People-centered Identity with John Heedley of Vialto Partners

John Heedley surrounded by his inspirations


The Identity Insider series highlights Okta customers who are innovating and redefining the Identity industry. Our first guest, Dr. John Heedley, is the driving force behind Identity at Vialto Partners, an organization that reimagines global mobility solutions to support people moving and working from virtually anywhere.

Heedley’s career journey has involved diverse subjects from music to cryptography, eventually leading him to champion an Identity practice that impacts hundreds of thousands of customers worldwide.

When we ask Heedley how we should refer to him, he laughs. “My corporate email signature says, ‘Dr. John Heedley, Director and Global Head of IAM at Vialto Partners.’ I don't want to talk to that guy. You have to make yourself approachable and humanize your work.”

That mindset fuels Heedley’s leadership style. To lead Identity and Access Management (IAM) for such a massive organization, Heedley prioritizes three things: people, process, and technology.

“When I started at Vialto Partners, our IAM program was young,” Heedley says. “Even then, I knew we needed Identity management to be both secure and simple. My search shrunk to a handful of solutions, and I chose Okta for its people because people are my North Star. It’s one thing for technology to meet your requirements, and you can build processes on top of that, but having people who care about you and your business makes all the difference.”

The power of people

Heedley credits the people in his life as his greatest inspirations. “My wife’s my hero,” he says. “My oldest son’s a fighter pilot. My mother, as an African-American woman in the ‘60s, became a doctor and set up community programs during the Civil Rights movement.”

These influences inspire Heedley to be a change agent in his life. “When I was younger, I didn’t know what I wanted to be,” he says, “but I knew I wanted to be someone who people could rely on. My mother always told me to take full advantage of every opportunity, and that’s really what got me to where I am today.”

Heedley has taken to heart the impact people can have on each other. He finds new ways to drive change and encourages and empowers those around him to do the same. This approach has helped him lead the company’s — and the industry’s — transition to the cloud and beyond.

“The software industry was intimidated by ‘the cloud,’” he says. “I came into software with a background in cryptography, and at the time, access was just access. If someone needed an email, we would get them an email. But Identity management didn’t exist as a concept before the cloud, and I saw that we had to operationalize. I wanted to set an example and show that you can employ best practices by using common sense and tools like Okta for Identity and Okta Identity Governance for governance to become a self-service global cloud – while having fun along the way.”

Through IAM, Heedley found ways to lead by example and be an innovator. Demystifying cloud computing was just the beginning.

Quote from John Heedley of Vialto about partnership with Okta


Putting the S’s in process

When considering what it takes to be a disruptor, Heedley names “six S’s” he considers must-haves in building the trust necessary for change: security, satisfaction, scalability, skill, speed, and stability. He also believes security grows out of the other five S’s.

“Innovation is everything in my role, but to make real change, you have to check all six boxes. I learned early on that satisfaction makes the real difference,” Heedley says. “If your people trust you, the other S’s fall into place.”

With the support of his people, Heedley has turned his focus toward building his ideal IAM program at Vialto Partners. “When I think about IAM, I think about scalability,” he says. “I have to be sure that passkeys scale across multiple systems and that multi-factor authentication is as easy with 100 client-facing applications as it is with one. I have to empower my people with certifications and new skills to keep us up-to-date. We also have to do all that at speed.”

“Today, my team can get a single sign-on SAML federation set up in both staging and production environments on a 30-minute client call because we’re running on the cloud,” Heedley says. “Since we don’t have to code it ourselves over the course of days, I can shift tasks down to our analysts to keep our engineers moving.”

For the final S, stability, Heedley refers back to a consistent 99.9% uptime, something Okta helps deliver, as a benchmark for his team’s consistency. “With the six S’s, my team can be a change agent and a disruptor while still keeping us safe. GO TEAM!”

Measure twice, cut once

“When I make a decision, I think, ‘Measure twice, cut once’,” Heedley says. “You have to validate everything before you execute.”

Outside the office, Heedley brings this philosophy to his machine shop. “I’m a maker, a gearhead,” he says, “Lately, I’ve been focused on American muscle cars. I’m rebuilding a ‘68 Chevy Corvette from the ground up. You can’t throw a car together and expect it to start. You have to make sure each piece is exactly where it should be, or it won’t run.”

In the office, Heedley applies his methodical approach to designing Vialto’s policies and procedures, which leverage Okta to establish repeatable, quality results. “We partnered with Okta to create a plan for Vialto’s success, and they’ve been there every step of the way,” he says. “Okta helps our team accelerate time to value and iterate quickly, pushing the boundaries of what we can accomplish.” 

Partnering with Okta enables the Vialto team to take a measured approach to their overall Identity strategy and day-to-day security work. “Having an organization like Okta to support our vision and how we design and implement the capabilities of our organization has been invaluable,” Heedley shares. “My biggest challenge is trying to determine what risks are applicable to my organization and mitigating those to thwart bad actors. Things like multi-factor authentication have been easy to implement because of the Okta toolset.”

With the right systems in place, Heedley can push boundaries and look toward new, future-facing Identity goals. “IAM innovation today is all about governance and administration request management,” he says. “With the information we have in Okta, we can see patterns, measure twice, and give a person access to everything they need before they know they need it.”

Build the monorail (even if they don’t catch on)

“I love Walt Disney,” Heedley says, stretching the edges of his gray Mickey Mouse hoodie to show it to the camera. “He had a strong vision. We don't have monorails everywhere today, but he built the infrastructure in his park to show the world how things could be.” 

Disney’s leadership style resonated with Heedley from an early age: “Even at 10 years old, I knew that you didn’t have to be a manager to be a leader or share your vision,” he says, smiling. “As I grew into management roles, I wanted to empower everyone to feel like security leaders.”

With his attention so often on building infrastructures and tools for the future, Heedley shares his vision of what the world of Identity could be: “I expect to see us shift more toward authorization over authentication,” he shares. “Okta is helping us focus on event-driven access and certification so we can automate more and really oversee access from the cradle to the grave.” 

By automating more of the Identity management process, Heedley sees organizations using cleaner data sets to build predictive models and offering team members and clients access before they know they need it. 

“I see a chance to review peer groups to predict that someone will need access to a tool,” he says. “The future is all about helping our users focus on their own jobs instead of self-managing Identity.” 

Are you looking to propel your organization toward the future of Identity like Heedley but unsure where to start? Read our Workforce Identity buyer's guide to learn about the solutions you need and the steps you can take to create a successful Workforce Identity infrastructure.

About Vialto

Vialto Partners focuses on transforming the global mobility ecosystem to support multinational organizations and their employees. The company sparks growth and creates meaningful impact for businesses and individuals in more than 150 countries, supported by a team of over 6,000 dedicated immigration, tax, human resources, and technology professionals.

With more than 50 years of experience, Vialto has the technology, tools, and expertise to help customers navigate around global mobility obstacles. Vialto Partners is dedicated to going beyond expectations to help spark growth and unlock potential around the globe. As their motto goes: “Because when we’re all connected, anything is possible.”