Okta CIO Mark Settle talks his career in IT, cloud adoption and alternative career in teaching
What is your role and who do you work for?
I am Okta’s Chief Information Officer. I work for all Okta employees, but report to the Chief Operating Officer.
How long have you been in IT?
Over 25 years (some would say too long!)
What is your most interesting project to date?
Wow – that is a tough question because so many of the projects I’ve led involved the use of new and innovative technology, and building business capabilities around new technologies is always incredibly challenging and rewarding.
At Okta we run our global business operations on over 100 cloud-based SaaS applications. We have no data centre, no on-premise software and no homegrown business systems. Many other CIOs are pursuing a journey into the cloud – at Okta, we’ve arrived at “the end state” and are making the all-SaaS model work in practice, which is really, really rewarding.
What is your biggest challenge at the moment?
We’re in the midst of an explosion of collaboration tools of every description within our company. At some point, one could argue that the proliferation of such tools actually stymies collaboration. Others would argue that anyone is entitled to use any tool that makes him or her more productive. Finding the right balance of tools that maximises true collaboration is a challenge.
What technology were you working with ten years ago?
At Staples, we were using Java to build eCommerce sites and using the most rudimentary tools to watch the ways in which customers were navigating our sites and making buying decisions.
We implemented some very early dynamic pricing tools that allowed us to bundle and discount products based on consumer behaviour. Tools that perform the same functions today are far more sophisticated.
What is your favourite technology of all time?
I think I did all of my homework in primary school sitting in front of a TV set, so I’ll go with TV! I grew up in a fairly rural portion of upstate New York and TV was really the first technology that connected me with the bigger outside world.
How will the Internet of Things affect your organisation?
It’s a huge growth opportunity for a company like Okta. Inanimate objects like wearables will have associated identities that can be tracked to provide consumers with information about their weight, exercise habits, heart health, calorie intake, etc.
And of course, there will be security concerns, as well. Consumers and companies using connected things will need to secure that same data. Okta is uniquely positioned to manage these associated identities and the data that comes with them.
What smartphone do you use?
What three apps could you not live without?
LinkedIn, ESPN, and Weather.com
What new technology are you most excited for a) your business and b) yourself?
I’ll respond with two technologies that intrigue me for both personal and business reasons. I’m very interested in blockchain technology and think we’ve just scratched the surface in identifying potential blockchain use cases.
Additionally, I think Artificial Intelligence (AI) will shape a lot of the future choices we make as consumers. Although I must admit, I don’t know if I’m more excited or more fearful about the long term implications of AI tools being used to determine the information presented to me on a daily basis.
If you weren’t doing the job you do now, what would you be doing?
Teaching history as a means of studying recurring patterns of human behaviour. I recently dabbled in history (IT history, that is) with the publication of my first book, Truth from the Trenches: A Practical Guide to the Art of IT Management and believe here are many lessons to be learnt from the past — you just need to develop some different mental muscles that will allow you to think in multidimensional time!