According to a 2021 study from Hack Future Lab, 93% of leaders agree the DEI agenda is a top priority — but only 34% believe it’s a current strength in their workplace.
Asana has founded a unique and highly effective apprenticeship program called AsanaUP that creates opportunities for people from underrepresented backgrounds. On January 20, CodeSignal and Asana teamed up to host a webinar where we discussed AsanaUP’s keys to success. You can watch the full recording here, and read our top takeaways below.
What is AsanaUP?
AsanaUP is a development program aimed at hiring exceptional people who are entering or reentering the professional tech environment from nontraditional, underrepresented backgrounds. Participants of AsanaUP, called apprentices, operate within various teams at Asana for a fixed term while receiving mentorship and personal and professional development from a broad set of employees.
To date, the program has brought on over 75 apprentices and is now in its 6th cohort. AsanaUP has a success rate of 82% when it comes to converting apprentices to full-time software engineering roles.
5 Takeaways on Running a Successful DEI Initiative
For those who want to learn from what AsanaUP has been able to achieve, the head of the program, Sophia Yamauchi, shared several key pieces of advice.
1. Start with your why.
When advocating for DEI with other stakeholders in the business, think about how it aligns with your core values and goals as an organization. “Asana’s mission is to help humanity thrive by enabling the world’s teams to work together effortlessly,” Yamauchi explained. “In order to fulfill this mission, it’s imperative that we build a diverse team that’s representative of the customers we support each and every day.”
Your program mission doesn’t have to align perfectly with your company mission — it just has to set a north star for what you’re trying to achieve in creating opportunities for people from nontraditional, underrepresented communities.
2. Gain support from your leaders, your managers, and your mentors.
A program like AsanaUP takes a village to succeed. Each AsanaUP apprentice gets a support team consisting of a manager, a mentor, and an additional team member. In addition to 1:1 mentorship, apprentices can lean on groups outside of their team, like Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and the AsanaUP alumni. The program also organizes lunch-and-learns and ongoing sessions on topics like dealing with imposter syndrome, how to network, and how to ask for help.
To foster this kind of community, “it’s really important to find the people that are really excited about investing their time and putting forth the effort to help those who are trying to break in from nontraditional backgrounds,” Yamauchi said.
3. Partner with organizations that are already doing the work.
A frequently-cited challenge with implementing DEI is the pipeline: how do you get the right candidates into the program? One way is to seek out organizations that are already investing in upleveling and upskilling the kinds of individuals your company is hoping to connect with.
AsanaUP has partnered with the Marcy Lab School and Year Up, two organizations that are very intentional about closing the opportunity gap in tech. The Marcy Lab School provides rigorous but affordable college alternatives to propel underestimated young professionals to a rewarding career in tech. Year Up’s mission is to close the opportunity divide by ensuring that young adults gain the skills, experiences, and support that will empower them to reach their potential.
4. Put structure in place to create equal opportunities to succeed.
Partnerships are one way to create structure around your program, and it’s important to introduce structure to your hiring funnel as well. “Within engineering specifically, it’s really about creating that equal opportunity for those who want to break in,” Yamauchi said. “We use CodeSignal at the entry-point of our interview process to ensure that we’re fairly evaluating candidates based on their skills rather than their pedigree.”
For Asana, this includes taking a look at how they’re setting the minimum threshold score for the technical assessment portion of the interview. “We don’t expect that our apprentices are meeting the same bar as candidates that have a 4-year CS degree,” Yamauchi explained.
5. Make sure everyone is aligned on what success looks like.
A final secret to AsanaUP’s 82% conversion rate is setting clear goals for apprentices and their support teams. Every apprentice will walk through a success guide with their manager which will outline the criteria and competencies needed to convert to a full-time role.
Apprentices have the opportunity to request feedback anytime, but the program also provides frequent rounds of structured feedback. “We look at how they’ve made an impact, areas for growth and improvement, are they on track — and if not, what can we all do as a team to help them get there,” Yamauchi said. “It’s a two-way conversation, so they can share their feedback on their experience as well.”
As you expand your DEI focus this year, CodeSignal can help! Sign up for a free demo to learn about how automated assessments can fight bias and level the playing field for your candidate pool.