Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Imagine having the opportunity to live in Israel, while studying in English and making friends with people from all over the world. The Technion International School offers just that. We caught up with three international students from very different walks of life. The four-year program grants a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering.

Chayah Rosenblum, 19, was raised Orthodox in West Hempstead, NY, attended Yeshiva University High School for Girls, where she graduated on the Honor Roll and in the National Honor Society. She just completed her first year at the Technion, and hopes to transfer to the Technion Faculty of Aerospace Engineering when she becomes fluent enough in Hebrew. She made aliyah last summer.

Elda Yitbarek, 18, grew up with a large extended family of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents in Mekelle, Ethiopia, the capital city of the country’s northern region. She wants to be an engineer, but felt that the engineering programs at Ethiopian universities are lacking. Like Chayah, Elda recently finished her first year at the Technion.

Simon Ulka, 23, comes from Quickborn, a small German town near Hamburg. His father founded a tile company, which sparked his interest in construction. Simon just finished the four-year program, where he graduated with a 4.0 GPA and First-Class Honors, a major in Civil Engineering with a focus on Construction Management, and a minor in Environmental Engineering. He is considering becoming a project engineer.

What brought you to the Technion International School?

Chaya library0533

Chaya Rosenblum

Chayah: One of the reasons I came to Israel is that it’s a Jewish state, our homeland. I love it. I was already at a seminary in Jerusalem when I realized I wanted to move here. I was going to go to the University of Maryland, but then I got an email that I was accepted to the Technion. I wasn’t sure what time it was in the U.S., but I immediately called my parents. I was so excited.

Elda: Ethiopia is a growing country. We are still building roads and installing trains. We need many engineers. I wanted to do engineering, so I came with my school on a trip to Israel. We visited many universities. The Technion seemed to be friendly and to have the best engineering. I also liked Haifa more than Tel Aviv.

simon

Simon Ulka

Simon: I was drafted into the German Army and had a choice of doing military service or social service. I had been a youth leader in Germany, so I accepted an offer from Akim Jerusalem (which works with people with intellectual disabilities). I spent the year learning Hebrew and Arabic, getting to know the country, and thought it would be a waste if I left after just one year. So I found the Technion International School online. I started studying civil engineering with the goal of switching to electrical engineering after my first year. But I was having so much fun, I decided not to switch.

How are Israel and Israelis different than the society and people in your country?

Simon: I am not Jewish, but I’ve been to Shabbos dinners in religious communities, and I was surprised how their Friday night dinners are so similar to our traditional German Sunday night dinners. The religious rituals are close to what we do in Germany. Both of us sing. The only difference is the songs. After dinner (in Israel) we play board games. I felt at home. I’ve experienced great hospitality from Jewish citizens and Palestinians.

Chayah: Everyone is friendly but much more pushy in Israel. And I’m starting to fit in. I had to go to the Ministry of Interior, and came early to avoid a long wait. I was 10th in line, but pushed my way up to second so that I could get back to class on time. I would not have done that in the U.S. Also, the culture here is more relaxed, compared to America. People are less concerned about being on time and having things organized. People are more into hanging out and being spontaneous than back home.

Elda

Elda Yitbareck

Elda: If you think the social life is relaxed here, you should come to Ethiopia. Friends come to my home and stay for days, sometimes weeks. Ethiopians value social connection. Friendships seem to be more intimate than in Israel. Life at home is far less formal than in Israel. Here everything is in its rightful order. There are traffic laws. In Ethiopia, nobody pays attention to whether the light is red or green. If there is no car, you just cross.

What about the academics? How does the teaching and course load compare to universities in your country?

Simon: The Technion is more rigorous but German universities are more open. You are not forced to come to class in Germany, whereas here they take attendance. Classes at the Technion are smaller, so you have close relationships with the professors. You call them by their first name and may even have their phone numbers. Given the rigor at the Technion, professors give you a second chance. If you fail a calculus final and want to retake it, the second one will count. I like that a lot.

Elda: You can’t go to a test and say, ‘Ah, I know this question,’ because the questions on finals and exams are different from what you do in class. It’s not memorization. The professors teach you the basics, then you have to apply it. It triggers you to think. They make you think, and give you time to think. That’s what engineering is. Engineers have to come up with something new.

