Alvina Antar: For the longest time, we've heard how there's a ton of friction between the CIO and CISO and IT and security teams, where the security organization is developing strategies and IT hears about it and has to somehow deliver and execute against that strategy without any input around the decisions or choices that are made. And in reality, in order for us to be successful, we really need to operate as one team. And that's exactly what we're doing here, is the only way we can really build a security-first culture is if we operate as one team and not only just between IT and security, it's really building security champions across every part of the business. Every single employee should feel accountable for hardening our security posture.
Speaker: Hello and welcome to Security Visionaries. You just heard from today's guest, Alvina Antar, CIO at Okta. With an ever-growing list of responsibilities, one of the biggest challenges CIOs face today is prioritization of decisions. These key choices require strategic focus and alignment across an organization to deliver on business initiatives. It's also a critical step in the overall effectiveness and the efficiency of security. Before we dive into Alvina's interview, here's a brief word from our sponsor.
Speaker: The Security Visionaries Podcast is powered by the team at Netskope. At Netskope, we are redefining cloud, data, and network security with a platform that provides optimized access and zero trust security for people, devices, and data anywhere they go. To learn more about how Netskope helps customers be ready for anything on their sassy journey, visit netskope.com.
Speaker: Without further ado, please enjoy episode 19 of Security Visionaries with Alvina Antar, CIO at Okta, and your host Mike Anderson.
Mike Anderson: Welcome to today's episode of the Security Visionaries Podcast. I'm your host, Mike Anderson. I'm the Chief digital and information officer here at Netskope. Today I'm joined by a special guest, Alvina Antar. We've basically lived parallel lives at different security companies, so this is gonna be a super fun conversation. Alvina, how are you doing today?
Alvina Antar: Wonderful, Mike, I'm so excited to hang out with you today.
Mike Anderson: Yeah, that's gonna be great. Funny story, Alvina and I share a similar boss in our background. We both work for a gentleman named Steve Schuckenbrock. Alvina worked for him at Dell, I work for him at Crossmark, but we share some common friends in our path as well. So look forward to that conversation as well. So the first thing off I have to start I always like to hear about people's journeys. So Alvina, tell me about your journey to becoming a CIO, especially like, I know you were in the SaaS space at Zuora, coming to Okta. Tell me a little bit about that journey that you went through.
Alvina Antar: Well, first off, Mike, yeah, we do have tons of mutual friends and I have loved to see what you're bringing in terms of thought leadership focused on security. So thank you for all that you're doing for the industry. So in terms of my journey, it's been fun and I just, I couldn't be more blessed. I journeyed to CIO what I... I wanted to be a professor, I wanted to be a math professor and ended up having my father convince me to study computer science instead since the heavy, heavy math influence. And then I ended up starting at Dell as you mentioned. So that was my first gig right outta college as a programmer at Dell in IT. I spent 17 years there and it was really magical and incredible 17 years and was able to touch on every part of the business, which was incredible. And I reached an inflection point in my time there where I really didn't feel like I was challenging myself and I was getting a little too comfortable and made a decision. It was a huge decision for me. Even after 17 years, it was a huge decision for me to leave. And then it was a leap of faith I and ended up landing as my first role as a CIO at Zuora. I was a customer at Zuora at the time at Dell and it was an incredible opportunity for me to really be their first CIO and spent six amazing years there. Now, I've been at Okta for two and a half years and having a blast.
Mike Anderson: You joined Okta I think around the same time that I joined Netskope, which was interesting 'cause we both joined. I don't know, did you join before the pandemic started or was it during the pandemic?
Alvina Antar: Oh no, it was at the heart of the pandemic. The interviews were all over Zoom and it was a tough time to switch companies, but it was really the best decision that I made. I knew Okta as a customer, long, long-time customer. And obviously I've followed the company and Todd and Freddie and all that they've built now over 14 years. And really it was the product, the vision, and the culture. The culture of builders and owners is what led me to Okta.
Mike Anderson: No, that's great. Definitely Okta is a great product. We've been a customer for a long time. I've been a customer for a very long time as well. And so it's a definitely a great product. It's been fun to see the journey not as a customer, it's been fun to see things evolve at Netskope. I play the role of customer zero and I know you do the same at Okta. Tell me a little bit, how does that play into your role today and what are you doing around that? How much do you get out talking about how Okta uses Okta?
