A Look into Okta’s Engineering Launch Program

** job hunting on LinkedIn **

*scroll, scroll, scroll* *click* 

Job title: New Graduate Software Engineer

“Score! I found one!” 

3 years of industry experience

“Dang it!” 

*Continue scrolling*

Newer software engineers LOVE job hunting. (Hah. Of course not!) There are endless job postings to apply to, but so many of them require several years of industry experience or don’t seem accessible to recent university and boot camp graduates. Enter Okta’s Engineering Launch Program–actively inviting recent graduates of all backgrounds and levels of experience to apply!

The Engineering Launch Program is specifically designed to set new engineers like you up for success and accelerate your personal and professional growth within Okta’s Customer Identity Cloud engineering unit and beyond. Keep reading if you’d like to learn more about the program, our engineering culture, and what to expect if you’re applying!

What is the Engineering Launch Program?

The Engineering Launch Program (ELP) is a new graduate program that debuted in 2021, with a mission to grow great talent organically and increase diversity. ELP participants, whether new to the workplace or new to the engineering field, are guided through a year-long program designed to build a foundation for the rest of their careers. ELP, like the rest of Okta, is remote first, which means you’ll be working with colleagues from all around the world!

The ELP experience consists of a few key pieces:

  • Foundations course: Foundations is a self-paced, online course designed to set the stage for what to expect once you’re settled on an engineering team. Participants are introduced to key concepts around culture and organization, team rituals and best practices, and concepts from testing, to architecture, to incident response.
  • On-the-job experience: After Foundations, you’ll become fully immersed as engineers on our teams, picking up tickets, participating in team meetings, and shadowing on-call rotations! When we were in ELP, we were supported by wonderful resources, including
    • Fellow ELP participants: We’ve continued to support one another by sharing resources and learnings in our Slack channel and coming together to participate in hackathons and other events!
    • Our mentors: Each of us has a dedicated mentor from one of the engineering teams. Our mentors have helped us set goals, get acclimated to Okta and Engineering culture, and process our experiences. Even over a year into the job, several of us continue to meet regularly with our mentors!
  • Quarterly check-ins, called Waypoints: Once a quarter, we connect as a group for professional development activities in-person or online. 

Past Waypoints activities have included:

  • A reliability-related hackathon: We worked with engineering mentors and an outside consultant to develop our projects and understand how best to engage our audience when presenting. At the end of the week, we demoed our projects to leaders across engineering!
  • A hands-on observability workshop: We learned directly from some of our chief engineering architects, working through a coding exercise focused on applying and understanding metrics and using essential tools like Datadog and Lightstep.
  • Team-building events: During an in-person Waypoints week, we participated in a community service project, explored downtown Bellevue, and even became amateur blacksmiths!
ELP blacksmithing class

ELP at Lawless Forge blacksmithing class in Seattle!


Nicole: We have such a large pool of resources and never-ending support from our fellow ELPers, mentors, and folks at Okta in general. It was comforting to know that there were always other people who were experiencing the same learning curve as I was, and through this program, we have shared solutions, tips, and ways of thinking, and overall, supported one another. My mentors have been dedicated to helping me in any way and are flexible about meeting with me whenever I find myself banging my head against the wall! Though imposter syndrome has crept its way in a number of times, having a group of other junior engineers has helped diminish those feelings and has accelerated my growth.

Jordan: Coming from a very cohort-based coding boot camp experience, I knew I learned best when processing with others. It’s so great to have a group of buddies right there on Slack who can commiserate about imposter syndrome, how confusing some of the internal tools are, and how big the codebase is! My relationship with my mentor has also been a huge highlight of my ELP experience. We meet over Zoom each week and chat about all sorts of topics—git workflow, unit testing, being a woman in tech, what a particular service does—and I always feel supported. She goes out of her way to advocate for me, and also helps me better understand how to advocate for myself!

Who are we aiming to hire?

ELP is intended for new university and boot camp graduates entering the software engineering career field. Okta is actively looking to hire folks who want to kickstart their engineering careers and are passionate about the work and our company’s mission and values!

