A Day In The Life of Tim Gu: Intern Turned Product Manager

Meet Tim Gu, a product manager in our San Francisco office who joined the Okta team in June 2013 as a summer intern.

Tim Go

More than a year and a half later, Tim is now responsible for taking customer ideas and suggestions and making them a reality by working across the many teams at Okta. From the annual Oktane conference to the maturity of the senior leadership team, there’s a lot about Okta that inspires Tim.

Want to learn more about how Tim interacts with our customers, the responsibilities of a product manager, and what his favorite breakfast cereal is? Check out our interview with him, for our latest “Day in the Life” installment, below!

So, tell us how you ended up here. Why Okta?

I started as a summer intern after my first year of business school, and ended up loving it so much that I decided to stay on full-time. During my internship, I could tell immediately the company had huge potential, and that I needed to take advantage of the opportunity. The products we launched at Oktane last November are concrete evidence of that. We’re bigger than just SSO. We do provisioning, identity and mobility – just to name a few. Identity is a new vehicle for granting access to each individual device, person, application and partner.

We’re glad you decided to stay! So what do you do now at Okta?

I’m a product manager, which means I set the vision for the product area, and help to coordinate all the things that need to be done to achieve that vision. We, product managers, get to be really creative and work across many departments, such as customer-facing functions like sales engineers and the engineers who actually build the product. You could say we’re the ones responsible for knowing everything that’s happening across the company.

Within the product management team, I'm responsible for two main areas: The first is managing our app integrations to the four thousand applications in the OAN. The other area is reporting, which is about giving our customers insight into the data that is being generated by users.

So in order to do that, what does your day-to-day look like?

As a product manager, you live through the whole development process and lifecycle of a feature. We start with abstract product concepts – what I like to call “pie-in-the-sky” ideas – that we’re able to transform into products and tangibly deliver to the market. We get to come up with ideas and act on them as decision-makers.

I’m also very involved with our customers – in fact, they’re one of the best parts of the job. Our consultative partnerships also allow us to better develop our products. When we speak with a customer and they have a problem, they might have a few ideas on how to solve it. But we don’t necessarily build what they recommend. We talk with lots of different customers to get in their heads and put on their shoes. Once we’ve aggregated all the feedback, we propose a solution their problem, but in a much better way. It’s a huge value driver for us. They think, “wow, this is an impossible problem to solve.” And we’re able to deliver.

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

I get a bowl of cereal, and head to my first meeting of the day. I have a lot of meetings so that we can coordinate the different parts of the company.

What’s your cereal of choice?

I’m a Honey Cornflakes kind of guy, but Okta is fairly protective of your health. I’m a snacker at heart and love to eat, so I’m not always the most healthy. To be honest, I would probably go for the Fruit Loops if we had them, but the Honey Cornflakes are a great healthy alternative, too.

Can you share any favorite memories since you joined the team?

The first Oktane in 2013 was eye-opening for me. As a product manager, we tend to get bombarded by feature requests and bugs. The pressure is always on to make the product better. We don't usually have the time to stop and smell the roses. But when we were on the ground the first day, I received a lot of fantastic feedback from happy customers just using the existing product. They would come up to me and say, “I love your product. It’s perfect as it is,” or “We launched a new feature and our end users benefit from it all the time.” For others at our company (like our customer success team) that might not have been such a shock, but when you’re often getting critically constructive feedback, it was a pleasant surprise.

How did this year’s Oktane compare?

The same thing happened again at Oktane14. I was thrilled to hear how people were using our app integration tool. We launched it back in November of 2013 at Oktane, but we didn’t get a lot of feedback. No one was complaining. Customers were using it, and it seemed to be working fine. But when we looked at the data one year later, we noticed people have been cranking on the feature, to the extent that they couldn't have imagined a time when the tool wasn't there. In the last 5 months, the number of customers that use the tool have increased exponentially. It’s cool to see how far it’s come.

If you could define Okta in one word, what would it be?

octopus blueAwesome.

Ok, but to be a little more original, I’ll go with Octopus. For starters, it sounds like Okta. But like the aquatic creature with a surplus of appendages, Okta’s capable of touching everything you do at work. I have a vision of Okta being a network that permeates everything an employee does each day. It holds all the people, devices, applications and companies within its web, or in this case, an eight-armed hug.

Do you want to see the impact your work has on customers, be responsible for making pie-in-the-sky product concepts a reality, and work alongside Tim at our office in San Francisco? Don’t wait to check out our careers page -- we’re hiring!