Given all the cultural and academic differences, what has been your biggest adjustment?

all 3 intl students-0399Chayah: I knew there would be people from all over, but I was surprised at how diverse the International School is. My high school was a very sheltered environment, with only Orthodox Jews. It’s interesting to meet people from all over, and to be in a co-ed environment. But I’ve had to adjust to that.

 

Elda: Settling in was a bit difficult for me, especially in the mechina (preparatory program). I felt very homesick. I missed my friends and family. I didn’t know how to manage money. But the worst of it was that I couldn’t cook. Step-by-step I made friends and then . . . whoosh. . . I started liking it.

Simon: I spent a year in Jerusalem before coming to the Technion, so I was acclimated. It helped that I have three Israeli roommates. I got introduced to the Technion and to the Israeli community by way of my roommates. Many people do not have that privilege. I’ve gotten involved in Israeli life. I was a team leader in charge of designing a concrete canoe (for an engineering and design competition). And this is my third semester in the Technion choir. The climate is warmer here than in Germany, and the people are more warm-hearted.

Have you experienced moments when you said to yourself, “I can’t believe I’m really here!”

Elda: I never thought I’d be visiting Israel at this age, alone, without my family. I’ve never traveled alone. So when I first came I said, ‘I can’t believe it.’ When I’m cooking for myself, again I say, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’ Also, our country is landlocked. Whenever I go to the Mediterranean Sea, I just can’t believe what I’m seeing. It’s beyond measure. I like to think of it as a gift.

Chayah: The times that I most appreciate are when I hear people speaking Hebrew, like on a bus. Or when I see streets that are named after Biblical figures or people from Israel’s history (i.e. Jabotinsky Street). At school in the U.S., I learned Hebrew to study the Tanach and also had conversational classes, but not this intense. I’ve become a lot more fluent and I love learning the language. It’s really cool when our teacher makes connections between words with the same root. And it’s so cool to learn physics in Hebrew.

Finally, has your experience at the Technion been transformational?

Elda: I’m learning how to stand on my own two feet. That’s been the most transformational for me. I’ve got to do it at some point, so this is the time. In Israel.

Simon: I’ve been here four years and it has changed me a lot. I’ve become fluent in Hebrew; I don’t remember the last time I had a dream in German. I’m more understanding of the country, and I got to know many other cultures. I’d never met a Nepali person before coming here. So the international community at the Technion has really been great. It’s opened my mind and my eyes. My horizons have really broadened.

I also found my passion for civil engineering. It happened when we took a trip to Tel Aviv for an introductory course in civil engineering. A civil engineer guided us, pointing out each building he had built, and I thought how really nice it wold be to go through a city and say, ‘I built this one.’ To leave my mark.

Chayah: Coming to the Technion has been one of my biggest accomplishments. That I came to Israel by myself. That I’m studying engineering; going forward with my dreams, even though it is challenging to be in a different country far from my family – it has been incredibly transformational. I don’t plan on leaving. There are so many cool things to do. I want to travel more, and I hope I can bring my family here. I really hope to build my life here and have a family.

JVPPix3

Jerusalem Venture Partners employees at their headquarters

Deep within the ancient city of Jerusalem, a tech-savvy investment firm is working on the latest modern-day tools to delight consumers and thwart cybercrime.

The striking headquarters of Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), a stop on the Technion World Tour, is located in a historic compound that draws visitors from around the world. Since 1993, JVP has shown a stellar talent for finding, nurturing — and cashing in quite nicely — on promising startups.

And once again JVP has been way ahead of the pack as it expands its focus from digital media infrastructure into the booming area of cybersecurity, a growing concern for consumers, businesses and governments worldwide.

“The big thing is changing the equation between the attacker and the defender,” says Managing Partner Kobi Rozengarten, a Technion Industrial Engineering and Management graduate who has been with the firm since 1997.

“We are in the business of defending. Securing the cloud, securing your devices, securing your wi-fi, even securing your business from employees or impostors who might mean harm.”

Global Reputation

One of Israel’s leading venture capital funds, JVP was recently ranked by the investment data firm Preqin among the top 10 consistently performing funds in the world. With more than $1 billion raised to date, JVP has helped build over 120 companies and orchestrated about 30 major “exits” — investor lingo for a successful industry sale or stock-market IPO.

JVPpix2

The JVP Media Quarter complex

How do they do it? Kobi explains that Israel’s VC community is largely clustered around Tel Aviv, “So when you’re outside the center you have to think differently.”

JVP thus took the unusually proactive step of creating its own start-up incubator, in league with an Israeli government early-stage start-up program — a unique public-private strategy in the venture capital world.

