Reflecting on the Work We’ve Done at Okta: One Year Later
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder last May, I wrote affirming Okta’s commitment to driving tangible change for racial justice and equality. Though our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging is long-standing, last summer we realized that we had to do more to challenge the systemic issues leading to racial inequality and injustice. We wanted to ensure that our commitment was not just a reaction to current events, but was thoughtful and aimed to support this movement—long term. So, we shared a list of public commitments we would undertake on this issue. Now, a year later, we’re reflecting on our promises, discussing our progress, and remaining open and accountable about where we still need to improve.
Our long-term diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB) strategy covers three pillars: workforce, workplace, and the marketplace. Today, we’re sharing how we’re holding ourselves accountable and providing an update on our racial justice and equity work in these three areas.
Last fall, we delivered on our promise to report on our progress in these areas, releasing our first State of Inclusion report. We recognize that we have a long way to go as we continue to improve the diversity across all of our teams, but are committed to prioritizing our inclusion efforts as a core component of our culture at Okta. We plan to continually inventory the initiatives that are working, those that are not, and examine where we have yet to scratch the surface.
Our approach to diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB) is inspired by our core value of Empower Our People. This year, we’ve been focused on racial justice, and we’ve made sure to be intentional across every level of the company. In thinking about Okta’s workforce goals, our focus remains on three key areas: hiring the talent to build balanced teams, retaining and developing our employees, and engaging and nurturing the talent yet to come.
- Hiring@Okta Training: Through the pilot launch of Hiring@Okta training in August 2020, we have invested in manager and interview training focused on competency-based hiring to ensure that we have a structured process and limit for bias.
- Balanced Teams as a Strategic Priority: Okta’s DIB and Recruiting teams have prioritized hiring for Balanced Teams as part of their annual strategic goals. This effort includes defining balanced teams, socializing the concept with the hiring teams, and quarterly tracking of the goals. We will report on our workforce trends in the State of Inclusion report later this fall. With a data-centric and layered approach focused on each business unit, we are committed to impacting hiring trends across the company. This approach has allowed us to secure commitments from business leaders and further enhance our strategic outlook.
- Interview Teams: We have developed guidelines and processes to ensure a diverse slate of interviewers, and leveraged resources like Greenhouse Inclusion Tools to check against unconscious biases.
- Dynamic Work: Now, well over a year into our accelerated shift to a Dynamic Work model, the flexibility of our new normal has had a positive impact on our diversity efforts. Allowing employees to work where and when is best for them has expanded the talent pool from which we’re able to hire — empowering decisions centered around diversity. Prior to this shift, 30% of available roles were outside office locations; now 56% of roles are dynamic, and not connected to offices, enabling us to hire from diverse geographies. We’re intentional about leveraging workforce data across cities with more diverse populations, and sourcing candidates from those regions.
Retaining + Developing
- Onboarding: Okta has developed an onboarding process, called Oktavate, focused on the value and need for an inclusive culture at Okta. Oktavate is an opportunity for new hires to learn about our community efforts through the work of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Okta for Good.
- ERG Leadership Program and Rewards: In February 2021, we introduced an ERG Leadership Program and quarterly bonuses for the co-chairs of our ERGs along with Committee Heads. The program offers ERG leaders an opportunity to build leadership skills and further grow their careers at Okta. As leaders of our ERGs, these individuals play a critical role in nurturing a sense of community and a culture of belonging at Okta.
- The Architect in Training Program for Engineers: Now in its seventh month, the Architect in Training Program for Engineering is focused on training underrepresented minorities (URMs) at Okta for architect roles in the coming months and years. The Individual Development Plans and mentorship components allow mentees to create a career development path along with an opportunity to work with senior architects at the company. The program will be launching the second cohort this fall.
- Improving Paths to Leadership for BIPOC Talent: Okta recognizes the need to further develop a more robust plan for clearer career paths and leadership opportunities for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) talent. Investments in a retention plan and clear leadership paths for Black and diverse talent at Okta are still in the early stages and remain a top priority. As part of these efforts, we have clearly stated core competencies for individual contributors and managers to provide a transparent career development path for all our employees. We understand that we need to further drive inclusion and equity in our processes to ensure complete support for our BIPOC talent.
- Tracking Demographics Across Levels: We have invested in data tracking and analytics to identify our strengths and opportunities in hiring and retaining BIPOC talent. We are committed to leveraging data to refine our strategy.
- Okta for Good’s Racial Justice Commitment: Last summer, Okta, and its co-founders made a $3M, three-year philanthropy commitment to support racial justice. To guide Okta for Good’s racial justice philanthropy commitment, we assembled a Racial Justice and Equity Employee Advisory Board consisting of leaders from People of Color @ Okta; Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging team; and Okta for Good. With outside support from social justice and philanthropy experts, the committee identified three areas for philanthropic investment in 2020: economic development; voting education, access, and rights; and pathways to STEM employment. To date we have committed more than $1.9M toward our $3M commitment.
