A Day In The Life of Bill Losch: Okta’s CFO Puts Money On The Cloud

IT teams are responsible for finding, implementing and ensuring technologies are adopted by their organization. But technology decisions are no longer solely under the jurisdiction of that team or the CTO. Today, CFOs are responsible for evaluating technology purchases and assessing a return on investment. Whether that’s calculated through employee productivity increases or financial savings by eliminating outdated software or needing one less employee to sit at a help desk, the CFO needs to determine whether it’s worth the investment.

As it happens, our CFO is well-versed in both cloud-based technologies and making decisions that impact a company and its investors for years to come. We decided to sit down with Bill Losch to find out what a typical day at Okta is like, and to provide some color to the advantages of implementing and partnering with cloud technologies.

How long have you been at Okta, and what first attracted you to the company?

I joined Okta in June 2013, so it’s been almost two years. While I had experience working at larger companies – DreamWorks Animation, Yahoo! Inc. and Universal Studios, to name a few you might recognize – I first and foremost wanted to work at a technology company that was solving a real painpoint for companies and consumers.

Many companies were struggling with moving their software applications to the cloud and securely managing user identities and data far beyond the firewall. Okta recognized that there was a need for cloud-based identity management, and built a successful solution from the ground-up for a fundamental and growing problem.

Secondly, it came down to the people – the investors, the leadership and ultimately, the rest of the team. As a finance person, I was impressed with major investors who were already backing the company, like Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital. And when I met the co-founders, CEO Todd McKinnon and COO Frederic Kerrest, I was really impressed with their capabilities, experience and vision for the company. When it came time to meet the rest of the team, I was convinced.

As Okta’s CFO, what’s in your job description and who do you work with most closely to get the job done?

When I started at Okta, I needed to put a lot of tactical things in place. From financial planning and analysis to accounting, I put in a lot of legwork to implement new strategies. Then I focused on making sure certain policies were being followed. I used to address legal decisions, before our General Counsel Jonathan Runyan came aboard. I even work with the HR department, as I help set parameters of when and where we can hire.

Now, from a broader standpoint, I make sure our financial strategy ties into our corporate strategy. Our financial strategy has to address long-term goals, and that planning takes up about 50 percent of my time. I work closely with Todd, Frederic and the rest of the board to see that plan executed. What makes that more interesting for me here at Okta, is that we’re in a market – cloud-based identity and mobility management – that’s new, and we get to define our position in it.

What's the first thing you do when you get to the office, and how does the rest of your day typically go?

The first thing I do is grab coffee. [Laughs.] Beyond that, no one day is the same. I’m responsible for figuring out what we, as a company, should think about for the future and helping my team focus on that as well. This is time spent with my team and the senior level executives to address challenges that they face.

We need to understand the financial strength of the company the best that we can for the long term, for ourselves, our investors and our prospective customers. Given my insight into our finances, I can help convince prospects that our business will be around for the long term. During the last two weeks of the quarter, I’m reforecasting our business for the next year, preparing for board meetings and assessing how we’re doing versus where we want to go.

But that doesn’t mean I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs when it’s not those two weeks. We’re not a huge corporation where you sit around and wait for someone to ask you to do something. I work on whatever hits my plate, and at the same time am thinking about the future (and doing so for my team).

Has life at Okta lived up to your expectations?

Well, first off, I knew I was joining an amazing, rapidly growing company – and I knew more and more companies would transition over to cloud and mobile and realize that they need us – but I had no idea it would come to fruition so quickly. It all happened far faster than I expected.

What’s more, I continue to be impressed by the folks that work here. The recruiting team hires and retains top-notch people that you really feel like you can learn from. I’ve been in finance for more than two decades and I still learn from my Okta co-workers day in and day out. They’re also incredibly creative – check out the projects that came out of our most recent hackathon if you don’t believe me – which is compelling and makes you feel good about coming to work.

It’s not just the folks that work directly on my team – throughout the organization, people are moving together in the right direction. It reminds me of when I played sports as a kid – here at Okta, I feel like I’m on a cohesive team that’s working towards the same goal. (And it’s certainly not a stretch to think we’re on a sports team when each employee is given a rugby jersey with their employee number on the back the first day of work.) I can honestly say I would enjoy hanging out with people here outside of work.

And last, but not least, if you could define Okta in one word, what would it be?

Opportunity. I realize that might sound a bit “pie in the sky,” but there’s really such a vast opportunity from where we stand in the market and that’s what makes working here so exciting. There are a lot of companies out there that are extremely well run, but not all are positioned in a market that provides them a tremendous opportunity. I have to give a lot of credit to Todd, Frederic and the founding team for putting us in this position and allowing us to dominate in the market.

Impressed with the way Bill oversees Okta’s finances and guides the company towards an agreed upon future? There’s no better time than now to check out Okta’s career page and learn about open positions. Reach out now, because we’d love to hear from you!