Designing Okta’s Brand: A Day in the Life with Jane Johnson

From presentations to campaigns and to events, Okta’s brand design team is everywhere, touching many projects across many teams. In this edition of the Day in the Life series, Jane Johnson, head of brand design, shares her experience transitioning into tech and leading a small but mighty in-house team.

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How did you find out about Okta?

The last company I worked for was an organic baby food startup that was acquired by a larger organization. When we were acquired, we updated our processes and brought in Okta’s Single Sign-On. Eventually, a former colleague interviewed with Okta and learned they were building a design and creative team. She introduced me to the recruiter, which led to a two month long conversation with Brian Hansen, vice president of design. Brian and I realized we shared the same vision of growing an in-house team and elevating Okta’s brand to the next level.

Why did you choose Okta?

For me, it always comes down to the people; the design team was a huge part of my decision. I was especially excited that the brand and visual designers would live under the same umbrella as product designers because this structure is similar to how I worked at the Gap organization, where my main collaborators were fashion designers. Giving brand and visual designers proximity to product designers makes sense because we’re all design thinkers and problem solvers that share a universal language. At the end of the day, our collective goal is to come up with visual solutions that are intentional and have rationale.

How was the transition from the fashion and consumer goods industries to tech?

As a problem solver, my process—research, development, iteration, and deployment—hasn’t changed. I’m still focused on brand experiences, but finding a different solution. That said, being in tech has been challenging in a rewarding way because I’m exercising another part of my brain. Our product solutions are complicated, so if we’re asked to distill that information into a single slide for a presentation, we need to have a deep understanding of the product. To that end, my team is working towards completing Okta Essentials and becoming Okta Certified, so we can have a seat at the table and actively participate in the conversation. Beyond our training and certifications, Okta’s culture feels like a collaborative team sport; I can go to anyone and they’ll be more than willing to help.

What does an average day look like?

Every day is different, but it’s a mixture of similar tasks and meetings. For example, I start and end my day by connecting with our project manager to prioritize our design requests. We have requests flowing in constantly, so we need to make sure that nothing is slipping through the cracks. Next, I’ll have design kickoff meetings with project requesters to understand their needs and what problem they’re ultimately trying to solve. The rest of my day is spent in various meetings: project updates with stakeholders, 1:1s with designers, and group critiques to learn where they are in their design process and provide my feedback.

What is your favorite part about your role?

I don’t know if I could choose just one, but I love working with the designers. When a new request comes in, I’ll provide them with the necessary context and information, then watch the individual paths they take to solve the problem. It’s always exciting to see what they come up with on their own, then guide them as a team to find the best solution.

Okta also makes it really easy to coach people, which allows me to spend my 1:1 time getting to know our designers. I learn how their personal goals align with our business objectives, how we can shape their individual VMTs to get the most out of their skillset, and how I can help grow their professional career. I’ve already had the opportunity to promote one of our designers, and being able to acknowledge someone’s talents and contributions feels incredibly satisfying.

What is the most challenging part about your role?

Definitely prioritizing resources. Our project manager and I are constantly making decisions about what will be managed in-house, sent out externally, or put on pause. Partnering with agencies is beneficial because they offer a different perspective, but an in-house team lives and breathes the brand and product. Having the Okta DNA and access to our product teams makes a big difference, so I look forward to eventually growing our Brand Design team. Until then, it’s important that we push forward with a detailed focus and rapid speed to market. It’s a constant balancing act of progress, not perfection; we try to keep efficiency top of mind.

What is Okta’s culture like?

For me, Okta’s culture is people-focused. Everyone approaches their work with good intentions, which fosters a positive and collaborative environment. You’re simply able to get so much more out of people when the vices of ego and status are removed. For example, the opportunity for a brand designer to sit in a room with our CEO and marketing leaders to help craft a keynote is an incredible experience for their growth and learning. Having this ability to connect with people at all levels is one of the best parts about Okta.

Okta in one word?

Trust. It not only connects to our product, but also our people because colleagues here trust each other. They trust that you’ve been given the opportunity to work here, so you’ve been thoroughly vetted and have the expertise in your craft to do the right thing.

Anything else?

When I first joined Okta nine months ago, it was a rocketship taking off. We were just approaching our ten year anniversary with so much to look forward to. I was excited back then and even more so now, especially as we continue to differentiate our brand.

The Brand Design team is gaining momentum and infusing that energy all across Okta. Learn how you can join them and #lifeatOkta, check out our vision and core values, or stay tuned for the next Day in the Life feature.