From the National Guard to Okta Rollout: A Day in the Life with The Weitz Company’s Owen Fuller
As The Weitz Company expands its job sites to new locations, the IT team needed to ensure its mobile and remote workforce is productive and secure. Tying together identity and mobility management would be key to a successful rollout and Okta and it’s mobility management solution helped ease the migration. Enter Owen Fuller, an Army + Okta-trained admin who led the rollout to allow for huge time saving benefits. After learning more about their rollout at Oktane17, we got to sit down with Owen to learn more about his unique career path and how he’s grown with Okta.
Tell us about your current role: I'm a System Administrator for The Weitz Company, a construction company based in Des Moines, Iowa since 1855. It is the oldest general contractor west of the Mississippi. As a member of our IT Infrastructure team, my responsibilities are a bit diverse. I oversee the network engineering and administration duties for the company, do some Linux administration, security, and identity management
Tell us about your career path. How did you get into IT? I got my start in IT when I enlisted in the Army National Guard. My training covered radio and computer communications, including desktop support and networking. Following training in 2004, I was deployed to Afghanistan for a year where I worked with radios, satellite Internet, and other communication systems. I returned home to Iowa to attend Iowa State University in a pre-business program. While doing my pre-business program, I was also interning in the IT department at the Weitz Company, where I currently work. I soon discovered that IT was what I wanted to pursue.
I transferred to the IT Network Administration program with a Linux emphasis at Des Moines Community College. With a semester and a half left of a five semester program, I was deployed once again to Iraq. During this deployment I did a lot more Active Directory, networking, and general PC support, and further refined my skills. While overseas, I interviewed for a position at the Iowa National Guard Headquarters Directorate of Information Management. I accepted the job offer and worked full-time for the office as an IT Specialist, and later a Security Specialist.
In 2010, my family and I joined Mission Aviation Fellowship, a missionary organization based in Nampa, Idaho. MAF flies for missionaries, and non-government organizations in remote areas all around the world, and also provides communications support. As part of this, my wife, our four kids, and I moved to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here I provided the support for our pilots and support staff's daily technology needs. I operated a small WISP to support other NGOs, missionary organizations, and Congolese outreach groups with Internet service off of our satellite Internet system. I also installed satellite Internet terminals and long range wireless systems in Congo, Uganda, and South Sudan in places that ranged from university campuses to jungle hospitals. One of the best things I got to do was train a young Congolese technician to take over the IT work MAF was doing in the region.
When we returned home to Iowa, I applied for an IT Specialist position at Weitz, and the rest is history!
How has Okta played a role in transforming your career? We became Okta customers in spring of 2016. Since I was previously unfamiliar with Okta, I knew I wanted to do formal training, and was able to attend the Okta Essentials for Administrators class. It was definitely the right decision, and worth the investment. The sections covered a wide range of subjects from basic org administration, SWA and SAML app setup, provisioning, MFA, and others. The class sizes were small enough to facilitate discussion, and allow the instructor to provide assistance and answers to everyone. I’m a “hands-on” learner who best develops new skills by doing, so I appreciated the high quality labs. The Essentials course, and the additional breakout sessions at Oktane, really helped give me the strong foundation needed to be the system administrator for our Okta org.
Okta was also the first project in my career that I really got to run with all on my own. I got to test, design, and implement Okta at the Weitz Company. I think this is really what got me excited about Okta, and it's products. It allowed me to prove myself capable of handling a project roll-out.
My personality is one that loves innovation, and efficiency. For me Okta was a way to bring those attributes to our techs and users. There are so many things we were able to leverage with our initial deployment that save time and frustration for our company. Since my personality also likes to continually explore new solutions, I love that we haven't reached the bottom of Okta's very deep barrel. There's still more we can do with it, and I see that as an exciting path to explore.
What is your advice for others looking to advance their career in IT?
- Be independent. Stop asking your manager for permission on everything, and start making the choices you know are the right ones.
- Become a subject matter expert in the systems and platforms you use. Be a person the company can’t afford to lose. One way to do this is by taking advantage of hands-on courses your IT vendors offer for that extra seal of approval.
- Be open to change when it happens. Push for change when it needs to happen.
- Share your knowledge. It strengthens the team, and frees you up to take on new projects and skills.