Alvina Antar: Yeah, well that's a huge, huge part of all that we do. It's been an integral focus for our organization and actually when I joined two and a half years ago, we had a effort and program around Okta-on-Okta but over the last two and a half years we've really accelerated our investment as truly customer zero. And it's just been amazing to see our positioning in being able to really push our product and building strong, strong relationship with our product and engineering organization and being first adopters. Just this last year we adopted our Okta identity engine to drive passwordless experience for all of our employees. And it's just been, just an incredible experience to be able to be one of the first enterprise customers on our OIE platform and realize true business value realization as an internal customer and then being able to share the story.
Alvina Antar: And so that story is powerful because we're talking to our peers and they're looking for transparent feedback around our experience. Not only in adopting, it's not just Okta-on-Okta in using the capabilities, but it's also in the ecosystem. The integrations in the ecosystem with security tools and our cloud providers as a cloud first best of breed modern technology company. Majority of our customers wanna understand what our technology footprint looks like, and how are we able to accelerate our cloud adoption and how are we driving a true zero trust strategy internally? And so being able to really build and build deep, deep expertise with having identity experts within our organization focused on Okta-on-Okta, that is not only driving the product strategy but sharing how to build deeper integrations. Things like CrowdStrike. We actually built CrowdStrike zero trust signals to build deep, deep integrations and really showcasing the power of workflows and our ability to drive improvements in really hardening our security posture. So it's just an area of constant opportunity. And this year our focus with Okta-on-Okta is on identity governance. We're really shaping the roadmap for identity governance and we've been holding our breath waiting for this capability. And I'm excited to really be in a position to be able to not only shape our product roadmap, but really adopt and embrace identity governance in helping our compliance and security posture.
Mike Anderson: That's great. Okta's been a technology alliance partner of us. And so on the... In the spirit of that, one thing that's been exciting is enforcing that our Netskope agent is turned on via Okta, our Okta integration. So for example, our salespeople can't access Salesforce unless our Netskope agent is enabled. Because if a salesperson leaves, what I don't want them doing is taking their entire, all their customer data with them. I wanna keep that from happening, but I want them to put it all in. And so we have that integration with Okta. So that's one of the use cases I get to talk to people about. 'Cause I'm sure you do too. It's all the time it's like, "Tell me how are you using your own product and are there things that we should be doing that we're not?" How often does that conversation happen with you, with your... Our peers that we talk to all the time?
Alvina Antar: A ton. A ton. When I talk about like the Passwordless experience, they really wanna understand like how have you introduced Passwordless authentication? Especially now in this new dynamic work environment, it's more important than ever for us to build a seamless and secure experience for our workforce and our contractors, our partners, our customers. And so yeah, I get a ton of questions around what has been the path to Passwordless and really not only our experience in adopting, but where is the value realization and the impact? Because a lot of times I speak to customers and they're using basic capability like MFA, step up MFA, and two-factor authentication. They're not really truly leveraging deep, deep integrations. We have over 200 integrations with our workflows products to really take advantage of all the capability that our products have to offer.
Alvina Antar: And Okta's not alone. If you look at all the cloud capabilities that we invest in, now is the time for us to actually look at our cloud investments and look at are we really truly adopting and leveraging full feature capability of our investments and where is there duplication of investments? And it's really the onus is on us to make sure that we understand how these cloud providers have evolved and make sure that we're taking advantage of all the capability and being the best customer of the products that we invest in and really making them partners, not vendors, but true, true partners. And so, yeah, it's an exciting time.
Mike Anderson: Yeah, you're definitely at a really cool intersection point in the industry. I always tell people when they think about, you talked about zero trust, I say the first step in your zero trust journey is get the identity right. If you don't have identity right, the rest of it kind of falls flat. And so start there, especially in a cloud first world, which we're all in, everything is cloud first in most organizations today. And so if you don't have identity right, you're starting from a disadvantage. So you're in a very great spot to be. When I look at the current environment now, it's been interesting as a CIO the role of CIO has obviously catapulted into the forefront during the pandemic over the last couple of years. All of a sudden like, "Hey, those CIO people are pretty cool. They actually can bring value to the organization." How are you thinking about your role in the current environment that we have now as we're coming out of the pandemic into whatever this new world looks like that we're in now?
