Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and required to constantly be at peak performance. This often makes it hard to find balance between one's professional and personal life. Maintaining strong relationships with the co-founders and investors, is also not an easy task, where clarity and empathy are not always present. As one of my entrepreneurs says: “It’s not the technological challenge we deal with, it’s the mental one”.
"Throughout my +15 years as a professional, I've always been attracted to the intersection of business and psychology through entrepreneurship - What makes people tick? How do people think and act? And what motivates people in business? What drives me is being there for the amazing entrepreneurs, who are under constant pressure, so that they can make our world a better place. That’s what I’m here for, and this is my podcast – The Human Founder."
Ep. 40 - Dr. Orna Berry, Director of Technology at Google Cloud CTO’s Office
Orna is a significant figure in the Israeli high-tech ecosystem - the first woman to serve as Chief Scientist and Head of the Industrial R&D operations for the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. She was Vice President of Dell EMC & General Manager of Israel Center of Excellence and was an entrepreneur & business figure in Israeli companies like PrimeSense, Aladdin & Alvarion. Nowadays, she is the Director of Technology at Google Cloud CTO’s Office. The American technology magazine Red Herring ranked her as "one of the 25 most influential and important women in the world of technology for 2005".
Orna is the daughter of Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto, a former IAF pilot, and her mother was a nurse. She has 2 brothers; one is a professor of economics, while the other is a lawyer. Her family was always her source for strength, decency, and commitment, and they led her through her career to a meaningful contribution by creating diverse opportunities. Technology was always in their house.
Orna received MA and BA degrees in Statistics and Mathematics from Tel Aviv University and Haifa University, respectively. In 1980, she joined the University of Southern California (USC) in the United States and earned a Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1986.
After a career in several tech companies, in 1993 she co-founded ORNET - Data Communication Technologies, in Carmiel- she wanted to bring the business into the periphery of Israel. Already then, Orna wanted to recruit diverse employees & talents. Orna took part in growing the VC sector in Israel, and for her - it was always about creating great partnerships with great people and remaining curious.
“I’ll die from curiosity. I’m always trying new stuff. I couldn't foresee the technological developments of today. I couldn't imagine the market's development. And I could never envision myself leaving academia or that I would become a Chief Scientist.”
Orna sold Ornet to Siemens in 1995.
They approached her to become Chief Scientist twice and she said no - then they pulled the Zionism card, and it worked. She got divorced that year, getting out of a domestically abusive relationship. She asked her children for their opinion, and her daughter Yael said: “In this house, everyone does what they want”. And that paved the way for personal and professional change. With her children, the rules were part of the “enablement game” - allowing each other to grow and develop through a strong partnership - as they are in it together.
Orna remembers she took a day off to celebrate her daughter’s birthday, but then there was an emergency call from Sheba hospital’s CEO - Zeev Rotstein. So, she brought her daughter with her, and it ended in forming new initiatives for Rambam & Sheba.
She then spent 10 years at Gemini VC working with outstanding people. She learned she only loves working with people who want to work with her and accept who she is.
On her recent 72nd birthday, her son, Amit, expressed to her: “You never try to please anyone”. That is a meaningful reflection that has led Orna throughout her career. She always believed equality comes from people who work shoulder to shoulder.
She made another change - on her second day of being 61 she went on to lead the EMC excellence center in Israel; A couple of months ago, she stepped into her new position at Google Cloud.
It was 2016 when she discovered she had cancer, and it was a “death sign on the wall”. She understood she’s going to face a difficult time and many struggles. Her HMO did not want to approve the drug she needed, and later - although they say “their patients are their central concern '' - it didn’t seem to feel that way. As a scientist, she understands how crucial it is to make the data accessible and draw a holistic view of the patient. For every struggle she wins, she tries to teach other groups her tricks, so that they can help others.
When I asked her what “would the mature Orna say to the young one?” - she smiled, thought of her teenage grandchildren, and said: “focus on your capabilities, desires and in each step also think of the society to create a greater good”.