“At JVP this is a great model for building companies, ” Kobi says. “And we’re proud to see other investors emulating our model.”

Looking for ideas that can have international impact, JVP will audition about 1,000 startups yearly — but invest in perhaps just 10. If your startup is among that lucky 1 percent, you’ll benefit not just from seed money but from the JVP team’s many combined years of hands-on high-tech industry experience.

“We are company builders, not financial investors,” emphasizes Kobi, who learned the ropes leading his own successful semiconductor startup. “We also have a deeper commitment to our companies. It can take a decade or more to ready a firm for a successful exit.”

Ehud Rokach, a Technion alumnus and Co-founder of XtremIO, says “JVP did an impeccable job helping us grow our startup, and they have been such a valuable partner for other tech companies sprouting from the Technion. It also helps that Kobi really gets us. As an alumnus, he knows how we think, and that the sky’s the limit for us given the training we received at the Tehnion.” XtremIO is the leading all-flash array on the market, and another stop on the Technion World Tour.

Serving on the Technion Board of Governors, Kobi also helps run a scholarship fund for Jerusalem residents hoping to study at the university, and says JVP stands ready to lend its expertise as the Technion continues to enhance its own emphasis on entrepreneurship.

Tourist Attraction

JVPpix1

The complex is just minutes away from the Old City of Jerusalem

Along with its impressive return on investment, JVP might be the only VC firm that is also a must-see on any tourist itinerary.

Housed in the renovated national Mint of the British Empire and the Ottoman warehouses next door, its headquarters — known as the JVP Media Quarter — has been a driving force in the revitalization that has swept the area surrounding Jerusalem’s old train station.

The Media Quarter is the brainchild of company founder Erel Margalit, who in 2006 envisioned a new life for the Mint, built by the British in 1937 and abandoned by the Israeli government in the 1980’s.

After two years of painstaking preservation, in moved JVP’s venture capital team, its Media Labs incubator and about a dozen of its leading portfolio companies. The compound houses 300-plus employees as well as the fund’s own busy performing arts hub and its philanthropic community outreach organization.

Architecture buffs will especially appreciate the Mint building’s landmark Bauhaus style. But any visitor will appreciate the spark of creativity and innovation running through the complex with its mix of engineers, artists, authors, filmmakers and cultural figures.

“Our headquarters is a unique place,” Kobi says, “right in front of Mt. Zion, site of King David‘s Tomb and Jesus‘ last supper. Jerusalem is becoming more active and more a part of the “Start-Up Nation.” We regularly welcome business and government delegations from around the world who come to study our business model.”

Changing the Equation

That model got an additional boost last year as JVP sealed a major partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba — the Amazon of Asia — to support promising tech startups.

JVP’s start-up portfolio is attractive to companies such as Alibaba because of its focus on enterprise security software — vital technology as Alibaba grows beyond e-commerce into cloud computing, data management, online payments and credit scoring.

“When a 14-year-old hacker somewhere in Iran can get into a company’s system and cause many millions of dollars worth of damage,” Kobi says, “you must change that equation. You must make that attack much more difficult.”

“As the ferocity, scope and sophistication of cyber-attacks continue to grow, so must our capacity to defend our critical assets,” comments Gadi Tirosh, a fellow managing partner at JVP, in a recent report. “As part of our investment process, we review about 90 percent of the Israeli cyber startups, and we are very excited by the level of creativity, know-how and innovation that we are seeing.”

Technion World Tour

The JVP headquarters is just one of the many exciting stops on the Technion World Tour. To learn more, register or request more information, please visit www.technionworldtour.org.

 

 

Some of the Technion’s best and brightest students, accompanied by rocket scientist Professor Alon Gany, recently visited our offices in New York City. Sitting down with our staff and senior leadership was just the first stop in their journey across the U.S. In total, six students are currently traveling across the nation to meet ATS staff, donors, industry leaders and others interested in what it’s like to be a student of the Technion.

See highlights below of the Q & A panel discussion led by Jeff Richard, our Executive Vice President.

studentsvisit3

(l to r) Danielle Movsowitz, Ari Levine, Prof. Alon Gany, ATS EVP Jeff Richard, Shani Elitzur, and Nimrod Harani

Jeff: We are thrilled to have you visit. As I know you all have busy workloads back in Haifa, I’m wondering why it was important to take the time to visit so many of our offices here in the U.S.?

