Asana Voices: Meet AJ Kamara, Commercial Sales Team
March 28th, 2022
Welcome to our blog series, Asana Voices! With each post, we’ll feature one-on-one interviews with the talented individuals on our global team. You’ll get to know the people inside the company, including the twists and turns in their career journeys, what it’s really like working at Asana, and what they value most about their unique impact on our company, customers, and mission.
Meet AJ Kamara, a Commercial Sales Manager on the Business & Marketing team. AJ joined Asana five months ago from Phoenix, Arizona. Now he’s looking forward to seeing his team in person when he moves to be near our newly opened Chicago office. Learn more about AJ, how he landed at Asana, and the big plans he has now that he’s here.
What first attracted you to Asana? What has kept you here?
It’s rare to see a successful company like Asana that actually talks the talk and walks the walk. So when I first started talking to everyone and they were so positive, I kept thinking that it can’t be real. But throughout the interview process and as I met people, they told me, “No, this is actually how we are here. These really are our values.”
Take “be real” and “heartitude,” for example. When I read about those two values, it wasn’t one of those things where I thought “Oh, let me learn about them. Let me see how they’re used in action.” It was like the minute they were brought up, I realized—yup, I’ve seen these things in action already through every process, during the first few weeks, and still to this day.
The same goes for things like the Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and the executive coaching benefit. Asana has all these initiatives in place to develop our employees to make them the best they can be. They make it feel like a place where you can grow—not just professionally, but also personally.
What is something you’re particularly proud of that you’ve achieved at Asana?
It’s been such a short time, but so far, I’m proud of the team that we’ve built in Chicago. Not just because they’re so talented and are going to have such an impact, but also because of their heart. They have a heart for the business, but they also have such a heart for each other even though we’ve only been working together for a short time. As a leader, I’m so excited to have the privilege of working with them. I love my team; I love my coworkers—they are just fantastic, ready to rock-n-roll, and eager to learn.
How have you grown since joining Asana?
It’s a little too early to pinpoint it completely yet, but I will say I’ve grown personally since joining Asana. I’ve learned to be more detailed in what I’m asking for and give a lot more clarity with expectations.
Also, even though I’ve been in leadership for years, seeing Asana’s thorough remote onboarding has helped me to be a lot more empathetic and understanding with my team. Now when I onboard new team members, I try to get an understanding of: How do we translate Asana to you? How do we translate it from where someone else is coming from? Especially, let’s say you’re coming from an underrepresented group where you haven’t done sales before—how does Asana translate to that person? And how can I help them get there?
What was your state of work before, and what is your work like now that you use Asana?
All my work is in one place now—every document and reference. I’m still learning to be an Asana master per se, but it has been great to see everything in one tool. It means I can be in fewer meetings and find a lot of what I’m looking for quickly.
What is something unique about your team?
I mentioned this before, but I love the heart my team has. There’s so much excitement for the business and each other. We’re also all so new—which gives us one of those rare opportunities to build an awesome culture of fiercely loyal employees who are dedicated to the business, really want to work hard for the company, and truly believe in the mission.
How do you feel valued at Asana?
Ultimately, I just feel seen at Asana. I’ve been at places before where I didn’t feel seen or like my skill set was an add-on to the team. Here, it’s been the exact opposite. I’ve had people say to me, “Oh wow, you really bring sales to the table.” It makes me feel completely seen when before it’s been mostly ignored. I feel like I’m really part of the team. It’s been great, especially with the ERGs and how they create spaces for conversations where I really feel safe.
What has been your best day and worst day at Asana?
To be honest, my best day is my next day. I’m always so fired up for what I’m going to learn next and all the really cool things that our team and the organization are doing. I love seeing the spark in my team’s eyes when they find a path of value for a company they’re working with, and the excitement they get from that. I’m just really excited. I wake up in the morning really happy and excited to get to work every single day.
How have you been supported & stayed connected to your team through working remotely?
Asana has definitely been the best onboarding I’ve ever been part of. There’s a lot of initial outreach, which can feel overwhelming at first. But then over a few weeks you realize—these people really care. And you start building these really fruitful relationships that are beyond just friendly coworkers. Here, it’s more, “We work together and I care about your success here,” which is so important.
I think the other piece of it is that I have a great core leadership team. Then there’s been the support from our Blacsana ERG on top of everything else. Making me feel like a valuable member of the team and crew makes me feel appreciated. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and here I really feel that there’s this massive village around you.
What are you most looking forward to about working in-person from our offices?
Seeing everyone’s faces when we go back to the office and everything that comes with it. Being able to be there for my team when they have a bad day, take walks together, and seeing their visceral excitement when great things happen.
All those little things that we can’t do online and truly being able to show that heartitude piece. Being able to be there and really see someone, so if they’re having a tough day, I can say, “Hey, let’s go get a coffee.” You know within a few seconds of seeing someone if they’re having an off day and for me, I’ll immediately start thinking how I can positively invest in their day.
What’s your personal mantra, and where did it come from?
It’s a mixture of advice from my mom and one of my mentors who passed away a few years ago. From my mentor and coach James Johnson it’s: “It’s as easy as apple pie.” Life is easy as apple pie. You can make it as easy or hard as you want it to be.
And from my mom it’s: “You’ve already been through the fire . . . everything else is easy.” Mainly because we were born in Sierra Leone in West Africa and raised in a civil war. I came to America when I was seven. So we’ve already been through the hard stuff and we’ve been through worse. Everything else is easy.
Basically, this is what I learned from both of them—there are going to be really hard things that come your way, but you can’t let it take away who you are. There are times in our lives where the only thing we have is positivity. You have to move forward, make decisions to be better, and you’ll be ok. And when bad things happen, never dwell because the dwelling is where the pain is. That’s what I try to do as a leader—pay forward the pure, unadulterated belief that my mom and mentor had in me because I’ve seen people move mountains just from someone telling them, “Hey I believe in you, I support you, and I’m here standing with you.”
If you could give a new Asana one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t forget, you were brought here for a reason and you were chosen for a reason. There is something innately awesome about you, your spirit, and who you are that brought you to this organization. Don’t forget who that person is.
Take the next career-defining step in your journey at Asana! If you’re passionate about helping teams thrive and excited to make an impact at a fast-growing company where inclusive culture is non-negotiable, we’d love to talk to you. Apply today to join AJ on our Sales team, or check out all our open roles across the globe.