Being a Female Engineer at Asana

Note: This post was originally published on Quora in response to the question What are some particularly female-engineer-friendly companies to work for in San Francisco?

As a female who has worked at a handful of tech companies, including Google, IBM, Nortel Networks, and EventMonitor (a tiny startup), I think that my current company – Asana – has a particularly female engineer-friendly environment. It is a great place to learn and grow as an engineer, and it also has an inclusive culture where everyone’s input is valued.

While eliminating the blatant offenses like harassment, sexist attitudes, and conscious discrimination take a company a long way to being female-friendly, there are some more subtle things that companies can do to be even more so. For example, realizing that the self nomination process for promotion means fewer women get promoted. Or helping the company’s employees not quit before they quit. As well as providing easy ways to “ask” to work on that cool new project or make a change in the company culture. Asana excels in these aspects.

Asana provides lots of opportunities for input: There is a Product Opportunities and Asana Opportunities project in Asana where anyone can make suggestions on the product and the company. Even more formally, Asana has Roadmap Week where teams sit down and talk about what they want to build in the next three months. Everyone who is going to working on the project is strongly encouraged to participate, and these meetings are intentionally kept small to encourage productive discussion and participation. Everyone also has regular 1:1s with their managers where they are encouraged to talk about how things are going in the company, and to provide feedback that they weren’t able to surface otherwise. This is also where people talk about their career goals and interests, and their manager works with them to help them achieve those goals. For example, I mentioned to my manager that I was interested in learning mobile, and next episode I got to work on the mobile team even though I had no prior experience.

Asana invests in people: Right now, everyone at the company is going through leadership training. Not just a select few who got nominated or fought the hardest, but everyone. Asana also provides career/life coaching which most people take advantage of and find it helps their development. There is also long term health and happiness investment. While lots of startups would love for you to work 80 hours a week, Asana actually discourages this, and instead advocates mindfulness and balance, seeking more employee happiness in the present and also avoiding burnout in the long run.

Asana embraces whole people: One of my fears when joining a startup was that I would be committing 100% of my future to the company without any room for my personal plans, like having a baby. Well, a year ago, I got pregnant, and it turned out Asana was the best place for me to be as my life was changing dramatically.  In all my conversations with my manager it was clear that the company’s goal was to make sure that my needs are met and that I am happy. To this end, Asana updated the parental leave policy to make sure all new moms and dads would have plenty of time to bond with their babies. Note that our leave policy is the same for men and women (yay for promoting equality).  I continued to work on the projects I was excited about, and I always knew that if I needed any adjustments, the company would happily accommodate. Fast forward 9 months and a maternity leave later, I was ready to come back, but I wanted to restructure my work hours to allow me to spend more time with my baby. This was no problem at all, as long as I am responsible with my work and my commitments, Asana is happy to accommodate my needs. And isn’t it great that my son will get to see that women can be coders too?

Asana values responsibility rather than titles: One of the unique things about Asana is the desire to distribute responsibility among the team and deemphasizing promotion as the only recognition of success. To this end Asana has Areas of Responsibility that everyone at the company takes on at one point or another. As people work on different areas of the product they get assigned these AoRs which allows the company to recognize more people for the work they are doing.

In good company: Asana has assembled a great team, with women working in all areas of the company. We have an awesome all women PM team, half of our design team is female, and the engineering team already has 3 women. We vary from recent grads to people with years of experience at companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Foursquare.

A couple of side bonuses: when it comes time for free t-shirts, we always have women’s’ sizes, and we also informally get together for a ladies brunch.

Not female engineer specific, but here is what other people have to say about working at Asana:

Asana is a great place for a female engineer, especially one with an emphasis on Javascript, as most of our development is in JS.

Asana is hiring! Do great things with us.

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