Alvina Antar: It couldn't be more exciting in terms of our role and the evolution of the role. I know just from listening to you, Mike, that you share this perspective. Every company's a technology company regardless of any industry. And we're not in a position where we're really having to educate our executive team and our board around the importance of investing in technology. And now we are truly in a position where we are an enablement for our company's growth and success and scale. There's a realization that regardless of industry, regardless of size, regardless of what point you are in your growth and scale as a company, that the importance of having your foundation of processes, technology and data right and knowing that we're not in a position where we can continue to have and live with debt across processes, technology and data.
Alvina Antar: And the importance of actually being a data first. We talk about being identity first and we talk about being security-first, but we also need to be data first. Companies that are not running blind, but that understand how our customers are using our products and actually building products with clear usage at the feature level to be able to understand upsell opportunities and predict churn. And there's a ton of opportunity for us to really bring and shape the strategy for how our companies are evolving and how our companies are growing and scaling. And at this time, more than ever, if we're not investing and painting a picture of a, not just a short-term strategy, but really a multi-year strategy around the evolution of process technology and data in your company. We are in the best position to be able to drive and take a leading position in driving that strategy.
Mike Anderson: It's an interesting twist and I'm sure you have the same thing, is we are the buyer that our salespeople are trying to sell to. Everyone's like, we gotta get to the CIO and so we're that buyer. And so you bring even another perspective, not just the internal process, but help us understand how do we think in the psyche of our... Of the people we're selling to? And I mean, I gotta imagine you've had at least one role-playing exercise with someone in your sales organization around how you sell and talk to CIOs.
Alvina Antar: Yes, I have, and I'm sure you have too, on how that conversation has evolved over time, especially now at this time where we're focused on driving efficiencies and finding cost savings and really, really taking a hard, hard look at our investments, as I mentioned before in making sure that we're utilizing our investments. And that for any subscription recurring revenue business, you're not done with the initial sale. You have to earn your business year after year after year. And it's not a one and done. And that's why the companies that focus on loving their customers truly, inherently, genuinely loving our customers by really understanding your customer strategy, understanding how your product is enabling that strategy. And that doesn't stop with the first point of sale. That has to happen every quarter, every year. It's making sure that you are sharing the evolution of your product and understanding your customers where they're at in their journey, what are their strategic priorities and how are you best positioned to enable those priorities?
Alvina Antar: It's always starting with business outcomes. It's always starting with really understanding your business. And truly that's why those companies that position themselves as true partners partnership takes work. It takes effort to actually understand the challenges and really be in a position to not have, just have your selling hat on and not just focus on how you can upsell and pushing new products and new capabilities when you haven't even realized the value of the current investments. And so that's how you talk to a CIO. It's making sure that you understand how you're positioned to begin with in terms of your current investments. Are they fully utilizing all the capabilities or if they're not a customer today what are their strategies and how are you best positioned to make them wildly successful? CIOs are looking for partners who are gonna make them and not just them, more importantly their team and their company more important than ever wildly successful, especially in this time of turbulence. And so really aligning to the strategy is key.
Mike Anderson: No, 100% and I always tell people or tell our teams there's always a choice of why you do anything. Why do it now? Why do it with whoever whether it's a vendor or someone inside your own group. When we present it to boards on things we wanna do, we have to convince the board. Why do we do it now? Why do it at all? And why should you trust me to be the person that's gonna lead this, whatever this is. And it's a having that orientation, as you said, align new strategy, 'cause there's always the why stay question too once you're already there. And I'm just like you, I'm reaching out to my peers and our customers saying, "Hey, here's a few use cases I've turned on. Are you using these too? Because a lot of people are getting value from these." I'm just trying to figure out how do I do it in a one-to-many approach because the one-to-one doesn't scale as well. So once I figure that one out, we'll have to compare notes on that one.
Alvina Antar: Yeah, definitely let me know. We can actually go at it together, Mike.
Mike Anderson: There we go. I'll make one comment on this, this, the role of CIO is super exciting because I don't know if any other role that lets you understand the inner workings of all facets of your business in every function the same way that being a CIO does. And that's why I feel like CIOs have a great path to be CEOs someday 'cause we understand how all the inner workings work and with the digital native workforce coming in, we're in a great position. So hopefully someday we'll be having this conversation as CEOs of respective companies, if that's an ambition either one of us have.
