Connected Product and Sales: Anat Shiwak’s Journey at Okta (Women @ Okta Series)

At Okta we build, design, sell and market products that make people more productive and companies more secure. I joined the product marketing team at Okta a little over two years ago. At that time, we were mostly known for our IT products: single sign-on, provisioning (now lifecycle management), multi-factor authentication (now adaptive MFA), Okta Mobility Management, and one powerful cloud directory (Okta Universal Directory) that connects user identities together. Later on we expanded our product portfolio and developer offering to also solve for external user identities: business partners, customers and anyone who interacts with the business that needs secure access to company resources.

On the product team, I spent a lot of time defining Go-to-Market strategies, value proposition, creating messaging and writing about what makes Okta unique. But my favorite part of the job was when I got to spend actual time with customers and prospects, large and small, to learn about the challenges they face as they embrace cloud and mobile to transform their companies. Change is hard, and it comes with risks and complexity. And with the explosion of people, apps and devices, security is a big deal. It is very gratifying to feel that you helped someone take a step forward with a mission-critical project or initiative.

I have always been passionate about taking learnings and insights from one area of the business and applying them in other parts of the organization. Some people choose to specialize in their careers and grow in one functional area. I chose to pursue a general management path, where my career choices were always deliberately selected to work across various stages of the product lifecycle — from product to sales — and apply the knowledge to drive efficiencies, alignment and scale.

This is one of the reasons why I recently embarked on a new journey at Okta, leading our sales development team globally. My team and I have the privilege of working with companies at a very initial phase of their evaluation process, sometimes before they even realize the full magnitude of the problems they’re facing. It’s my team’s job to understand their business pain and discuss next steps. Whether organizations are looking for ways to increase security, to replace a dated and costly system, to drive efficiencies as they embrace cloud and mobile technologies — my team is there to help.

In the early stages of the purchase cycle there are a lot of questions and unknowns. IT environments are complex. Systems and directories are disperse and don’t “talk to each other”. Onboarding and off-boarding can be extremely manual and frustrating. Productivity of employees suffers, and collaboration with business partners is challenging. In my current role, I try to bridge that gap and help companies with identity and access related initiatives. Every day, I look forward to coming to the office and working at this important intersection between product and sales to support our current and future customers.