Brian Jackson -

Five-minute interview: Karin Pike, Okta

The latest industry figure to share some personal insights is the director of channel partners and alliances for Northern Europe at Okta

Morning Karin, tell us a bit about your job

I am the director of channel partners and alliances, Northern Europe, at Okta. My day-to-day job is to work with our partners to grow and build their Okta practices.

Why are you the right person for this job?

I love building relationships, and really enjoy working with people to make them successful. I also find it immensely satisfying bringing groups of people together to drive towards a common goal. Why does that make me the right person for the job? I think in any channel team, you have to constantly work hard to build external relationships that make partners feel part of your company. You need them to feel like a valued extension of your organisation.

What gets you up in the morning?

An exciting job. A challenging job. Working with external people as though they are part of your own business is rewarding, but can be complex. I find the idea of tackling that challenge to be very motivating. Partners have their own business drivers and their own business plans. They also sometimes work with competitors, so people like me have to put in the extra work to keep them focused on Okta, identity and the opportunity we have together. I love waking up in the morning with that focus in mind, doing my best to keep Okta in the front of their thinking.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

I’m fortunate to have spent many years at IBM, where I had the opportunity to move into different fields such as business process management (BPM), service-oriented architecture (SOA), content management, case management, artificial intelligence (AI) and data science. That gave me the chance to explore different aspects of IT and get that broader understanding of the industry that I rely on now. I started my sales career working for a company that sold IBM-compatible hardware and joined IBM through acquisition. Prior to IBM, I worked for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendor.

What is the best or worst business advice you have received and from whom?

The best advice was given to me by my very first sales manager when I was a rookie seller. I know, I’m going back many years! He told me that you should always be true to yourself, and do what you believe in, because if you don’t do something you believe in, how will others believe in you?

“I love building relationships, and really enjoy working with people to make them successful. In any channel team, you have to constantly work hard to build external relationships that make partners feel part of your company. You need them to feel like a valued extension of your organisation”

Karin Pike, Okta

I still think about that advice a lot. I always treat partners as customers. And sometimes I will go against the grain and fight for those people even when I know it’s against usual advice or a conventional way of doing things. I don’t ever do this on a whim – I always explain reasons why I don’t agree with something when it doesn’t feel right – this really helps my long-term partner relationships. It might not provide an immediate short-term win, but it helps build that trust, and those relationships are the most important capital in the long run.

What advice would you give to someone starting out today in IT?

Be humble but never apologise. You’re here because people believe in you, so take confidence in that, and feel like you have the space to be yourself.

Is it possible to get through an industry conversation without mentioning ‘digital transformation’?


What do the next five years hold for the channel?

From Okta’s perspective, we’re in a brilliant position to make the most of the next five years. Okta is one of the most partner-first-focused organisations I’ve ever worked for, and that is going to stand us in great stead.

We’ve got an incredible product. We are very focused on the partners we are choosing, and investing in those partners appropriately. We’ve also got the executive buy-in that we are a truly partner-centric organisation. All of these strengths combined will help our business explode.

Tell us something most people do not know about you

I was given a spa day voucher as a gift. By chance, I went to the same spa hotel where the England rugby team were staying. I ended up sharing a sauna and jacuzzi with some of the team, which was quite interesting as I’m a mad rugby fan.

What goal do you have to achieve before you die, and why?

I’d really like to go and climb a mountain in South America. Machu Picchu, or something similar. I’ve never been and it’s always been a dream of mine. I’ve got two knee replacements so I want to challenge myself to go climb a mountain and see if I can get to the top.

What is the best book you’ve ever read?

Siya Kolisi’s memoir. I’m absolutely mad about sport and I read his autobiography. Discovering where he came from and where he ended up, as possibly one of the most successful Springbok rugby captains of all time, was just phenomenal. He came from nowhere.

And the worst film you’ve ever seen?

Jaws gave me a lifetime fear of sharks.

What would be your Desert Island MP3s?

Anything by Fleetwood Mac or Lady in black by Uriah Heap.

What temptation can you not resist?

A good glass of red wine.

What was your first car and how does it compare with what you drive now?

My first car was a tiny little student car. It was bright yellow, and I hate yellow. I drive something much nicer now, with my wonderful dogs in the back and the sunroof down.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?

My father-in-law.

If you could be any animal for a day, what would you be and why?

A dog. They give unconditional love and they’re great companions.

If you were facing awesome peril and impossible odds, which real or fictional person would you most want on your side and why?

Superman. He’s ready for anything.

And finally, a grizzly bear and a silverback gorilla are getting ready for a no-holds-barred rumble. Who is your money on and why?

The gorilla. They’re smart. Bears are too narrow-minded. I know bears have claws and they could try to scrappily fight their way to victory, but a silverback would outsmart them. They have that different way of thinking.

Read more on Identity Management Solutions and Services