Alvina Antar: Well, just as you mentioned, what other organization really spans the entire business and is the glue across the entire business from the entire go-to-market organization to finance to people, to product engineering. Really spanning and understanding and driving end-to-end process and automation driving decisions around prioritization, which is actually one of the biggest challenges that companies are having today and myself included is now more than ever is the importance of ruthlessly prioritizing. There's a ton of things that we need to do, but making hard decisions around what are the key priorities and ensuring that those priorities are aligned across the entire organization, not just the priorities of one part of the business. But in order to be successful on some of these big initiatives that are strategic require end-to-end focus, they require every part of the business to be able to be successful. And there may be a big change enablement aspect of it. And so there's just this opportune time for us to really capitalize on our positioning across the business and truly being the glue that brings the business together on making hard decisions and being laser-focused on executing cross-functional priorities.
Mike Anderson: 100%. And that breeds up a real... Leads in a great, my next question perfectly, which is this whole idea of team sport. And in this context we talk about security as a team sport, it's been a big theme in our podcast this year because I think the CISO job has probably gotta be the hardest job in the world because there's no amount of investment you can make that reduces all your risk. And so you're kind of hoping that you've got the right level of investment. And as a CIO and I partner closely with our CISO, how are you fostering that relationship across the organization and approaching... Obviously you work at a security company as well, like myself. So how are you approaching that team sport concept from a security standpoint working with your CISO?
Alvina Antar: Yeah, thanks for asking, Mike. I think this is a really important topic just for... For the longest time we've heard how there's a ton of friction between the CIO and CISO and IT and security teams, where the security organization is developing strategies and IT hears about it and has to somehow deliver and execute against that strategy without any input around the decisions or choices that are made. And in reality, in order for us to be successful, we really need to operate as one team. And that's exactly what we're doing here is... The only way we can really build a security-first culture is if we operate as one team. And not only just between IT and security, it's really building security champions across every part of the business. Every single employee should feel accountable for hardening our security posture. And so I feel really strongly that we need to jointly feel that level of accountability. And that's what we've realized a lot of what we've done with our efforts, and I discuss this a lot actually, is in our identity first strategy, it actually also is required for us to build a stronger alignment between security and IT that identity first strategy in enabling frictionless security with passwordless capabilities and balancing usability and security. Really that's an area that has been driven by a lot of our Okta-on-Okta efforts as I mentioned earlier.
Mike Anderson: That's great. It's also a lot of the security by design has been a big topic. So as you think cross-functionally, how are you seeing security being evolved into the software development processes? I know we probably see it in our respective organizations, but how are you seeing that within Okta, but beyond as well? I'd love to hear some thoughts there.
Alvina Antar: Yeah, and the way that we see it and what we see with all of our customers is that the three secular trends that are really driving the market towards identity are cloud adoption. And now more than ever, there's an accelerated push for increased cloud adoption. Obviously a focus on zero trust and then just overall business transformation. Even for those companies that are cloud first, they also need to evolve and grow and scale. And so those have been a lot of the trends that we're seeing. And with all of those, identity is a new perimeter. With the rise of the cloud and dynamic work and the expansion of all the individuals that are actually part of the enterprise. The perimeter is actually boundary-less, and the need to be able to ensure that identity is actually at the heart of all that we do and really is at the heart of our overall architecture. So in ensuring that as we define our overall strategy, that we take a more... An identity-first approach to enabling that strategy. That's been a huge focus for us and for many of our customers. And so one of the things that I love hearing about with our customers is how they call themselves identity-first customers.
Alvina Antar: And the way they talk about their experience in being an identity first company, like how that has really evolved their security positioning and how it has been key to their overall zero trust strategy. The whole central tenet of never trust, always verify it's our new reality. It's just been exciting to see the evolution of not only within our own organization, but being able to get a firsthand look at how that evolution has really driven that change for our customers has been exciting to see.
Mike Anderson: That's awesome. And thank you for sharing that. We'll have to have a whole separate podcast on the whole zero trust topic 'cause that's obviously a big topic that we lean into as well. So if I dig a little bit deeper on this, and we look back at your own organization, maybe even beyond, how is your work you've done working with your CISO? How has that changed the dialogue that you're having with the board around the security topic and not just boards, but how would you advise other CIOs when they talk to their boards based on your interactions with your CISO and how you talk about security internally?
