Episode
#40
ENG

How Curiosity, Great Partnerships And Grit Paved Orna’s Life Journey

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Featuring
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 operation of the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. She was Vice President of Dell EMC & General Manager of Israel Center of Excellence, and 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, former IAF pilot, her mom was a nurse and she has 2 brothers - one is a professor of Economy and the other - a lawyer. Her family was always her source for strength, decency and commitment, and it 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 PhD 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 being curious


“I’ll die from curiosity. I’m always trying new stuff. I could not envision the technological developments. I could not envision the market's development. I could not envision leaving the academy and I could not envision that I’ll become 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 domestic violence relationship. She asked her children for their opinion, and her daughter Yael said: “In this house everyone does what she wants”. And that paved the way for a 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. 

In her recent 72nd b-day, her son, Amit, reflected 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 - when she was 61+1 day - Leading the EMC excellence center in Israel. 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 “the patient is in the center '' - it doesn't seem nor 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. Every struggle she wins - she teaches the voluntary bodies the tricks - so 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”.

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