- AAPI Support: In response to horrific violence against the AAPI community, Okta for Good provided a donation to Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and stood up an employee giving fund to support three AAPI-serving organizations. As part of the pledge Okta signed onto, Okta for Good made an additional donation to the Stand with Asian Americans Fund. Together, Okta and Okta employees have donated more than $80,000 to AAPI-serving nonprofits so far this year
- Workforce Development Partnerships: We have expanded our efforts to develop tech talent in underrepresented communities by doubling down on our workforce development partnerships like the Equity Accelerator program. The Equity Accelerator is an internal six-month, full-time, paid workforce development program to expand economic opportunity for underrepresented talent, especially BIPOC, with at least five years of experience. The program offers diverse talent the opportunity to earn tech and non-tech certifications, engage in on-the-job training opportunities, and gain access to mentorship and coaching aligned to professional development goals. We have partnered exclusively with five national community organizations: Jopwell, Per Scholas, Year Up, COOP, and Jewish Vocational Services to recruit for the Equity Accelerator via their expansive alumni networks. Additionally, we’ve grown our Tech Pathways and internship programs to include more organizations and reach more global communities through Dynamic Work. In 2020, we hosted our largest class of interns with 20 students, reached over 450 students through our global Tech Pathways week, and donated over $230K to 10 global workforce development partners.
As we seek to expand diversity at Okta, we understand that creating an inclusive culture goes far beyond hiring diverse candidates. A good DIB strategy may start with hiring, but is affirmed in the day-to-day culture and dynamics existing across all levels of an organization. This requires building an infrastructure for not only listening to one another, but gaining knowledge. In this last year, we have continued to bolster the groups and resources that are pivotal to laying this foundation.
- Community Building Events: In partnership with our DIB team, Okta’s ERGs (POC, Women@Okta, Veterans, Pride, and EMEA and APAC Circles) have led community-building events including a virtual cooking demonstration for Black History Month and fireside chats about building inclusive environments for BIPOC employees.
- Empowering the Community: The Philanthropy committee of POC@Okta partnered with Street Code Academy in California and the DC Metro Area to provide 100 laptops to students in under-resourced communities, doing our part to continue bridging the technical divide. Along with providing technology resources, the committee is also hosting mentorship and informational sessions to inform students about careers in tech.
- DIB Resources: Okta continues to offer personalized diversity and inclusion resources (i.e., allyship self-assessments, podcasts, and books) for all employees as well as safe space sessions, and micro-trainings.
- Leading@Okta: Last year, the Talent Management team started offering a Leading@Okta program to all VPs and above at Okta, which discussed ways leaders can manage and lead diverse teams while nurturing a sense of belonging.
- Facilitated DIB Discussions: DIB is offering regular inclusion sessions for teams and people on a variety of topics (e.g., DEI terminology, allyship in action, psychological safety, and inclusive leadership).
- Mental Health Support: We recognized that our BIPOC employees may be experiencing additional anxiety and stress given the pandemic and social justice movement. To ensure that we are providing adequate support, we have expanded our mental health offerings including 1:1 sessions with coaches and therapists at Modern Health, community healing circles, and guidance for managers in supporting their teams.
- Culture Projects: OktaU is our in-house university program, which is committed to helping Okta become a high-impact learning organization. We are working with the OktaU team to better define Okta’s culture in terms of actions and behaviors. This will allow us to offer training focused on inclusive leadership training and behaviors.
While we continue to have a long way to go on the marketplace front, we’ve worked hard to bring diversity front of mind in our investments, partnerships, and sales. Doing our part in the fight for racial justice means not only working within Okta but establishing intention around how we engage the market around us. This means empowering not only the BIPOC talent within our organization but the BIPOC talent and leaders in the industry at large.
- Inclusive Language Project: At Okta, we acknowledge that certain terminology has stereotyped or excluded certain groups based on their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and many other identifiers. We’re taking steps to ensure our commitment to inclusive language is reflected across our business and in our products and platform. While we are in the early stages of making changes, we acknowledge that this will take time until we have reached our ideal state. Inclusive language means that we use language that is not biased, discriminatory, offensive, or exclusive. In addition, we’ll be launching a review process for new emojis on Slack to assert they are inclusive to all identities.
- Supporting BIPOC Founders: Okta Ventures is our in-house fund, through which we invest in and support the broader ecosystem of identity, privacy, and user-centric security startups. Okta has committed to holding an introductory call with all industry-relevant startups with underrepresented founders that submit to Okta Ventures and requiring our investors to participate in unconscious bias training.
- Oktane21 Speakers: As we planned this year’s annual customer conference, we made it a priority to highlight BIPOC experiences and speakers. We are proud to share that we achieved our goal of having a more diverse speaker lineup ranging from our keynote speakers (66% were POC) to sessions dedicated to impact and inclusion.
In 2020, the fight for racial equality was reignited. But as we move further from the boiling point of last summer, we cannot let the passion and intention relent. Okta holds steadfast in our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging, and acknowledges the significant amount of work ahead. We promise that the strides we have made will not permit complacency moving forward. For us, this is not an ephemeral moment, but the beginning of enduring, long-term change and self-examination.