Alvina Antar: So it is a topic that is top of mind, and I don't think we're alone. It's a topic that we all, especially with what we've seen across the industry this past year, it's this culture of having security mindfulness in all that we do. And it being a central topic around what are we doing to strengthen our security footprint? Is not only an executive discussion, it's also a board-level discussion. One of our top priorities within this fiscal year alone is continuing to strengthen our security posture. And a lot of the conversations are around how are we extending our positioning not only with what we're doing internally, but how are we able to provide that thought leadership for our customers? For the majority of our conversations that I have actually with our customers is what have we done to reduce the attack surface and what have our customers done? And so it's really a top of mind conversation and it's exciting that companies are not now seeing this as a reactive. In the past, this boardroom conversation was always a reactive conversation where it was based on a result of an attack as opposed to being proactive and knowing that this needs to be a top of mind... We need to make sure that we are all operating as security-first companies. And regardless of whether or not we're in a position to be reactive, we actually need to treat this as a top priority has been an evolution that I've seen in the boardroom.
Mike Anderson: No, 100% percent and fully agree. And the education for boards isn't stopping. We're gonna have the SEC guidance around having that security expertise and security committee on your board. So we'll have to send you a copy. We have a book that we have a couple of our folks working on that sit on public boards, women technology leaders that are working on a book that goes beyond what NACD has offered for boards around security to go the next level deeper. So I have to send you a copy.
Alvina Antar: I would love that. I sit on Couchbase's board of directors and while I'm on the comp committee I sit on the audit committee conversations related to security. I'm very interested and I'm excited to be able to see how board conversations are really pressing the importance for operators to not take a backseat anymore and not wait and react, but forcing organizations to actually have a security-first mindset.
Mike Anderson: I had an... It was actually ahead of the ambition when I was at Schneider. I used to go to our factories and everyone would always have a... They always have the safety briefing where they tell you safety first and where's the exit and all these things. And I had this ambition, I'm like, "I wish we would have security as a part of that briefing. So when people come in, they're like, and remember, don't click on those links you shouldn't click on. And oh, by the way, don't bring in those applications just because it looks cool. Make sure you partner with your IT team on that." If we could get that in the briefing when people came in, that would be great as well.
Alvina Antar: Or not only just the briefing, but actually get folks to actually get certified on how to be a security champion. Every person needs to understand what it means to secure the company that they join, that they're a part of. And so, yes, we take training. That happens all the time, but is that enough? Like, do people feel fully wholly accountable for the security of the company and not seeing it as just the security team's role in hardening the security posture for your company? So it's exciting to see that evolution.
Mike Anderson: That leads into another question for you. One of our themes that our CISO brought this year was the human firewall campaign that everyone's part of this human firewall. And we started creating this incentive program where for people that display the right security behaviors, there's actually a financial recognition for that. And they get recognized on our quarterly town halls with our CEO for their great work they're doing around security hygiene. You talked about that security awareness we have to do more. How are you thinking about turning your people inside Okta into human firewalls?
Alvina Antar: We've done a ton and I love that idea, Mike. I might steal that from you, but I was actually sharing about our focus around this two-pronged approach around the path to passwordless and phishing resistance has been our approach. So this path to passwordless, it's getting every single employee to reduce the attack surface of our password usage. And in terms of the overall impact that it's had on our organization, the reduction in MFA prompts, the reduction in password resets in being able to drive self-surface password resets has been just incredible. So it hasn't just been a passwordless experience in driving and hardening our security, but it's also driving efficiencies in reducing the number of tickets and things like password resets. That's been a huge win for us. And then on our phishing resistance capabilities, actually at Oktane we've launched capabilities around Phishing resistance and our goal is to really further extend our capability on driving true fishing resistance to help protect organizations against Phishing attacks. And there's a ton of effort just this year alone around continuing to push our product and that's been a joint effort with our team as well as product and engineering to be able to drive phishing resistance for our organization.
