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August 26, 2019updated 30 Aug 2019 12:43pm

5 Questions with… Okta’s CPO Diya Jolly

"A mistake I made earlier in my career was spreading my team too thin"

By CBR Staff Writer

Every Monday morning we fire five questions at a C-suite tech industry interviewee. Today we’re pleased to be joined by Okta’s CPO Diya Jolly.

Biggest Challenge for your Clients?

Diya Jolly

Diya Jolly

There are two sides to our identity business, with clients often looking to solve challenges for their own workforce and for their customers. Their greatest workforce identity challenge tends to be modernising enterprise IT and adopting cloud technologies to either replace or augment their tech stacks. Change is often feared, but with the right tools, modernisation can be a smooth process.

The most significant fear centres around the notion of security. The adoption of cloud and mobile technologies cuts against more traditional, castle-and-moat approaches to security, where all information sits behind a well-protected perimeter. This is where a Zero Trust approach can make a big impact. In a Zero Trust model, people are the new perimeter, and identity is the core of maintaining a secure environment. By constantly authenticating and authorising each individual, an organisation can adopt new cloud technologies, along with new remote and mobile work environments, without sacrificing security.

For our customer identity clients, their biggest challenge is the process of digital transformation: building and scaling programmes and apps in order to bring them to market. All companies are becoming technology companies as they build applications and transform business processes to engage with their customers. In this process, they need to foster trust with their customers, and identity can be the centerpiece of that strategy by creating digital experiences in a seamless and secure way.

Technology that Excites you Most?

Universal identity is an idea that has been slow to get off the ground, but its impact could be extremely significant; to the point that one day we’ll look back and be underwhelmed by how limited our current identity practises are. It’s the notion of a single identity controlled by an individual, that enables broad authentication capabilities across use cases. It could help solve issues, including voter registration, starting a new job, or even ensuring our medical records end up where and when we want them.

All organisations can benefit from universal identity, but it’s particularly clear for consumers. The idea of universal identity can also help solve problematic passwords and the security issues it creates, often leading to identity theft, data loss, and privacy issues. Findings from our recent Future Passwordless report showed that the majority of workers use insecure methods to remember all these passwords, and 69% of employees feel stressed or annoyed as a result of forgetting a password. Not only does that create hidden costs for IT departments, it also creates productivity losses for employees.

A digital identity wallet could be the answer. This would mean a user could control and provide access to certain applications and provide personal information for specific use cases, without going through the hassle of a new username and credential – one that would ultimately be stored somewhere else. Imagine being able to freely share and revoke information, as opposed to the current practice of widely sharing email addresses, creating bad passwords and providing mountains of data just to use a service

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Greatest Success?

My greatest success is less of an individual moment or project and more a collection of continued learnings. As I’ve advanced in my career, I’ve constantly been willing to take leaps where the outcome itself was uncertain. That includes going from a Vice President to an individual contributor during my time at Google in the name of learning more, and learning strategically. My willingness to do that has always been tied to an understanding that I would be gaining valuable experience and education by taking that leap, rather than gaining a title or a particular role within an organisation.

My greatest success comes from the growth and learning in my career, whether that has come on topics like artificial intelligence or machine learning at YouTube or understanding the world of Internet of Things devices during my time at Nest. My success truly is the sum of all the experiences, learnings, and investments that people have made in me as I’ve progressed.

Worst Failure?

A mistake I made earlier in my career was spreading my team too thin by trying to take on additional products. We were a small, but accomplished team, and at the time I felt we could build another product beyond the one we had already built and continued to support. I pushed the product and engineering team to start focusing on building this new technology, and six months into the effort, it became clear that we couldn’t effectively support two full scale products without costing the core business.

The result was that we had to scale back our focus and attention on that second product, ultimately costing us time and effort. The lesson for me was that it’s easy to get caught up in the idea of building something new. For many of us, that’s what draws us to technology and product management. However, recognising priorities and evaluating resource commitments will lead to utilising your team and their capabilities most effectively at any given point in time. After all, there will always be new problems to solve

In Another Life I’d Be…

While I can’t imagine doing something other than product management, I know that I’d continue to serve as a problem-solver of some kind. As a 10 year old, I remember my father explaining how to fix an air conditioner, and his explanation of the process drew me towards an engineering mindset.

Ultimately, I found my sweet spot in creating and building things; something that product management enables you to focus on. Regardless of whether it’s in the enterprise or consumer space, my passion has always been using this problem-solving mentality to create products that help people. So in another life, I have no doubt that I’d still focus my attention on accomplishing that larger goal.

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