Stevie Dennis, Regional Alliances Manager UK&I at Okta, gives her take on learning from experience, post Covid remote working relationships and embracing diversity
Tell us a bit about your experience in the channel and your current role at Okta
Working in the Alliances team at Okta is my perfect job! Previously I was an Account Director at Nebulas (now Orange Cyber Defence) and I was a customer (and massive fan) of Okta, so taking this role was an obvious career move. I felt I had a head start in my Okta role as I could leverage my experience as a customer to build on the mutually successful relationships with Okta’s existing partners and know what is needed to attract new ones. Having previously worked at a successful partner of Okta I have a unique insight to what we can do to improve the interaction, and ultimately results of our partners now and in the future.
What is Okta’s vision for how it engages with its channel partners?
Okta’s goal is to make it simple, exciting and rewarding to work with us. Partners are integral to the success of vendors like Okta so our relationship with them is a critical success factor for our business. We make it simple to understand our technology and its benefits, and simple to transact with us; are fun to work with, share success and pull together when challenges arise; and the rewards of our success are there to see. Market leading products, clear and effective communication and relationships across both end users and complimentary vendors mean success for partners and for Okta.
In what ways have you seen the channel sector evolve over the course of your career?
The changes that I have seen in only 6-7 years are astonishing and fall into two very distinct parts. Both are very much centred around attitude changes. Firstly, I see that partners are now a lot more committed to understanding and meeting the business needs of their customers and creating real value propositions for them. This means that the communication loop between us and our partners must be truly two-way and real-time – we keep each other informed and aware of progress and changes and jointly agree the actions to be taken to resolve any issues. This creates trust between both parties, and it is those partners that are managing to achieve this that are now seeing the success they want and creating the backbone of the channel in the UK&I.
Secondly (and this is a little more personal), I remember vividly the attitude towards women in the channel only 5 years ago for stepping into the then male dominated domain of Cyber Security. Thankfully, we now work in a much more diverse and aware industry, and now I am happy to see a much more diverse circle of people being appreciated and valued across Vendors, Distributors, Resellers and GSIs.
Has this been impacted by the shift to remote work?
Not really, the big change that remote working is driving is the shift from some face-to-face to all screen-to-screen interaction. We are all generally just as effective working remotely, but the lack of face-to-face contact can change the dynamics of relationships. It further reinforces the need for timely and effective communication, and for that communication to perhaps be a little more considered than in pre-Covid times.
The channel is, as a result, more important than ever at the moment. Our partners have spent years building their relationships and with everyone working from home, building new relationships can be challenging, and companies are quite rightly more cautious than ever with who they trust, and where they spend their money. The working relationships that our partners have spent years nurturing, are vital for our joint success.
Talking about remote work, what is Okta’s view on whether people should be returning to the office?
Okta’s number one priority is ensuring that our teams, partners and customers stay safe. We won’t be going back to the office until there’s a publicly available treatment to COVID-19. With that in mind, we are expecting to work from home for the foreseeable future, with the time beyond that being very much focused on ‘Dynamic Work’, a framework that we started adopting in Okta UK last year and one that rethinks the traditional workplace to empower employees to truly be their most productive and successful selves wherever they work . We all work differently, no matter what sector we work in. And while some sectors are more prepared than others, it’s clear that our working cultures require a more dynamic approach – COVID-19 only accelerated this vision. The Okta platform is designed to support digital transformation and diverse working capabilities so it is perfect for both us and our customers as we all evolve to the optimal flexible working methods. I think that the way we work in the future is likely to look very different to the office life that we have all experienced before and that will come with many benefits.
What are your experiences of gender diversity across the industry?
The industry has come a long way in improving gender diversity and diversity overall but there is still a way to go. Women are still underrepresented in front line sales jobs and at an exec level, let alone the technical areas. In my opinion, gender diversity within teams leads to more collaboration, adds fresh perspective and increases the likeability of an organisation. It also makes it a more desirable place to aspire to work, and could help us with our extensive ‘New Hire’ program.
The focus on women in the industry is increasing. I am truly fortunate to work with some incredibly talented and inspiring people and can say that at least half of the people I admire and learn from daily are women, both at Okta and our partners. As an industry leading technology company, we are in an enviable position to lead in this area and to demonstrate the hugely positive benefits that gender diversity can bring to organisations.
How do you think the industry can improve its gender representation and encourage more women to take up channel positions?
We have to make our recruiting pitch attractive to talented and successful women, both those entering the workforce for the first time as well as those who have had successful careers elsewhere in technology or other industries. Promoting successful women in the Channel and highlighting their achievements will create role models for the future, and naturally encourage more incredible women to join.
I’d like to think I am evidence of this. The reason that I decided to move to Alliances from End User sales, was entirely down to one role model I was lucky enough to encounter whilst at Nebulas. Having a strong positive female role model who was successful and respected was a clear demonstration that there is a place for women in this industry at all levels, and that the glass ceiling is there to be smashed. In the Alliances Team, as elsewhere in Okta, not just gender diversity but diversity overall is part of our daily life, and one that, if we all truly support it, is going to create an unstoppable team.
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