From the Air Force to Okta: Your Story Inspires with Becky Oliver
This Veterans Day, we want to thank all military veterans for their service; we never take it for granted and appreciate all that you do. In this edition of Your Story Inspires, we’re honored to highlight Becky Oliver, vice president of technology program management. Read on to learn more about Becky’s time with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and how it eventually led her to Okta.
Where did you grow up? What are the most memorable experiences from your early childhood?
I grew up in Stow, Ohio, where I was fortunate enough to have a loving and supportive family. My parents encouraged me and my two younger brothers to always do our best because that’s all anyone can ever ask. Looking back, this lesson influenced my work ethic and inspired me to work hard in school and beyond. For example, everyone in my family was expected to work during the summer, so I held at least ten different part-time jobs during my high school and college summers (many more than my brothers!). There was one summer in particular where I prided myself on working two jobs—Monday to Thursday at a plastic factory, then Friday and Saturday at a hallmark store. I’ve always had this inherent drive to work hard, earn my own money, and be independent.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I love hiking and being outdoors, which led me to explore colleges with well respected environmental studies programs. I always envisioned myself joining the EPA to save nature, but my parents eventually redirected me to a different degree. I graduated college with a major in Management Information Systems and a scholarship with the USAF ROTC program.
How does your experience in the Air Force influence what you do at Okta today?
In the military, leadership is an area that gets a lot of training, focus, and respect. When I was in the Air Force, I was surrounded by leaders of all levels with diverse leadership styles. I had the opportunity to learn from them and understand the difference between leadership and management. In my current field of Technical Program Management, having the ability to lead is critical in maximizing the value that you can add. In fact, one of my interview questions to our CEO was how he assesses leadership in his management team. His answer was simple, but powerful: he sees how a leader’s team members follow!
Do you have any mentors or individuals you feel grateful for?
My parents have been great examples for how to treat others with kindness and respect. One of my favorite memories illustrating their impact is from when I was a teenager. I was watching TV and complained about a commercial advertising a support network for people in need that interrupted my show. In response, my dad simply said that this information is helpful for many people, and that I should think about others who are less fortunate.
Another mentor I had was a USAF Captain that helped lead my college ROTC program. He was a tough man who had been in combat situations earlier in his career. During my senior year, I received an award from him for being the cadet who showed the most growth and potential. It was incredibly meaningful and rewarding because it sent a message that even though I’m a quiet person, I can still be a strong and capable leader.
What are personal and professional milestones you feel proud of?
There are several milestones I feel proud of, but here are a few big ones:
- Being selected to receive a scholarship with the USAF ROTC program because it was the first concrete recognition of my hard work in high school and my potential moving forward. I eventually left home and drove from Ohio to Mississippi to start my independent life as an adult and Second Lieutenant in the USAF, despite not knowing anyone there.
- Deciding to leave the USAF after four and a half years of service in Colorado because of my sexuality and the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy at the time. This moment was the start of a new chapter in my life because I took a leap of faith with my relatively new relationship and moved to San Francisco for a job.
- Getting legally married to my partner of 15 years at the time (now 20 years together!). We made the decision on our own terms, rather than as a political statement, which I never imagined would be possible for me.
- Educating myself about mindfulness meditation and stress reduction, then sticking with it for over ten years.
- Having the opportunity to contribute to Okta’s growth and get promoted, both of which exceeded my expectations.
What is your mantra for dealing with difficult challenges?
I’m confident in my ability to work hard and figure things out eventually. I’m always willing to learn, adapt, and grow.
How do you think your gender, ethnic, or racial identity has impacted your professional experiences? How do you respond to the presence or absence of privileges that come with your identity?
I understand how being a caucasian woman can make people either more or less comfortable with my presence. As I’ve become more educated over the years, I endeavor to look beyond gender, ethnic, and racial differences to see people for who they are. I also try my best to be aware of unconscious biases that could be influencing me. I’m grateful to live in the Bay Area and see a level of diversity that’s allowed me to make more progress in these areas than those who don’t know people from many backgrounds. When we have the opportunity to widen our network and learn more about others, we’re able to focus on the unique skills and experiences that each person can bring.
If you could time travel, where would you go?
I always try to live in the moment, so I don’t want to go to the past, but I do hope for a brighter future and have faith in humankind to get us there.
We appreciate all that Becky and other veterans have done to ensure that we could build Okta with peace and comfort. To learn more about what a #lifeatOkta entails, you can visit our careers page, learn about our vision and core values, or stay tuned for the next inspiring story.