Building Opportunities in Cyber Security Through Equity, Diversity, and Belonging Initiatives

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Fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in technology is critical to everything we do at Okta. Cyber security is centered around people, and the unique perspective each professional brings to the job gives us an essential view of the landscape that supports innovation and excellence—and enriches our organizational culture. 

In order for us to put identity at the heart of security, we also need to put it at the heart of our work. And in order to live those values, we need to take action. So, as part of our commitment to driving change, we designed programs that make a real impact, and our partnerships play a big role. In particular, we know that when we build equitable opportunity in our communities through balanced teams, we support social change by empowering the people who are most dedicated to bringing it about. For example, we sponsor nonprofit organizations like Girls in Tech to empower more women to enter technology roles.

In part one, we talked about Okta’s Tech Pathways Week and other diversity initiatives. Now we’re diving deeper into how we’re creating an impact.

Expanding opportunity with Equity Accelerator

One of our biggest targets at Okta is to advance innovative solutions that make technology more accessible to everyone. This goal drives our Equity Accelerator program, which is a six-month, full-time, paid development opportunity for people from historically excluded and now underrepresented talent groups, with an emphasis on Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) applicants.

Jennifer Gutierrez-Caldwell, Okta’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) Program Manager, says we created the program “in 2020, when so many social and systemic inequities were brought to light. We heard the call loud and clear, and we decided to do more. We realized that a company like Okta—who we are and what we do—has the power to make a difference for our industry. We wanted to ensure that Okta was doing more than responding to the news cycle by addressing systemic issues and creating more pathways for economic opportunities in tech for the BIPOC community.”

For participants, it means “the opportunity to break into the tech workforce,” she adds. And for Okta, it’s a way to “invest in balanced teams, have access to all talent, and diversify our talent pools,” which are crucial actions towards our commitment to racial justice and equality. Jennifer explains, “The DIB team recognized that with the way our systems are set up, we simply did not have access to all talent. The Equity Accelerator is not just about doing the right thing—which would be enough on its own—but the reality is that if we are going to hit our targets and achieve our long term strategic vision, we need balanced teams. That’s the power of the Equity Accelerator; it helps us achieve both.”

The most important thing is that Equity Accelerator fellows feel supported and empowered by participation. Joseph Krikorian, a current fellow, says the program has been “a chance for me to conquer my imposter syndrome and prove myself within a space that I feel so fortunate to be a part of.” The benefits are clear: “With this fellowship, I feel quite optimistic for my future professional endeavors.”

Diversifying hiring with Business Development Associates

Similar to the Equity Accelerator, Okta’s new Business Development Associates program helps budding recruits develop the skills they need for a successful sales career in the security industry.

Hung Huynh, a current Business Development Representative (BDR) at Okta, and a former Business Development Associate (BDA) describes it as "hands down the best program I've been a part of! They provide you with the best resources and an amazing leadership team that will support you every step of the way."

The program launched in June 2021 to funnel Okta’s fast-growing sales talent pipeline. It operates “in partnership with workforce development programs to ensure the candidate pool is inclusive of all backgrounds,” says Rachele Zamani, Manager, Business Development Associates. And it breaks some key barriers to accomplish that: “We intentionally eliminated any educational requirements for the role,” because a degree doesn’t equate to grit, eagerness, and drive. We assess candidates based on their growth mindset and initiative, not on grades.

Rachele has already seen the program’s impact. “In the four months since launch, we have seen three out of five of our BDAs get promoted to BDRs. One of those individuals is a Year Up graduate and the other two were promoted within ten weeks of hire!”

Building career foundations with Okta and Auth0 Internships

Okta is committed to helping young adults understand the wide variety of career paths in the tech sector and beyond, which can often seem daunting to high school and college-age students. Our partnerships with organizations like Year Up and Genesys Works help bridge the gap between underserved youth and jobs in the tech and cyber security fields. We know that individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences are critical for creating strong and adaptive security teams, and these Okta for Good internships help facilitate entry for historically excluded students. More than 65 interns have excelled through these programs to date, and with the acquisition of Auth0 earlier this year, we were thrilled to learn that there was a shared commitment around nurturing the next generation of talent. 

Joyce Elauria interned as a Security Engineer at Auth0 on the detections and response team, and says “the most enjoyable thing I learned was security systems design and working with a large conglomerate of amazing and inspirational people to ensure that Auth0 operates as securely as possible.”

Kristina Palmisano, the creator of Auth0’s internship program, explains: “We provide students with the opportunity to solve meaningful, high-impact problems across our environments.” Our leadership team embraces the fresh perspective interns bring to the table, recognizes their importance, and encourages them to build communities and careers. Students get the structure, support, and autonomy to explore what they really want to do for work. 

Internship programs like these are designed to create pathways into security and build future leaders from within.

Create new opportunities with Okta

Okta remains committed to its community of cyber security professionals—and to their careers. Our Okta for Good internship programs are facilitating easier access to careers in security, especially for underrepresented communities, and we’re all stronger for it. Explore Okta Careers and Auth0 Careers to discover the opportunities, and don’t forget to catch up on how Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging efforts are being built into every aspect of our business.