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Sales, Disruption and Roman Comparisons: A Day in the Life of Garrett Stanton

Okta

When we recently asked Garrett Stanton, Okta’s director of sales, to define Okta, his one word response was “Rome.” And not going to lie, we were a little confused by that answer. However, when Garrett gave his reasons -- drawing parallels between the opportunity and inspiration that characterized ancient Rome and the opportunity for identity in the enterprise -- we got onboard with the comparison.

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The (overused) saying is that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and neither is a billion-dollar enterprise software company. Continuing to build toward that goal is a passion of ours at Okta, and one Garrett feels strongly about. Read more to hear about what he finds rewarding and unique about his job at Okta in the latest installment in our “A Day in the Life” series.

What is your current position?

I’m director of sales, which means that I run the eastern US corporate sales team, working closely with our VP of sales and the seven sales reps on my team to get enterprises all over the eastern United States successful with Okta.

What did you do previously?

I’ve been at Okta for three years, but I’ve been selling technology for almost 10, which was more or less an accident. I was actually supposed to sell wine, but in a twist of fate, instead got my first job at Salesforce.com (back when it was a company of just 1,000+ people in 2005) and just started answering phones. I got addicted – not to the phones, but to the disruption. Salesforce.com was changing everything, killing on-premises software and taking it to the cloud.

I moved from Salesforce.com to Delphix (the “next VMware”), where I helped acquire the first 25 paid customers and grew the sales team from 2 to 40. While I loved that opportunity, I found myself looking for the next big disruptor, the next company to change the world. That company, for me, was Okta.

Is that what first attracted you to Okta?

Definitely. The opportunity to disrupt the identity market was what attracted me to Okta. That, and the people seizing that opportunity. I admired the courage of [our co-founders] Todd and Frederic leaving their cushy jobs at Salesforce.com to start Okta. During a recession, no less.

Todd’s a genuine, sincere leader. He has a lot of humility, but is also incredibly focused and clear about what we’re trying to do – connect people in the enterprise. He’s always talking about putting people first and technology second and that’s something I take to heart, particularly in sales. On our sales team we always say, “people sell to people” and “people buy from people,” and it’s true – people are core to everything we do.

I went to college at the University of Colorado with Dave Morin, one of the co-creators of Facebook Connect [and now the CEO and founder of Path]. I found myself thinking of Dave and what he did with Facebook Connect when considering Okta. In a way, Okta is Facebook Connect for the enterprise. We’re securely connecting people with the business resources they need most, making accessing their work as easy as using Facebook. That was a huge part of the appeal for me.

Now what do you love about working at Okta?

Well, I was right about the huge opportunity and with that opportunity comes an intellectual challenge. On the surface what we do is simple – we provide cloud-based identity management – but I see our role as much bigger and important than that. Our role is to be the circulatory system of the business web. We took this big problem of integration and are solving it for millions of people, connecting them to the right apps at the right time, building something awesome.

I remember one of my first company meetings, Todd told us, “You’re all here to build something,” and that stuck with me. In the past three years, I’ve seen our team grow at incredible rates and through it all, we’re continuing to build this platform to connect everything through a universal identity. It isn’t easy, but it is inspiring, and that’s what I love about working here.

My team’s pretty badass, too.

Tell us, how is Okta’s sales team different from others?

What really differentiates our team is how our purpose is built into Okta’s company values, one of which is customer success. We’re 100-percent focused on making our customers successful throughout the entire customer lifecycle – from the beginning of the sales process to deployment. And we’re all in it together. When you need to make something magical happen for a customer, you can turn to people from all over the globe. Our entire team is there to solve any and all challenges.

There’s something else going on here, too. You know how everyone has something to prove? Well, we have everything to prove. Everyone on our sales team sees this massive opportunity to be the next billion-dollar software company – the next Salesforce.com, Box, Workday or ServiceNow. So when you walk through the sales floor or participate in a sales meeting, you can feel this energy and attitude, which is dedicated to chasing Todd’s vision.

You might laugh, but I think we’re all channeling our inner Matthew McConaugheys. We’re looking to the future, and our desire to be relevant in that future is what drives us. We’re relentless.

What's the first thing you do when you get to the office?

Not one day’s the same, but I usually start the day sitting with my team, whether we’re here in San Francisco or on the road. My team travels a ton. On any given day, we could be scattered all across the eastern part of the country with reps in Boston, Chicago or Minneapolis. But no matter where we are, we try to start the day off by touching base because, after all, companies and the teams that make them up, are about people and bringing those people together.

What is your favorite memory from working at Okta?

When Adam Aarons (our SVP of worldwide sales) first joined Okta, I was terrified. I already had a VP of sales that I loved working for and I knew Adam was going to shake things up.

He came in on fire. On one of his first days, he and I whiteboarded all of my deals and when I told him about a six-figure deal I was working on over on the East Coast, he kicked me out off the office and told me to fly out that night. (Back then we weren’t traveling as much, so I was just as surprised that Adam was encouraging me to book a flight as I was when he offered to come with me.)

The next day, we got the CIO in the room and at the end of this high-pressure meeting – this would be one of the biggest deals of the year at the time – I took a risk and pulled out the contract (“fortune favors the bold,” right?) and asked the CIO if he was going to sign it. He told me he wasn’t going to sign it that day and we all shook hands and parted ways.

A couple minutes later, our sponsor caught us in the elevator and told us they’d sign on Monday. It was a great feeling and proof that sometimes if you take a risk and chase what isn’t necessarily guaranteed, there can be huge success that follows. I never wanted to be a part of anything small and at Okta, I have been given a chance to build something great.

Do you want to build something awesome and join Garrett’s team? If so, we want to meet you. Check out our Careers Page for available positions.