Okta’s New CMO on Building an Iconic Brand Through Identity

Most of my mornings start the same way: I open my eyes to see my daughter, four inches from my face. After recovering from this alarm, I get up and make breakfast for my family—because when I’m not working in technology, I’m often a short-order cook, specializing in Mickey Mouse–shaped pancakes.

After being judged on my somewhat average cooking skills, I sit down to start the workday. The first thing I open is Okta, where my custom folder called “Morning Coffee” gives me instant access to the key apps that start my routines for the day. And all over the world, millions of knowledge workers share a similar experience.

Personal routines are important to me, and one of my favorite books is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. As a recovering product and UX leader, and now Okta’s new CMO, I’m fascinated by what drives and facilitates the personal and work rituals of others. Every day, millions of people trust Okta to secure their identity and streamline their most critical workflows as citizens, customers or employees. As a result, the Okta brand has a meaningful opportunity to stand for the trust, privacy, and productivity of so many, while enabling organizations with the broadest choice and acceleration of technology initiatives.

The story of identity must be told

When I first met Todd McKinnon and Frederic Kerrest seventeen years ago, we were all colleagues at Salesforce. Even then, it was clear they had an amazing vision for how cloud computing would develop. They knew that every organization would depend on a multitude of cloud apps and experiences, and a secure identity would sit at the heart of that. Eventually, they started Okta, and I watched their progress, marveling at their success.

As both a builder of mobile products and a marketer, I know how imperative identity is for every app: it secures us and enables the context to authorize and guide us every step of the way on a journey. For organizations of all kinds, from small businesses to enterprises and governments, I’ve watched identity transform from a front door to a strategic focal point. Everyone is on a mission to become identity-first in their zero-trust security strategy, as well as identity-first in their customer experience strategy. Okta has innovated on both fronts for over a decade, and the Okta Identity Cloud now supports a customer community that spans more than 60 countries.

I’ve spent much of the past two years as an executive-in-residence at Accel, which exposed me to some of the most innovative entrepreneurs around the globe. The most promising startups and developers are dialed into identity for building great apps, enabling experiences, and securing their users and employees. It’s been fun to reconnect with so many great teams and companies that are part of Okta’s best-of-breed Okta Integration Network. Seeing the best and the brightest investing in our community has only reinforced my view on the importance of the Identity Cloud.

The serendipity of working with Auth0

Nearly 6 years ago, while managing Search at Salesforce, I was fortunate enough to meet the founders of Algolia. I eventually joined their board and become a part of their amazing journey. Today, they’re the second-largest search engine in the world after Google. You may never have heard of Algolia, yet they execute over a trillion search operations per year. How? Algolia is an API-first platform that enables developers to build next-generation apps using their search and recommendations engine behind the scenes.

At the time, they were one of a small handful of forward-looking companies empowering developers to build tomorrow’s digital experiences. Stripe was doing it for payments, Twilio was doing it for messaging, and Algolia was doing it for search. So I began to wonder if anyone was doing this for authentication. It seemed obvious that identity could be API-first and provide security, performance, and scale for developers.

After some searching, I came across a start-up in Washington called Auth0 that was doing exactly that. I reached out to the co-founder, Eugenio Pace, randomly via email as I believed in what they were doing and wanted to see if I could help. We never connected back then, but amazingly, the universe brought us full circle. I joined Okta just as we announced we were joining forces with Auth0! Eugenio (and the whole team) are such incredibly kind, generous, and innovative people—I’m grateful to connect with them all on the journey ahead.

The merger between Okta and Auth0 brings together the best of customer identity and workforce identity to form the Okta Identity Cloud. Together we give organizations and developers an easy-to-implement, adaptable platform for authentication, authorization, and identity. We have a bright future together and I’m deeply excited about what is possible for our community of developers and customers.

Celebrating our customers’ success

Beyond meeting the incredible team and learning Okta operations, the biggest priority for me is learning the stories of our customers. What are your challenges, what have you achieved, and how can we fuel your aspirations? I’m often asked about brand strategy, and again, it’s all about customers, as we are all here for you. This belief forms the foundation of our brand, developed through your tremendous experiences, stories, and partnership. It’s what allows us to be innovative.

When I look back at my career, I’m proud of the products I’ve helped to build, the campaigns I’ve created, and the companies I’ve helped to launch. But the most rewarding part is always the people, watching our employees and customers grow together. I’m here to play a small role in guiding that every day, learning with all of you, and building something that we can all be proud of together.