The technology industry, specifically Silicon Valley, is a fast-paced environment where the minute you get complacent is the moment opportunity passes. Simi Hundal, Director of Field Sales for the West, understands the mentality needed to be successful in this industry and that understanding has sparked not only her career advancement, but also been a critical driver of Okta’s growth since 2012.
We recently sat down with Simi to learn more about her journey into sales at Okta, and her recent 5 year anniversary with the company.
Why Okta? What first attracted you to Okta?
When Okta first caught my attention, I was working at a small start-up that was doing marketing automation. I was doing everything from sales, to lead-gen all the way to demos. At the time, the proliferation of cloud applications meant a huge opportunity in our industry and I had a serious interest in IT sales. I started following what some of the executives who left Salesforce were doing and applied to Okta after seeing an opening on Craigslist. Before I knew it, I was meeting with the co-founders and the VP of sales. As of Feb. 14, it’s been 5 years since starting as Okta’s first Sales Development Representative, employee #31 to be exact.
It sounds like you’ve come a long way. Can you take us through how you got started in sales at Okta?
When I started, identity and access management as a service was difficult for people to grasp which made cold calling a tough job. I found myself at my desk until I made at least 100 calls when first starting at Okta. A month after starting, a senior VP of sales was hired and I started working with him to help build pipeline for the new sales team. During that time, I expressed my own interest in being an account manager, so I put a presentation together for him illustrating some of my work. I outlined all the stage ones, the business I had converted and the impact I would make as an account manager. After a few minutes he told me he’d make a position for me and I was offered an opportunity as sales rep to emerging markets, a sales team focused on small and medium businesses. That team has continued to grow and we now have 11 reps on the emerging markets team.
What’s the best part of working at Okta?
My favorite part of Okta is the fact that even people not in sales are willing to work with you to be successful. It’s a team sport across all departments. I bring this mentality to my team every day and live by the motto, “we win as a team – we lose alone.” I tell my team all the time, “If you’re struggling raise your hand, bring me in, bring the product team in.” In the end, we’re all here to make Okta is successful.
What is most rewarding about your role?
I mention the team sports mentality before because I’ve played sports all my life. As a result, I’m very competitive. I love winning and I love closing deals. Whenever the team can win a deal, especially when it’s competitive, it’s very rewarding. The journey people on my team have taken is also very rewarding. I love seeing people who are hired as SDRs, like I was, who are now on my team. I see such unbelievable growth, and the excitement that comes with upward momentum is irreplaceable.
What is the first thing you do when you get to the office?
I probably refresh Salesforce, but really “always on” — our internal motto at Okta — is how I work every day. On a regular day, I spend a majority of my time on calls with reps and checking in with my remote team. When I’m not on calls, I’m likely in back-to-back meetings with prospects or customers. I’m not quite on 100 calls like I was when I was starting out, but I’m also still not afraid to cold call if needed!
What is your favorite memory from working at Okta?
When I was starting out, I was a corporate sales rep for 2 years and in my second year I became the #1 commercial sales rep and closed the most revenue net to Okta. I was always bouncing around from meeting to meeting and it had been months since my last conversation with the VP of sales. He sat me down and congratulated me on my year and asked, “What’s next for you?” We had a brief back-and-forth before he explained that he’d like me to manage our corporate sales team. At the time it felt like I won the lottery!
But I would have to say my favorite Okta memory is without a doubt when we first reached 100 customers. I remember early on it felt impossible to get to 100 and now we have thousands. It’s amazing to see how much we’ve grown and I’m very proud to be a part of that growth.
If you could define Okta in one word, what would it be?
Disruptive. Okta is literally disrupting a $10 billion plus market with an amazing product and amazing people. It's an amazing opportunity and I couldn't be happier to be part of this team.
Think you might have what it takes to join our growing team? We want to meet you. Check out our careers page for available positions.