Seeing Art in Systems: A Day in the Life with Lauren Wagner
Lauren Wagner, senior manager of marketing technology and operations, leads one of the most cross-functional teams in Okta’s marketing organization. In this edition of the Day in the Life series, learn how Lauren empowers her team and the marketing organization to bring systems to life.
How did you find out about Okta?
At my last company we used Okta’s identity products like SSO, so I had already been familiar with Okta from an end user perspective. Then, a friend from a previous company started working at Okta in the marketing organization, and she reached out to me about an open opportunity here in marketing operations. The rest is history!
Why did you choose Okta?
A few reasons. Initially, the opportunity fit what I was looking for as the next step in my career, so that piqued my interest right away. Second, upon interviewing I was really impressed by the caliber of the people I met at Okta. Everyone was incredibly talented and passionate about their work—I knew that I would learn a lot from all of those people. Finally, I knew that the market opportunity for Okta was huge. Identity management is something every person and every company needs to have a plan for, and Okta has a slick and scalable solution for those needs. Ultimately, it felt like a great opportunity to grow with a company that’s also growing.
How would you describe marketing technology and operations? What does an average day look like?
My team and I are responsible for managing Okta’s marketing technology stack, which includes all of the tools and technology that both marketers and sales development reps use on a daily basis to do their best work. I lead a really amazing team of people who are the brains and muscle behind how Okta uses marketing technology and data to tell the Okta story.
The marketing technology universe is massive; there are 7,000+ different marketing technologies out there. Our role is to understand Okta’s business challenges and marketing motions, identify where we have gaps, and work from there to find the right systems and tools to support those processes.
On any given day, our team is moving from designing and building new systems processes to providing on-the-fly support to people working within the systems, as well as acting as a consultative arm to help people design how they’re going to execute on their marketing programs.
What is your favorite part about your role?
Being able to think big and then make it happen. I’ve always enjoyed working with systems and data—being in the tools, tinkering and getting them to do what I needed. It’s like a puzzle: You can piece technology and data together in any number of ways to make marketers’ ideas come to life.
Now, as the leader of a team of incredibly talented systems thinkers, I get to help them fulfill their big ideas. My job is to clear any roadblocks to make sure my team can execute at the scale and capacity that they need to.
What is the most challenging part about your role?
Just like Okta is working to solve big, complex problems in identity management, in our role, we’re trying to solve big, complex business challenges with very technical and nuanced approaches. Think of it like Jenga: Individual blocks are sturdy, and when they're assembled correctly everything stays in place; but it’s delicate at the same time—move the wrong block and things can easily fall apart. It’s both challenging and exciting.
Often, people perceive operations and people who work in operations as very cut and dried, black and white thinkers. While our role is data-driven and technical, there’s also an art to working with these systems. Across technologies, you can build custom integrations to get disparate tools and data to work together; or within one piece of technology, you can put individual components together in unique ways to build something completely new. Even though you do need to be highly technical and detail-oriented, there’s a lot of creativity in that.
What is Okta’s culture like?
I view Okta as a company full of people who “walk the walk,” not just “talk the talk.” From the most senior leadership to individual contributors, everyone here really cares about and embodies Okta’s core values. There’s a level of respect for one another and for Okta as a company that encourages a culture of transparency, dedication, and support for innovative ideas. People really want to help each other, our customers, and the company succeed.
Okta in one word?
Pioneering. People at Okta are willing to step into new frontier to solve big problems in a very open and transformative way. And because of the way technology has evolved over the years, marketing technology as a field of work is actually relatively new—this job didn’t exist in its current form 10 years ago!
Today, the marketing operations persona is a little bit of everything—a little bit of product manager, a little bit of engineer; and you also need to understand the business—what marketers and sales development reps do on a day-to-day basis, so that we can build systems and processes that work for them. Marketing operations really is a pioneering field at a pioneering company.