Team Spotlight: How Asana’s Product Management team is solving hard problems with the best critical thinkers
October 8th, 2021
Welcome to our new Team Spotlight blog series, where we take a look inside how teams at Asana work together, grow in their careers, and make an impact.
Not many teams can say they get to work inside the product they’re always aiming to improve. But the Product Management team at Asana has always done things differently. As Jocey Karlan, Product Management Lead, reflects on what’s kept her at Asana since 2018, she says, “That promise of what I would get to do here has continued. The problems are still really hard, and the people are still amazing.”
What’s special about Asana’s Product Management team is each member cares deeply about how people work together as a system. “We’re not focused on maximizing the amount of time people spend using our product. Rather, we want our technology to drive positive change for individuals and teams,” explains Yasmin Kothari, Product Management Lead. That means providing a tool that allows for deep focus, efficiency in getting the job done, and extreme clarity for team members.
Tony Chang, another Asana Product Management Lead, adds, “With Asana, we live in a world where we don’t need email, and that is a drastic difference from other teams I’ve worked on.” While the vast majority of today’s workforce can’t imagine doing their job without email, it’s the norm at Asana.
Led by Alex Hood, Head of Product, this group of empathetic, customer-centric professionals is solving hard problems while directly impacting how people work together and collaborate.
How is the Product Management team structured?
Product Managers at Asana are part of a fairly flat hierarchy and work very autonomously. This helps avoid having to deal with layers of approvals and allows for more work across boundaries. It makes it easy to collaborate cross-functionally with partners throughout the entire Product organization.
“We distribute responsibility differently than most companies,” explains Tony Chang, Product Management Lead on the Workflow Pillar “Regardless of whether you are a Junior or Senior Product Manager, a people manager, or an individual contributor, you are given an area of ownership. We trust every team member with that scope from end to end. It is a structure that is often idealized in many teams, but I definitely feel it is realized here.”
Meet a few members of Asana’s Product Management team
Product Manager, New York
Ari is a colleague that is always trying to make your job easier. He’s the one stepping up with a new resource to read or an idea you haven’t considered.
“Our team is deeply focused on how we solve problems. The process we take to get to the answer is just as critical as the answer itself. By starting with our framework to ultimately get to our solution, we’re able to constantly innovate. There’s nothing better than seeing each other’s wheels turn as that mental model is articulated.”
Product Management Lead, Adoption Pillar, San Francisco
As a former science teacher, Jocey knows a lot about solving problems. Among the many things that attracted her to Asana, the caliber of team members tops the list.
“The team is really good at leading with hypotheses and allowing customers to prove us wrong, as opposed to pushing too hard with our own assumptions. There’s a humility and empathy in my team that I think is particularly special and unique.”
Product Management Lead, Clarity Pillar, New York
After graduating from Harvard Business School, Yasmin knew she wanted to work for a company that prioritized diversity and inclusion among employees and customers.
“It’s essential to have a diverse set of opinions in the room. We have customers of all different backgrounds, so we need employees of all different backgrounds. Our team does a fantastic job of making everyone feel empowered to speak up and bring their experiences to the table.”
The Product Management team’s mission and impact at Asana
Head of Product, Alex Hood, believes that focusing on visibility, streamlining processes, and increasing organizational clarity isn’t about everyone having to know everything.
Instead, it’s about:
- People having access to who is doing what, by when, and why
- Understanding how their work slots into the bigger picture
- Putting the information and tools they need to achieve that work at their fingertips
“My life before using Asana was spent working in my email inbox all day,” says Jocey Karlan, Product Management Lead. “I’d mark things as unread because they still weren’t resolved. And they’d linger and linger. Or, I would have a document where I was trying to check things off and move them forward. There was no visibility, shared ownership, or clear delineation of ownership. That definitely slowed me down, and I spent a lot of time doing work about work. Now, there’s never a question of who owns what. It’s radically clear.”
Asana’s Product Management team prides itself on being the voice of the customer and helping achieve Asana’s mission: To help humanity thrive by enabling the world’s teams to work together effortlessly. “From team members doing the day-to-day work all the way up to executives trying to understand how the company is progressing on its goals, we’re developing a solution for an entire company,” adds Thi Dang, a Product Manager.
“Gosh, it’s special here. The culture of the whole company is great. And when you see it in the Product Management team, it manifests itself in open-mindedness and drive for improving our product, our process, and ourselves.”Paige Costello, Product Management Leader, Clarity Pillar
What’s it like being part of the Product Management team?
“It’s remarkable how using Asana lends itself to a hyper transparent culture,” says Product Management Leader, Paige Costello. “We are constantly teaching each other, onboarding new people, and welcoming new ways of working.” And while Product Managers are autonomous, they don’t operate as lone wolves. There’s a tremendous amount of respect between colleagues due to the high bar that’s been set when it comes to building a quality product.
Working without boundaries is celebrated, leading individual contributors to feel very empowered to make decisions and offer input. Their suggestions are appreciated and taken seriously. “I feel safe bringing up a new or spicier opinion. I know I’ll be listened to and can put my true thoughts out there,” shares Jocey.
Product Manager Thi Dang adds, “It’s so motivating to work on a product that your entire company uses day in and day out. Asanas are extremely enthusiastic about testing new features and are keen on giving productive feedback. This makes being a Product Manager so fun!”
What career growth and development opportunities exist?
With most of the Product Management leaders having started off in individual contributor roles at Asana, it’s obvious the growth opportunities are endless. Jocey, for example, was an individual contributor on the First Experience team and is now managing a set of six teams focused on user adoption.
“Being on the Product Management team at Asana has allowed me to see that the best managers are close enough to the work that they are still doing deep product thinking with their teams. They’re also coaching and growing people at the same time through that lens.”
– Jocey Karlan, Product Management Lead
Product Management at Asana rewards growth mindsets and taking ownership by leaning into ambiguity to solve customer problems without politics and bureaucracy. Over time, a Product Manager’s scope increases, and top-down mandates decrease. There is a grassroots and bottoms-up focus making each team member—no matter what their title—feel empowered to make decisions, be responsible for those decisions, and see them through to the end.
“Gosh, it’s special here. The culture of the whole company is great. And when you see it in the Product Management team, it manifests itself in open-mindedness and drive for improving our product, our process, and ourselves.”
– Paige Costello, Product Management Leader, Clarity Pillar
Join Asana’s Product Management team!
The Product Management team is actively looking to grow in New York, San Francisco, and Vancouver. We invite you to apply to our open positions and see how you can impact Asana’s mission while growing your own career.