Here at Okta, we’re trailblazing solutions to securely meet the needs of the connected individual in the connected world. We are innovators and futurists, and what is more futuristic that a soccer-playing robot? We recently sat down with Okta System Architect – and former robot architect – Wils Dawson to discuss product development, life at Okta, and robots of course!
What do you do at Okta?
I began as a software engineer, but recently transitioned to a system architect role. I help lead the mobile sphere and act as the bridge from the technical side to the product side. Coding is still my primary responsibility, but I also work closely with the product and engineering managers to ensure that we’re developing relevant, forward-thinking solutions.
Walk us through your typical day at the Okta office.
I know the typical engineer is not an early-riser, but I prefer to come in to the office around 7:30 a.m. I dedicate this time to programming and catching up on things from the day before without interruption since the workday hasn’t officially begun. Starting around 9 a.m., my day is filled with answering questions from team members and lots of meetings, specifically design reviews and strategy sessions with engineering teams. In my new role, I also spend a lot of time on the phone with our customer and product managers to discuss customer use cases, suggestions, concerns, and identify new product opportunities. I also strive to work with teams outside of mobile to ensure that we’re all in alignment. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are great because lunch is always catered! I usually go for a run during the lunch hour, shower at the office, and then lunch is right there waiting for me.
What first attracted you to the company?
My job search began in March of my senior year at Bowdoin College in Maine. As a Bay Area-native I wanted to move closer to home, so I began calling alumni based on the West Coast, which included Okta Chief Architect Jon Todd. I double-majored in computer science and math, so naturally I was interested in a career in technology, but I also minored in theater. I have a wide range of interests and I’m passionate about learning. Therefore, it was important to me to find a company that would foster my love of learning and provide lots of opportunities for growth and development. Jon’s description of Okta fit the bill.
What’s most rewarding about your role?
Everyone at Okta is smart and capable. I learn every day, and now I feel like I teach every day. That reciprocity as well as the opportunity for growth have been the greatest rewards. Okta is truly a meritocracy. We live in an interesting product space, and Okta provides employees with the tools needed to thoughtfully approach and tackle any challenge. If you’re consistently executing and exceeding expectation, you will be promoted.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since joining Okta?
The greatest professional advice I have received came from John Todd, who referred me to Okta, during our initial conversation. He said that as an engineer, it’s important to join a company that prioritizes the technology above all else. Okta definitely follows that model and I live it as a system architect. It’s not uncommon for businesses -- especially startups -- to lose sight of the original purpose, but Okta continues to put the products and the ability to fulfill customers’ needs first.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love being outside: running, rock climbing and hiking. Even though the Bay Area is home, I still enjoy exploring the city and surrounding areas. I am often accompanied by Okta friends on these excursions. They’ve also asked me to join a cycling club, but I don’t own a bike. Cycling is pretty popular in this area and a lot of people at Okta cycle, so I guess I’m going to have to get a bike pretty soon!
Name an interesting fact about yourself that your team may not know.
I was a member of the Bowdoin Robotics Club. We primarily focused on autonomous robotics, and built soccer-playing robots. I was lucky enough to compete internationally at RoboCup, a World Cup-style tournament, all four years of college.
If you could define Okta in one word, what would it be?
Intelligent. The people are intelligent, as is the way the business is built and products are developed. Okta is forward-thinking, meticulous, and intuitive.
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.