Okta’s Core Values: Act with Integrity with Micah Silverman
Integrity defines all that we do. Our third core value is to “Act with integrity” and treat our customers, partners, and communities with respect. Micah Silverman, senior developer advocate, has embodied this core value while on three different teams at Okta. Currently, Micah serves as a trustworthy developer evangelism speaker that is always willing to go the extra mile for others.
What does “Act with integrity” mean to you, and why is it important?
I see acting with integrity along two dimensions. The first is the way we usually think about integrity—being honest and taking care of others. The second is the integrity of a structure, such as the spokes of a bicycle wheel. You can lose some spokes and the bike will still work, but if you lose too many, then the bike will fall apart. An example of structural integrity from my professional life is when the Okta booth was shorthanded during a conference, so I stepped in to make sure that everything was ready.
Where do you see this core value exemplified at Okta?
This core value is everywhere at Okta. One of my favorite parts about working here is that people truly care, both about their work and about others. I’ve never encountered anyone who is dishonest or disrespectful, which calls on me to act with that same level of integrity.
I’ve also had the unique opportunity to be on three different teams at Okta. In each case, I saw an opportunity to provide more value and I was welcomed with open arms to do so. I always made a point to maintain the strong connections I had on my previous teams, and I know that there are people I can count on whenever I need. I see that kind of mutual respect all over Okta.
How do you embody this core value in your personal and professional life?
It’s the little things. An example that comes to mind in my personal life is that my wife has a handicap hanger for our car, so it’s tempting to take the handicap spot even when I’m alone. When the parking lot is full, I have that thought for a moment, but then I go park on the other side of the lot and leave that spot open for someone who needs it.
In my professional life, a lot of developer evangelism rides on your reputation in the developer community. I’m not looking for the most likes on Twitter, but I do have a good reputation as a speaker. I’m honest about what I don’t know instead of making something up on the spot. Integrity is important in general, but especially in developer evangelism.
Can you provide an example of a time where you used this core value for a specific project?
As a developer advocate, I hold several workshops where our customers will often ask deep, insightful questions. Although I usually know the answers, I’m also comfortable saying when I don’t. I’ve noticed at past jobs that people feel like they need to know everything and think it’s a weakness when they don’t. I’ve found that it serves me well to simply say that I don’t know, but can get back to them when I do. The follow through is important; if you actually get back to people, it makes a big difference and sticks with them in the future.
Is it ever challenging to use this core value in your day to day—how do overcome that challenge?
It’s challenging all the time. My first thought is rarely the one that I eventually go with. For example, my first thought is to be lazy and take the handicap spot, or any other negative action you can insert in its place. My strategy is to examine my first thought, set it aside if necessary, and take a different approach.
Do you have any mentors or colleagues that have inspired you to use this core value?
I have two that come to mind. When I was in college, I did side work for a software developer friend on a network installation. I did a messy job and although he said I was talented, he couldn’t recommend my work to others. That was a wakeup call. His integrity inspired me to do better, and that’s something I took forward throughout the rest of college and my professional career.
More recently, I work with Matt Raible at Okta. Everything that Matt does is high quality work and I appreciate his attention to detail. When Matt reviews my work, he doesn’t just give it a cursory glance; he’s always willing to look deeper and find the little things.
What advice do you have for how others can channel this core value?
Just be open and willing to learn. A good litmus test for me is if my initial reaction to a situation is annoyance, frustration, or embarrassment, then it’s probably a good sign that I have something to learn.
If Okta had a sixth core value, what would it be?
Bring the fun to work. It’s something I’m known for on the various teams I’ve worked on. For example, since many of us are remote on my current team, I’ll always host a game night whenever we all get together. I also pull pranks and practical jokes that—for the most part—people find very funny. Sometimes my team will even join the fun by pulling one of their own.