Get to Know Stephen Okala
Before we get started, we’d love a brief introduction so our readers can get to know you!
My name is Stephen Okala Jr. and I am a Solutions Consultant (SC) at Appian. I joined Appian almost 4 years ago as an Associate Solution Engineer, and 2 years ago became a Solutions Consultant. As an SC, I get to work with our prospective customers as their trusted technical advisor, and articulate the benefits of Appian with regards to their particular use case in hopes to bring them on board with us.
I currently support the greatest region (U.S. Northeast!) with a lovely group of Account Executives & Solution Consultants. I’m also on the board of AppianHeritage, one of our seven affinity groups, and have been able to help with some of our recruiting efforts.
Outside of work you can find me on the rugby pitch (I play inside & outside center, for all my rugby fans out there) or at the gym, as I try my best to live a very active lifestyle. Besides physical activity I am very passionate about entrepreneurship. I am generally always thinking about how technology can be used to solve people’s problems.
Some other fun facts about me:
- I was born in Benin City, Nigeria
- I’m the oldest of four siblings (2 younger brothers and a sister)
- I graduated from Georgia Tech. GO JACKETS and THWg!!
- I love to eat and am willing to try pretty much anything (craziest thing so far being fried alligator)
With Black History Month among us, can you share what it means to you?
To me, Black History means reflecting just how far we have come as people, and how far we have left to go. It means highlighting the African Americans that have influenced the very fabric of this country. I grew up right outside of Atlanta, GA where there was always a big emphasis on understanding Black History Month. I was educated on different Black heroes and their impact on science, education, social reform, and so much more. I had the opportunity to visit places like the King Center & MLK’s place of birth on a yearly basis, but even as a kid taking that time to reflect had a lasting impact on my life and allows me to continue to reflect often.
Reflecting upon these experiences that I had growing up is ultimately what has pushed me to get involved in efforts that can give African Americans more opportunity, specifically in a professional setting. My involvement with AppianHeritage recruiting efforts is just one way that I can do this, which I will dive into later in the blog. Both of my experiences growing up and being involved in AppianHeritage have taught me that as I push to be the best version of myself, I am honoring the challenges so many African Americans have faced before me.
Thanks for sharing, Stephen. Can you share more about your involvement with AppianHeritage, and what inspired you to get involved?
I am currently on the AppianHeritage board leading our recruiting branch. What that means is that I get to work directly with the recruiting team. Oftentimes, I give feedback on our recruiting practices from an AppianHeritage lens and help them in any way we can (e.g., volunteering for virtual career fairs).
What really inspired me to get more involved in AppianHeritage beyond just being a member was my drive to make sure minorities voices were being heard, especially with regards to recruiting. In my college days, I was highly involved with organizations like National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and FirstGen (an organization for first generation college graduates) and this always brought me great joy.
I am now still able to feel like I am making a similar impact at a professional level because of the opportunities Appian provides. Our affinity groups specifically provide an opportunity to our employees to get further involved and make a difference in the community outside of our main professional roles. My involvement on the AppianHeritage board has allowed me to do just that.
In the recent blog, AppianHeritage: Then, Now, and Looking Ahead blog, it touches on the opportunities the group works on to bring employees together. Is there a particular event or effort you’ve been proud to be a part of thus far?
Appian has really given its employees a way to express themselves through its various affinity groups. Through my involvement with AppianHeritage I have been able to participate in many great initiatives. The two that really stick out to me are my involvement in the Immigration Panel and the Howard University Recruiting efforts.
Being on The Immigration Panel was an eye-opening experience. The panel is centered around the struggles immigrants go through, especially in the workplace with regards to H1B Visas. Being a part of this not only allowed for me to share my unique story on how my family immigrated to this country, but it also opened my eyes to the effects immigration can have on people’s day to day lives.
In addition, last year, I was very excited to hear that Appian was increasing efforts in recruiting at Howard University, a Historically Black University. With Howard being the closest University to Appian Headquarters, it was always my dream to be more involved in any recruiting events that were held there. I am looking forward to Appian’s continued partnership with Howard and other HBCUs and believe that this is a great opportunity to diversify our talent network.
Are there any future initiatives you are particularly looking forward to that support AppianHeritage’s overall mission of supporting a diversity of cultures?
Given that we are still early on in the year, we have plenty of initiatives that are still to come. One of those being the NC A&T State University (a Historically Black Land-Grant Research University) Virtual Career Fair at the end of this month. Events like these show Appian’s continual effort to branch out to a diverse set of schools to find great talent.