Two years ago I was looking for a new opportunity, so I began my most recent job search by exploring a number of companies across a range of sizes and types. To help this process, I made a list of what I was looking for:
- Interesting technical problems to tackle
- Highly capable teammates to work with
- The chance to build something used by millions of people
While these have always been important to me, there are also other aspects I look for now that I’m at a different stage in my career. I thought I’d share what I was looking for in my most recent search, and what I feel fortunate to have found working at Asana.
Alignment of values
To me, alignment with a team’s values—how decisions are made as a team and which aspects of teamwork are prioritized when trade-offs are made—is the most important factor in finding a team that will be a good fit. Beyond aligning with a company’s values, it’s important to find an organization that embodies their values and puts them into practice.
There are several Asana values that especially resonate with me. Through our value of mindfulness and self-reflection, we seek to understand what are we doing in any given moment and how it aligns with our intentions. Viewing our team as a collective of peers means we try to ensure each person is supported by their team members in order to get to the next level as an engineer. I’ve learned a lot from interacting with everyone on the team, regardless of how experienced they are, largely thanks to our emphasis on mentorship through both formal and informal peer relationships. I had a formal mentor when I joined the team and since then have also learned a lot by mentoring both interns and full-time engineers.
Our engineering team has also arrived at a set of values over the course of working together. Of course, values across different teams and companies will vary, and finding those that resonate with you is an essential step to finding a role where you will feel fulfilled.
Opportunities for leadership
While a traditional career trajectory might be mapped out at some organizations, at Asana there are multiple paths to success as an engineer, each offering ways to exhibit leadership:
- Individual Contributor: ICs primarily design and implement software. They have the opportunity to deepen their technical expertise and to share that expertise with their team.
- Program Lead: In addition to IC work, PLs give everyone on their team the support they need to do their best work. This can involve advising on design decisions and engineering best practices, helping people make progress, and so on.
- Manager: Managers are experienced engineers who focus on supporting people, their career growth, and accelerating the growth of their team members. In many cases, they are also PLs.
Each engineer is encouraged to explore which roles suit their long-term goals, which can change over time. Numerous engineers at Asana have transitioned among all three roles, contributing where they can have the most impact or maximize their learning.
An important part of growing as a leader, regardless of role, is taking on responsibility and decision making. One thing that drew me to Asana is its longest-standing implementation of Areas of Responsibility, which give everyone an opportunity for leadership.
Emphasis on well-being
At one point in my career, I enjoyed spending most of my time at the office, which caused me to neglect other factors in my overall happiness. Nowadays, it’s still important to me that work goes well, but I’ve also focused on cultivating all the other aspects of life beyond work, including my physical and mental well-being.
In my current role, I’ve seen Dustin, our CEO, set an example for work-life balance, which makes sense to me as an engineer. I’ve seen engineers be 10 times more productive by working smarter through engineering best practices, which makes 60-hour weeks seem inefficient by comparison. I also benefit from healthy meals, talks on nutrition and mental health, group yoga and meditation, professional coaching, and leadership training. The result is a sustainable and healthy environment, in addition to creating a stronger team.
Trust in leadership
Finally, in order to be happy in a role, I’ve learned that I need to trust the overall direction the company is taking and how its leaders make decisions. For me, that means drawing upon their experiences and principles to make decisions that are best for the well-being of their employees while serving the company’s mission. I’ve seen Asana’s leaders gain this trust by manifesting transparency in a genuine way, such as by discussing topics like fundraising details or the company’s finances to an uncommon degree.
I have a view that in today’s world, where those who start companies can end up wielding enormous influence, it matters very much what kind of people they are. How leaders conduct themselves says a lot. Dustin, our co-founder, has committed his wealth to a philanthropic organization he founded, while JR—our other co-founder—schedules weekly “office hours” for any employee to talk to him about any topic, work-related or not. The result is a culture of empathy that manifests in many ways and affects all aspects of working here.
Regardless of your career stage, understanding your priorities when beginning a job search can help guide you towards a role and company where you can do your best work. What were the aspects that you found mattered most in finding a good fit? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.