7 Insights from Our Women in Tech Panel

Here at Okta, we believe each individual has their own story to tell and a unique set of talents to bring to the table. Because we know building and cultivating an inclusive and open-minded workplace allows everyone to do their best work here and beyond, we created Women @ Okta or W@Okta, a group which provides a platform to educate, support and ultimately improve gender diversity at Okta.

So today, we’re sharing the top insights from our first-ever Women in Tech panel at Oktane16. I was honored to be joined by panel participants Michelle Wilson (former senior vice president and general counsel at Amazon.com and member of Okta board of directors), Elena Seiple (executive director of IT security operations and engineering at MGM Resorts International), Christine Sullivan (City Year’s vice president of IT) and Jay Shankar (head of global customer support at Adobe). During the panel we discussed important topics such as leadership, ambition and confidence and below are the top takeaways:

  1. Hold yourself with confidence. Having confidence may be a common tip, but it’s heard often because it’s true. If you sound confident in your ideas and direction, people are more likely to follow you. Christine Sullivan suggests that “once you start having confidence in what you want to do, everything falls into place.” And even if people disagree with you, it further indicates that people have taken what you have said seriously.

  2. Hold yourself accountable. A great leader is able to carry responsibility where it matters the most. “You’ve got to own what you do, no matter if it’s a success or failure,” advised Jay Shankar. Hold yourself accountable and take ownership for the decisions you have made. Managing yourself and owning both your victories and failures will make you a more well-rounded and respected leader.

  3. Share your ideas. If you have an idea on how to improve your company, it’s important to share it. When you are starting your career, many people find it daunting to speak in meetings or voice an opinion. Michelle Wilson suggests one rule of thumb that could help--”if you’re nervous about sharing your thoughts in a meeting, say something in the first five minutes--even if in thanks or agreement.” This will break the ice for yourself, and you have warmed up to speaking in front of a particular group.

  4. Take a broader view. The most effective leader understands that problems that affect one business vertical also have an impact in other areas as well. Focusing on solving a specific problem but identifying where it may impact other parts of the organization demonstrates that you can think and operate on a broader level than where your current role resides.

  5. Look for growth opportunities. “No matter where you are in your leadership journey, you should be constantly honing your skills,” Elena Seiple advises. If you don’t know what skills you should focus on developing, ask your trusted advisors and then take the reigns on developing those skills via reading, attending courses, and mentorship opportunities.

  6. Focus on the work. This might seem obvious but leaders at our panel stressed the importance of focusing on doing your best work with a trust that the right outcomes and recognition will follow. Michelle Wilson suggested that when growing your career, you should strive to “have good judgement-- meaning, focus on the details that matter and do your best work by doing it for the company and the customer.” Focusing on your own personal career development at the expense of making the company more successful is not a winning strategy.

  7. Create your own path. If there isn’t necessarily a structured path to follow, a young professional should feel empowered to create one. Doing what is best for you professionally is paramount. Be brave when making career choices--even if it’s not the easiest path to take at the moment.

To learn more about other influential women in tech and for more professional advice, check out Jessi Hempel’s seven female technologicalists who inspired a technological revolution.

Interested in sharing your unique talents at Okta? Check out our careers page for available positions.