups that I became a part of, I wouldn’t have found a job.”

Maintaining #RealTalk momentum

On the heels of our October Real Talk event, we’re also excited to share that The Timmy Awards by Tech in Motion recently named Asana the Best Tech Workplace for Diversity (San Francisco). Diversity and inclusion is a priority here at Asana, and we are focused on building a welcoming environment for all employees. As our CEO and cofounder, Dustin Moskovitz writes, “Diversity and inclusion is a better way to work — and the change we want to see in the world.”

Thanks again to all of our panelists and attendees who made this event so honest and engaging. We’re excited to continue this series and will be hosting our next event in January. Stay tuned for updates and more ways to connect with our diversity and inclusion programs at Asana.

Ready for some real talk? Join the #asanarealtalk conversation on Twitter.

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