Shani Elitzur, a PhD student of Aerospace Engineering studying green energy: This is an amazing opportunity for us to say thank you to the people who influence our daily lives. Our lab was donated by ATS supporters. All of the equipment in the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, our libraries, and basically everything that we have is donated. It’s a great help and we appreciate it a lot. My fellowship allows me to concentrate solely on my research. I just want to say thank you for that.

studentsblog1Nimrod Harani, an undergraduate majoring in both materials science and engineering plus chemistry: I want to connect faces to the people who are now just names on plaques in the dormitories, the libraries and the laboratories. They’re people with their own stories that influence Israel and the Technion.

Jeff: Tell me a bit about being a student in Haifa — what is it like studying in such a tech-driven hub for innovation, in such a diverse community?

Ari Levine, a PhD student in chemistry with a medical degree from Bar-Ilan University: Haifa is big on co-existence. You have Jews, Arabs and Christians; you have Russian immigrants and Ethiopian immigrants. That kind of diversity is reflected in the Technion student community too. Meeting all of these people gives rise to new ideas, new ways of thinking and pushes forward achievement. It also makes student life incredibly interesting.

studentsblog2Nimrod: The Technion is the institution that puts life into Haifa. The creativity and the vibe of solving problems makes the area around it thrive. The Technion is the core.

Jeff: Many talk about a “secret sauce,” a zeitgeist that encourages students over there to think creatively and independently, to push the boundaries. Please share your thoughts on what drives such entrepreneurial spirit on the Technion campus.

Nimrod: There’s always a struggle for any student to go outside of academia to build start-ups. But Technion professors accept revolutionary ideas. They use their laboratories to innovate and promote new notions, which puts high-tech and the Start-Up Nation inside the Technion. Many graduate students and professors have startups, but they don’t leave academia. One year they invent in the lab, and the next they launch a start-up. This is a real strength for the Technion.

studentsblog6Ari: I found something in a research paper that didn’t make sense. So I talked to my professor and he said, ‘yeah your point is interesting but people have been talking about this for 10 years. Everything we know, we know.’ Yet he encouraged me to start researching it. We found what we believe is a completely different answer, which gave rise to what we call “quantum mechanical unfurling.” It was interesting how my professor was open to me challenging things that are already known, which I’m not sure you get in every school. That’s something really special at the Technion. Not only are we encouraged to go forward with our ideas, but we also have the full backing of our professors.

Shani: We are in the Technion. Innovation is part of our lives. This is what is expected. You have no other options. You don’t think you are doing innovative stuff, you’re just working on what you love and innovation is in the air.

studentsvisit5Jeff: Professor Gany, you hold some 20 patents, so it’s safe to say you know a thing or two about innovation. Can you give us your point of view?

Professor Gany, Head of the Sylvia and David I.A. Fine Rocket Propulsion Center, Director of the Aerothermodynamics Lab, and Deputy Head of the Aeronautical Research Center: If you’re in research, you have to deal with traditional research but you also have to come up with novel ideas. You have to take risks. We do take risks, which means that we come up with new ideas, diverse ideas, and we are called the “Start-Up Nation” because of this. Students are encouraged to think innovatively, to develop ideas themselves, and it eventually pays off. Those who finish at the Technion have a bright future.

Jeff: We hear a lot about the Technion’s academic rigor. Can you tell us how that figures into your own journey and experience on campus?

studentsblog4.jpfNimrod: I studied two courses of mathematics at another university in Israel. Both of them together weren’t enough to replace the basic math course at the Technion. When I got here, I realized I was in a completely different university.

Ari: I had the ability to study both medicine and theoretical chemistry at the same time only because I had done my bachelor’s at the Technion. I don’t think that any other school would have prepared me for competing on that level.

Jeff: Tell us about life outside the classroom. Is that encouraged? Is there enough time?

Danielle Movsowitz, an undergraduate student in computer science, focusing on cloud computing: There’s not much time (laughs) but it certainly is encouraged. We do try to find time to do things, especially since the studies are so hard. I am active in the Technion Students Association, and we plan many parties, social events, gym classes, movies and other gatherings on campus. The events are as cheap and accessible as possible. We also do study. I often find myself staying at the library till midnight. But then we’ll go to the pub, situated in the center of the university, or to a party on campus. If you only study, that’s not good for your head!

Jeff: What specific challenges, if any, have you faced being students at the Technion?