Mike Anderson: That's great. And I appreciate you sharing that. You made me think about this, when I first came into Netskope, I saw demo and we had this thing, this active user coaching to coach people to make better decisions in the moment. We already have a tool for that, don't bring that in. And I said, you know what? We're creating better digital citizens 'cause at the end of the day, if we had to create our ideal person, it's like they don't click on links they shouldn't click on, they don't use apps they shouldn't use, they leverage the apps that we want them to work with. If you think about that concept of a digital citizen, how do you think about that inside of Okta and how are you promoting to create good digital citizenship inside your organization?
Alvina Antar: It's really educating the entire company. We are a security company, and so every individual within our organization needs to understand what we are doing, not only for our own organization, but for our customers, in securing our customers. Every single employee needs to feel like they are a security champion. They should understand why we're doing mandatory patching. They should understand our endpoint monitoring and how Okta is integrated to our endpoint management systems. They should understand all the deep integrations that we have with our security tools and make it more of a exciting opportunity for individuals to become security experts within our organization regardless of their role. Digital citizenship is for every single person to understand what it means to be a security expert and what is required for them to embrace and balance security with experience.
Alvina Antar: There's this concept of with increased security, you're impeding user experience. Folks feel like as you harden your security posture, the experience needs to give. But the reality is like, no, no that that shouldn't be the case. You can still have the most incredible experience and actually a seamless experience and not even know that there's security in the... That's the whole point of passwordless. It's not even knowing... Or zero trust. It's not knowing that there's core security foundation and while having the most incredible user experience, it's really promoting that balance and that you don't have to take from experience to be able to have an incredible security overall posture within your organization.
Mike Anderson: No, I think that's great. I love that whole concept of security champions. That's really what we want because it's the unintentional mistakes that people can make day in, day out they're the ones that give us the most heartburn, not the intentional one. 'Cause that's what we create tools to find. It's the one the person that does it by accident. So having security champions is amazing. I'm gonna pivot to a... I call it looking in my... In the crystal ball question here. So if we were to fast forward five years, what is the investment that you believe CIOs would've wished they would've made today?
Alvina Antar: I think there are some pockets of investments that are happening within RPA and AI automation, but not enough. The thing that came top of mind when you mentioned that is if you think about the amount of manual mundane work or processes that need to be re-engineered all together. Don't just automate a broken process, simplify it, standardize it, maybe centralize it in one area of the business and then for sure automate. But all too often we focus on... Speed is everything, time to market is everything. And so especially with companies like ours who have been in a position of high growth, where it's been a focus on accelerated growth, there's a ton of work that needs to be done to be able to drive true automation and make sure that we're in a position to really scale with profitable growth.
Alvina Antar: So it's one thing to have high growth exponential growth, but having durable scalable growth through automation and really having a laser focus on looking at every single end-to-end process, re-engineering that process because what got us to a $1 billion, $2 billion in revenue isn't gonna get you to 5 to 10 to 20 billion in revenue. Those processes aren't gonna scale. And also it's people investments. A lot of times people talk about business transformation or digital transformation, what about the people transformation? Your company can't transform unless you individually and collectively transform as an organization. And that the way you operated and thought today isn't really going to drive your future scale and growth. And so really taking a hard look and thinking about people transformation and making hard decisions around are we really getting rid of the status quo? And challenging the status quo and thinking about what is required and getting it done right as opposed to speed for being the only lever.
Mike Anderson: No, totally great. I used to tell people if you automate a bad a process, then all you do is get to a bad outcome faster. First off, do you need the process to start with? So that's definitely sound advice. If we look at the future too and I know a topic that's near and dear to your heart, it's near and dear to my heart as well, is how we get more diversity in technical roles and leadership roles in companies. And I know you're a member of Girls in Tech board of directors. What do you think we need to do to continue to get more women into CIO roles, CISO roles, technology leadership roles than we have today?
Alvina Antar: Well, thank you for asking. That's one step is to actually think about it and talk about it and be intentional about driving change. And as you mentioned, I'm a proud member of the Board of Girls in Tech, and what Adriana Gascoigne has done in founding this nonprofit. And in really the entire goal is around eliminating the gender gap in tech is something that we need, especially now with the environment that we're in now with all the challenges that we're experiencing in the market to make sure that we are being intentional around investing in gender diversity. And that, yeah, it takes time and every quarter I report when I share a readout of all the wins and all the outcomes that we've achieved this quarter, one of the things that I always report on within our organization is our diversity, not just gender diversity.
