Why I joined Asana: Maria Wu Kiskis, Head of Business and Corporate Development

Welcome to our monthly “Why I joined Asana” series! Every month, we talk with Asanas across teams and offices to learn who they are and why they chose to pursue careers at Asana.

Maria Wu Kiskis is Head of Global Business and Corporate Development, based out of our San Francisco office. Her never-ending curiosity has led her to living in 12 cities across 5 countries. Her north star from a young age has been leading a life with purpose and clarity around why she does what she does. Today, Maria leads a growing team that aims to leverage the power of our partners to create customer value. Get to know Maria and why she joined #teamasana.

What was your journey to becoming Head of Business and Corporate Development? 

Early in my career, I learned the importance of leading with purpose and the power of forging strong partnerships built on trust and integrity. What drew me to business development is the opportunity to develop first-in-kind opportunities, and to achieve a company’s goals by leveraging the reach, resources, and brand partners to extend the value of our work.

Before I came to Asana, I was on a self-elected sabbatical. For my next adventure, I wanted to find a team that was building something that changes the way people live and operate, and a company in a hyper-growth phase. The opportunity at Asana was what ultimately brought me out of my sabbatical. 

This was my chance to join a company with a mission-oriented mindset and culture of developing greater mindfulness, clarity, and integrity. Seeing these values in action and as part of Asana’s foundation is what I believe sets Asana apart from other teams. 

What team are you currently on, and what is something unique about the team? 

I have the pleasure of leading our Business and Corporate Development team. Our mission is to cultivate partnerships with leading and emergent technology players, across the different platforms that integrate with Asana. What excites me the most is getting to partner with leading technology platforms, like Google, Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft to ideate on what we can do together that generates customer value. 

My team balances the needs of our customers, partners, business, and various other stakeholders both inside and outside Asana. It’s important that we are able to ruthlessly prioritize and pursue what matters most. It also means clearing the runways for my team so they can focus and execute, while I arm them with what they need to be successful. 

Describe what a day is like in the San Francisco office

In the changing world of work, I’ve been adjusting to working from home and staying connected with our global team. What I’ve seen from Asana is that in times of challenge, we show up for our customers, for each other, and for our business. More than anything, I love that we are connected as a dynamic, global team. Working remotely only maximizes how we work across globally distributed teams. And while it’s far from easy, the opportunity is ample. 

Last month, even while we were remote, we celebrated Take Your Child to Work Day, which included the most amazing magician performing tricks for our mini-sanas. This week one of our star Customer Success leads completed her yoga teacher training and shared the gift of yoga with us over Zoom. When I find my focus wavering, or I need to work through something that I can’t quite grok, I work with an executive coach. I’m fortunate that Asana supports it’s employees by providing this awesome benefit. 

Our opportunity to grow team Asana, create value for our customers, and collaborate with our partners is only accelerated as we embrace the changes to how we work and live. I am grateful to be a part of a company that lifts each other up and helps one another grow. 

What are you most excited for in your role? 

I’m particularly excited for two things:

  1. Growing with a highly talented and dynamic team. We have an amazing team, and we are continuing to grow and hire! I was initially drawn to Asana’s team and culture focused on mindfulness, clarity, and mission. Our team is truly what sets us apart from the rest.  As a global community we’ve collectively transitioned to a new way of working. I am both proud and humbled by the opportunity we have to shape the future of work and to be a part of bringing clarity to teams. 
  2. Leveraging the power of our partners and co-creating opportunities that deliver transformative customer value. I believe Asana’s vision and roadmap have the power to transform the way teams work and we can make achieving results together effortless. The work we can do with our technology partners will help accelerate the path to achieving our mission.

How do you use Asana in your day to day work? 

Given the cross-functional nature of our work to bring partnerships to life, I use Asana to track, measure, and provide updates on the status of our work, both internally and with partners. I am also able to quickly get a pulse on other activities that are taking place with other teams, and the status of the workstreams that may be dependent on the work we are doing.  

For our technology partner work, we have Projects and Portfolios that map opportunities with different players. Given the various interdependencies across teams, I am a huge fan of assigning tasks to multiple projects. It helps me follow the breadcrumbs to the source of truth I need. 

As a relatively new member of a team, Asana enables me to navigate who’s doing what and by when. This level of clarity coupled with the product’s ease of use, delightful unicorns and yetis—what’s not to love!? 

What’s your mantra and where did you first develop it?

There have been a few principles that have influenced how I think, and they help me remember that there is great strength and freedom that comes with how we approach things.

As a child, I was entranced by the magical Mr. Rogers. He once said, “Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” The other is from Jimmy Dean, singer and sausage maker, saying, “I can’t change the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Together, these perspectives have helped me navigate through the twists and turns of life, and remind me of the importance of being both resilient and adaptable.

The other principle is the power of the collective. It set the foundation for my belief in building partnerships and that there’s no limit to what we can achieve together if directed with the right intention and purpose. There is an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” that has stayed with me through the years. 

One of Asana’s values is “be real,” and we aim to build a culture where everyone brings their whole selves to work. What does being your whole self at work mean to you?

In addition to being an Asana, I’m also a mother, wife, partner, friend, mentor, and mentee. I cherish all facets of my life. Being my whole self at work means being present in the moment and acknowledging where I am. I try to be honest about both my strengths and my limitations. I am constantly reflecting on how challenges are learning and growth opportunities. Being real is recognizing that while we have a long way to go, we should also reflect on how far we’ve come and then keep moving forward. 

I make sure to give myself space to stop, breath, and focus. I pause to assess if what I’m doing in that moment is important for that moment. And if the answer is no, I give myself permission to let go and perhaps come back to it (or let it go entirely). Being real and present means to me giving ourselves and others the space to be honest with, and kind to, ourselves. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s so important.  

If you could give a new Asana one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to reach out and make connections, especially as we work remotely. Asana’s new hire onboarding is truly top notch. It’s a firehose introduction of the right information to get new Asanas moving forward. But it’s just the beginning. The experience is truly what you make of it. And I can’t wait to meet all the new Asanas that join us! 

Work with Maria—join our team!

Be a part of our journey and check out our open opportunities on the Business team. We have open roles in San Francisco, New York, and Dublin

Special thanks to Maria Wu Kiskis

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