Cameron@Asana

Hey everyone, my name’s Cameron and I’m a rising sophomore studying Environments and Communication design.

This summer I interned in San Francisco at Asana, a medium sized startup that makes work tracking software for teams. I joined their mobile team in June as a Product Design Intern working on new features for Android and iOS.

Design at Asana

(brand review critique with the complete (comms. + product) design team present)

At Asana, there are about 15 designers across two teams, communication design and product design. The comms design team works primarily on marketing and brand work for Asana. The product design team is distributed across all of Asana’s core product teams (task pane, track anything, mobile, etc.) with normally 1–2 designers per team — the Product Designers all sit with their respective product teams. Designers from both roles often go to each other’s crits (product critique and marketing critique) and we have group design events 1–2 times a week where we share inspiration and talk about design stuff in general.

(one group design team activity was a Terrarium building workshop”]

In comparison to my first-year at CMU, one of the biggest surprises was the reduced frequency of critique. Instead of having crit. everyday, I normally had a group product critique once a week. To offset this, Asana also has something called Micro Critique where the designer makes an Asana task with the work attached and a brief description of the type of feedback desired, then they assign sub-tasks to three other Designers, Product Managers, or User Researchers to receive quick on-the-fly feedback.

(my workstation (sketch artboards airbrushed out for confidentiality))

Culture at Asana

(the whole company gathered for Asana’s annual summer celebration event)

Asana is a medium sized startup with approximately 220 full time employees and 20 interns for the summer. Asana provides lunch, breakfast, and dinner everyday, so most people get to the office for breakfast around 9:30AM and leave after dinner around 6:45PM. The office culture is vibrant and some people stay after dinner to hang out, chat, and play board games (GO, in particular, is popular).

In terms of culture, Asana places a large emphasis on mindfulness and transparency. That may sound cliché (trust me, it did to me at first too), but after spending a few weeks there, it proved quite true. Everyone within the company has certain AORs (Areas of Responsibility) and the organizational structure is designed such that the people closest to the work are both ‘responsible for’ and ‘enabled to’ make decisions on those AORs.

Furthermore, almost all of Asana’s internal information (including AOR assignments, Key Results for different products, and Company Objectives) is tracked in asana the tool and made transparent and viewable by everyone in the company — this makes it feel like you can see what’s going on within any group in the company at any time.

Living in San Francisco

Summarizing what it’s like to live in San Francisco isn’t easy. The way I have frequently explained it to friends and family afar is with a simple idea: “Imagine the most contrast (social, economic, colour, texture, etc.) you could see in one visual frame, that’s SF!” What I mean by that is that you will see google buses rolling down the street next to people selling books on a blanket next to people sleeping in tents next to yuppie interns walking with tech company branded backpacks next to you name it all in one glance. This is difficult to describe, but is easy to understand once experienced. The ‘glances of contrast’ I see walking around San Francisco continue to astonish me, every single day.

Summary

(Rameez Remsudeen (left) and Karthik Raju, my partners at Greylock Hackfest)

(Madea, KPCB partner and former President of RISD, at a #DesignInTech Event)

I’m throughly grateful for having been able to spend my summer at Asana. I have learned a ton working on the mobile team for the last six weeks — shoutout to Paul, Lili, Chandler and Tyson especially — but I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge all I’ve gained outside of my hours at Asana.

Meeting designers (and others!) at companies throughout the bay who have radically (and also only minorly) different backgrounds and contexts for approaching design and life in general has been extremely rewarding. I’m looking forward to returning to CMU in the Fall — but first, to finish what I started at Asana!

Thanks for Reading! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.