Nicole: When I met the other ELP participants, I was expecting to only see university graduates. I was delightfully surprised when I read everyone’s bio and learned that we were so incredibly diverse in age, ethnicity, skills, education, and career paths.

Jordan: I love that ELP is a mix of university and boot camp grads, and everyone brings a unique perspective and experience. I’ve also been so impressed by how excited the senior engineers on my team are to mentor a new person—if I don’t know something, they’re excited to teach me! So much of it seems to be about potential and excitement to learn.

What you should expect in the ELP hiring process

Relax! If you’re applying and get the opportunity to speak with our wonderful Oktanauts, just be yourself.

The hiring process will consist of a few stages. Depending on the team you’re interviewing with, the order or number of interviews may look slightly different. You can generally expect something like this:

  • Coding challenge: Complete a timed coding challenge in the language of your choice (choose from C++, Go, Java, JavaScript, Python, or Ruby). You’ll want to draw on your knowledge of data structures and algorithms.
  • Recruiter interview: Expect to discuss your coursework, projects, and relevant experience that makes you a strong candidate for this program.
  • Team panel interview: Meet with a few engineers, including your potential manager. Be prepared to dive into your technical knowledge, explain your thought process, and show how you problem-solve. You may want to prepare to talk about a project you’re proud of!

Nicole: I’m a nervous nellie, so I was pretty jittery and anxious throughout the interview process, but in hindsight, I really didn’t need to be. Every single person I was interviewed by made each interview conversational, rather than hammering me with questions. My tip for folks who are fresh out of university, interviewing for the first time, would be to practice. Practice, practice, practice. Like anything else, you will not get better without trial and error. Good luck!

Jordan: All of the interviewers here really seemed like they wanted to get to know me as a whole person, not just as an engineer—they wanted to understand what made me tick, how I thought about things, and what I would bring to the team. Every interview felt very conversational. I’d echo Nicole—definitely practice! 

Get comfortable talking about projects you’ve built: Why did you choose to tackle this problem? How did you go about designing your solution? What tradeoffs did you have to consider? When it comes to the coding challenge, remember that you have a strong problem-solving process to lean on. 

The challenge may look intimidating—I certainly feel intimidated by any coding challenge! - but you have built the muscles to recognize patterns and solve unfamiliar problems, and this challenge is no exception. Take a deep breath and approach it one step at a time.

What you’ll learn

As soon as we joined our teams, we worked with our managers to set specific goals and make sure we were taking on work that was exciting, interesting, and provided a lot of ownership. We’ve grown so much in the past year!

Nicole: Before starting my role, I imagined that I would be treated as a junior engineer, the newbie. But from the start, I was greeted with encouragement and support to help me work on tickets that were both interesting and challenging to me. I had autonomy over my work and was able to work on main initiatives right off the bat, cross-collaborating with engineers across other domains, working on full-stack tickets, and becoming well aquatinted with our systems and databases. 

Having the support from the entirety of my team as well as having the space to learn and pair with other engineers has accelerated my growth, empowering me to take on challenges. People never hesitate to share knowledge and I appreciate that learning is so deeply encouraged here at Auth0.

Jordan: From day one, my manager and my teammates empowered me to pick up increasingly more challenging tickets, each one larger in scope. This helped me gain exposure across all of our services and really become a true full-stack engineer! I came in thinking I’d want to focus on front end, but I actually found I love full-stack and backend work more. 

I learned Golang on the job, and as part of leading a data source migration for one of our initiatives, I became a team subject matter expert on some parts of our API and our data model! Having the opportunity to own pieces of work and pair with senior engineers, so early on in my tech career, was so empowering and so valuable for helping me level up and understand how to approach bigger and bigger challenges. Imposter syndrome may never go away, but I definitely feel so much more confident as an engineer.

ELP virtual paint night

ELP blasts off following a virtual paint night!

To learn more about working at Okta, visit our careers page now. We’re currently accepting applications for Engineer Is to start in Summer 2023!