Okta APAC GM Graham Sowden bows out of IT industry after 20 years

Replacement expected to be announced around September.
Graham Sowden (Okta)

Graham Sowden (Okta)

Okta’s general manager for the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, Graham Sowden, is gearing up to retire, leaving the enterprise identity and access management vendor after four years to allow it to move to the “next level”.

Speaking to ARN, Sowden said the reasoning for bowing out following 20 years in the IT industry comes after achieving everything he had set out to do at the vendor.

“I joined Okta four years ago to scale it up and get it out across Asia Pacific. it's what I've done in my career numerous times,” he said.

Indeed, Sowden claimed that scaling can be seen just over the last 12 months, which saw Okta recruit a “couple of hundred people” across the APAC region.

He also said during his time, he managed to diversify the vendor’s APAC market, as previously, it was “massively” centred in just Australia. Under Sowden’s guidance however, he claims the business’ APAC market shifted to having majority share outside of Australia.

Sowden also oversaw the merger between Okta and Auth0, which followed the US$6.5 billion acquisition of the then-security rival back in in March last year.

“They've got a phenomenal sales motion and when it was really important that we understood why they were successful and didn't actually 'Okta-ify' them,” he said.

“In fact, we had to become more like them in part, so overseeing that change in management was fascinating.”

Sowden confirmed to ARN that Okta intends to replace his role, with an announcement expected to be made around September.

“Even if I wasn't retiring, I've done what I feel I'm really good at what I feel comfortable that's in my wheelhouse. It would be time to hand it over to those who can take it to the next level,” he said.

He said the replacement would take some stress off the shoulders of the recently hired leader for Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ) Phil Goldie.

On Goldie’s hiring, Sowden said it was an “awesome” appointment for Okta, claiming his skills and experiences were impressive, which include more than a decade’s worth of experience notched up at Microsoft, where he was small, medium and corporate business director prior to his departure in January.

“He will take the Australian operation beyond what I – to be honest – feel comfortable I could have done,” he said.

Aside from joking that he will enjoy not having to a weekly forecast call every Friday morning, Sowden said life after retirement will still seem him helping out around the channel where possible.

“I actually want to give back a bit,” he said. “I've had years of scaling businesses and I think that might be useful.

“I don't think it's advisory boards – I'm a bit wary of boards, I like to be hands-on – but smaller companies, doing the scale up and all other things they'll face, I feel like I've faced all of those and I'm looking for opportunities to do that.

“The beauty is I don't need to be paid for it. I won't say I'll give my services for total freedom, but I don't need a salary, I don't need a fee, I just want to keep involved. That's key.”

In addition to lending a hand to smaller companies, he also plans launch a mobile app game and is in the process of understanding a variety of social media platforms.

“I'm super excited to bring that to market over the rest of this year because that's not the space I know,” Sowden said.

“I don't understand that space. I've got to get myself right across Snapchats and WeChats and Twitters and all sorts of [platforms] I don't even pay attention to because I obviously missed out. I don't know if it's my demographic but now I've got to get massively into all of that to understand how to launch this game,” he added.