Recruiting @ Okta: A Day in the Life with Brett Coin
No organization grows successfully without great talent. To acquire a world-class team, you need to have a strong group of people recruiting them. At Okta, our recruiters have developed our team of builders and owners who embody our core values and power our growth. Brett Coin leads the charge as Okta’s Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition. In this edition of the Day in the Life series, read on to learn how Brett breaks down barriers for Okta’s recruiting team and guides the company successfully through explosive growth to win the world’s best talent.
Why did you choose Okta?
I first found out about Okta through an executive search firm. I was interested in working for a next-generation tech company and the companies that reached out to me, like Okta and Slack, were exactly that. Having previously worked at Intuit, Cisco and SAP, I already had big company experience, so I was looking for a company with a startup environment with a clear direction upwards.
During the recruiting discussion, I felt like Okta had a great understanding of their product and market fit, and most importantly, where they are on their organization’s journey. Many companies are at similar points where they look like they will break out and become the next big technology company, but to actually make it, companies need the correct fit and journey direction. The cherry on top was meeting, and being impressed by, the leadership team and their commitment to hiring. Getting to actually meet with our CEO and board members left a largely positive impression of Okta.
How was your recruitment process at Okta coming from a recruitment background?
There were many factors in why I actually chose Okta. As a recruiter myself, I look at interviews differently than the normal applicant. While most of us are trying our best to present ourselves in an ideal manner, I am conducting my own interview and looking for opportunities where I might be able to make an impact. This is because if I were to take the position, I would be on the other end of this exact conversation. This thought process was precisely why I decided to choose Okta. I was blown away by how hands-on and fast the recruitment process at Okta was. At the end of the recruitment process, I met with Todd, Freddy and other board members. I explained how this was very rare for a company as large as Okta to have such an interviewee-focused hiring experience where leadership teams are involved. This impressed me and confirmed that the Okta recruiting team was a good fit. As a recruiting leader, having the executive team focused on hiring is an added plus.
What does your average day look like?
The fun part of my role is that each day looks very different. If I had to lay out my “average” day (even though no day is average), I spend about 40% of my time meeting with the business and 40% with the People team. The other 20% of the day is devoted to planning out how to strategically move this recruiting organization forward. My daily goal as the VP of Recruiting is focused on servant leadership; removing barriers and growing and developing our team to be the best they can be. Our vision is to Connect The Best Talent to Okta. The main way we do this is by accelerating our Talent Ecosystem, and increasing velocity through operational excellence, which is a work in progress.. Whether it be by introducing team members to potential candidates or speaking with other teams on their behalf, I want to be the liaison between my team and the rest of the organization.
What is your favorite part of the role?
While this is a common answer among Okta employees, my favorite part of my role is the team. My team is resilient and excited about what we are doing, which is the most important component from a leader’s perspective. To me, this proves that Okta’s recruiting team is going in the right direction and truly believes in what we are doing.
The second aspect of my role that I want to highlight is the quality of candidates that I get to speak with. Okta has a strong employer brand. The majority of the candidates come from unique backgrounds and companies, making each conversation more exciting.
Lastly, I enjoy the company's commitment to creating a strong recruiting culture. Whether it be getting to meet with the leadership team or the role each employee plays in the hiring process, I see the company’s commitment to getting the world’s top talent and greatly appreciate that.
What is the most challenging part of your role?
My biggest challenge is guiding the company successfully through hyper growth to win the world’s best talent at the pace at which Okta is trying to grow. Okta is growing at a rapid rate, but it is imperative to our success to continue hiring quality as well as quantity. This is extremely difficult because new needs and positions are opening up every week. Thus, it is my responsibility to hire at the fast pace Okta is growing, but not let the quality of the candidate decline. Many tech companies are having this issue of competing against each other for the world’s best talent, but very few have to do it at the rate Okta is moving right now. While the majority of candidates I speak with have impressive backgrounds, getting enough world-class talent to fill the explosive growth is a challenge, but certainly one the recruiting team is up to!
What is Okta’s culture like?
The three terms I used to describe Okta’s culture are high velocity, precise execution, and commitment to giving back.
Okta is high velocity because of the rate at which the company is growing. While many positions within the company are affected by the growth rate of the company, very few are affected as much as the recruiting team.
This aligns with the precise execution description of Okta’s culture. While my team is hiring to match the high velocity of Okta, they are also focusing on improving our execution to get the world’s best talent.
Lastly, I am extremely impressed with Okta’s commitment to giving back. Okta’s philanthropy team, Okta for Good, encourages and creates opportunities for employees to give back to their local communities all across the world, whether it be in San Francisco, London, Sydney, or anywhere in between. I have never been part of an organization that highlights giving back so much, and that symbolizes Okta’s culture in general.
What do you do in your free time?
During my little free time, I focus on spending time with my family. Whether it be attending or coaching my kids’ athletic or theatre events, I want to be involved. On top of watching my kids play sports, I’m a Philadelphia area native and a huge fan of Philadelphia sports teams.
Outside of my work life, I have partaken in some unique experiences. My five siblings and I have spent some time on the big screen by participating in the first-ever family addition of the game show, The Weakest Link. Additionally, my wife and I have gotten the chance to eat dinner with James Caan—he’s a great guy!