Alvina Antar: All diversity, driving diversity of thought and measure what matters. We talk about data and we measure our business, we measure every part and every aspect of our business. But are we really truly being intentional and measuring diversity and holding ourselves accountable at the top and at every level in ensuring that we're progressing? I'm very passionate and doing everything I can to ensure that we are being intentional. And I'm excited to be in a position where I really just wanna make myself available. Honestly, I wouldn't have pursued and been as aspirational as you started when I... When we first talked about my path to CIO. If it wasn't for the folks that believed in me, the folks that saw something in me that I didn't, bet on me, male and female. Leaders that really pushed me beyond my own expectations, I wouldn't have pursued and taken the opportunities that I've been given. And so I've been blessed with sponsors and mentors and I hope to do the same.
Mike Anderson: That's awesome. Well, that's so amazing what you're doing. I'm proud to be an ally. I have a 28-year-old daughter as well and she's now in tech in UX, so super exciting. And you're definitely paving the way for the rest of the people and setting the right trend and the right... Being the right role model. So thank you for everything you're doing there. So I'm gonna pivot to... So one of my favorite parts of our episode. I have three quick questions for you. Rapid fire. First question, what's the best leadership advice you've ever gotten?
Alvina Antar: I have to call out my dad. So he said, "Be an 800 pound gorilla." And that is something that I hold near and dear to my heart and is actually the best advice that I've ever been given.
Mike Anderson: That's great advice. Next question. If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Alvina Antar: My meal? Oh my gosh. My mother's red rice and chicken. When I started at Dell every weekend I would come home and she would make me my favorite meal. It's an Assyrian dish with our beautiful spices, but chicken and red rice is my favorite meal.
Mike Anderson: All right. Well, I know what we're eating the next time we get together for dinner. So we'll have to... You'll have to find me a good restaurant and we can have that together. And last question. What's your favorite book you've read this past year?
Alvina Antar: Oh my goodness. How do we pick? So Unapologetically Ambitious in the theme of driving diversity, Shellye, who's on our board of directors, has written this incredible book that I highly recommend that all of you read if you haven't already.
Mike Anderson: Well, that's great. I'm gonna definitely add that to my reading list. That sounds great. I look forward to discussing it with you too over the chicken and red rice. So that will be our time and we can talk more about being a 800-pound gorilla as well, and some of your experience there. So I wanna say thank you so much, Alvina, for taking the time today. This has been great. Before I let you go, where can people find you, find out anything else about you, anything else you'd like to depart in our listeners before we wrap up?
Alvina Antar: Well, as I mentioned in terms of being a mentor and sponsor, and especially at this time being available, I'm on LinkedIn please reach out. I feel like a big part of all of our roles, especially as leaders, is to reach out to your network. Networking is a beautiful thing. Meaningful networks, meaningful relationships are a beautiful thing, especially in this time. And so lean on those people that would do anything to be able to give back and don't ever hold back feeling that you might be inconveniencing. It's really being open and vulnerable and leaning on the most meaningful relationships.
Mike Anderson: That is definitely great advice as well. So many great nuggets we heard throughout the conversation. And again, thank you so much for being our guest today. Well, I hope you enjoyed our conversation today with Alvina Antar, the CIO for Okta. Lots of good information and takeaways and just love the conversations that we have together. Three key things that I took away from our conversation. The first one is the importance of an identity-first world we're in today and how the identity integrates into the rest of the ecosystem around us. And that importance for driving efficiency and effectiveness inside organizations from a security standpoint. The second one was, as we talk about business processes and honestly the role of a CIO, it's really thinking about, How do we apply technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate business processes, but first, making sure the business process that we have makes sense to automate so we're not automating a bad outcome.
Mike Anderson: And so that's a critical piece. And then the last, but not least on this from a takeaway is the importance of diversity and leading by example. And with Alvina talking about the people before her that challenged her and helped lift her up in her career. We should all be thinking about that when we think about diversity. How do we create a more diverse organization? And not just gender diversity, but diversity overall. And so we need to lead by example and help lift other people up. And I love the 800-pound gorilla that her dad gave her as leadership advice. It really ties into the whole topic. Hopefully you enjoyed this installment of the Security Visionaries podcast. I'm your host, Mike Anderson, the CIO and Chief Digital Officer here at Netskope. Have a great day.
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