Danielle: In computer science we are about 30 percent women, and we’re bringing more women in each year. I don’t feel that anybody puts us aside because we’re women. Not only that, but most of the honor students are women (laughs) because they work very hard to prove they are worthy.

Follow the students’ journey across social media via #TechnionFuture or visit www.ats.org to learn more about the ATS.

 

 

Several professional titles grace Gad Rennert’s signature, giving him charge of Clalit’s National Cancer Control Center and Personalized Medicine Program, and its Breast and Colorectal Cancer Detection Program. Clalit is Israel’s largest health provider. He is also a Technion professor at The Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and chairman of the Department of Community Medicine and Epidemiology at the Technion-affiliated Carmel Medical Center.

Dr. Rennert wears many hats, but his interests are mostly focused on cancer genetics. Renowned for his large-scale studies of breast cancer and BRCA gene mutations in Israeli women, he has launched the First International Conference on “Founder Populations and their Contribution to our Understanding of Biology and History – Lessons from the Jewish Genome” (July 10-13, Haifa, Israel). We recently had the opportunity to interview him about this most exciting initiative.

What makes this gathering the first of its kind?

gadi

Dr. Gad Rennert

We are trying to do something different by focusing on the concept of founder populations — populations that can be traced back to a time in history when they all originated from the same source. This is the first international conference of this type, aimed at evaluating the contributions made by studying one of the most significant founder populations in the world — the Jewish community.

Ashkenazim are a founder population because they have kept their cohesiveness for generations. That has led to discoveries in the genetics of Ashkenazi Jews, which in turn has contributed to global science. BRCA gene mutations, for example, which put women at risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer, are prevalent in this population. While we know three mutations in Ashkenazi Jews, we now know hundreds more in non-Ashkenazim that would not have been detected had it not been for the Jews.

Also, genetic meetings can be so esoteric that attendees who are not in the exact field might feel lost. We will be a multidisciplinary group of clinical geneticists, population geneticists, genealogists and more so that a broad range of professionals, as well as lay people, can participate.

Can you give us a glimpse into the conference highlights?

 

We’ll be dealing with various issues of wide interest such as uncovering your genetic origins, using your genes to deduce risk of chronic disease, and employing large-scale initiatives to genetically characterize large populations. In the session “Genetics Meets History,” Near-East scholars, historians and genealogists will talk about the movement of Jewish and Mediterranean populations around the world and what that tells us about the Biblical stories. Is there genetic evidence to confirm that the Exodus really took place? Did King Solomon and Queen Sheba leave genetic evidence in Ethiopia? Other talks will discuss the current and future demography of the Jewish people.

The cadre of speakers is impressive. Professor Robert Winston of Imperial College London, a member of UK’s House of Lords and a world-renowned fertility expert and science commentator, will open the meeting with a talk about the promise of genetics. Eric Green, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Washington, D.C., will present President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, a plan to draw the genetic map of American populations. Spencer Wells, head of the National Geographic Genographic Project, will talk about genetically mapping the world populations. We will close with an address by Sir Walter Bodmer, one of the most significant geneticists living today.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 4.31.24 PM

DNA Double Helix

The first step of the Human Genome Project was to create the human genetic map, but the next step is to use it. People are sitting at home not knowing their risk of disease. If we actively seek them out and test them, we could potentially save lives. That raises other issues. Our session on genetic screening will feature a law professor and clinical geneticists, including one of the world’s leading medical-halachic ethicists.

Which diseases will be covered?

One session will deal with cancer syndromes, including the Jewish genes involved in breast and ovarian, lung, and colon cancers. Another will be devoted to non-cancerous syndromes that are prevalent in Ashkenazi Jews such as Tay-Sachs, Gaucher and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as the genetics of Jewish aging. We will also talk about the genetic syndromes found in Israeli Druze, Bedouins and the Arabs of Galilee.

What do you hope this conference will accomplish?

Genetics is a fast-moving science. I hope the multidisciplinary approach will encourage professionals to think out of the box, improve their understanding and develop new ideas. More important, our mission for the layperson is to change attitudes. We want genetics to be something you talk about, something you deal with — something that empowers people rather than frightens. Understanding and empowerment come with education.

Please join us! If you are interested in learning more about your genealogy or are already planning a visit to Israel this summer, we encourage you to spend the day with us in Haifa.

Please click here to learn more and register for the conference. http://www.foundergenomics.com

 

Yael Vizel is a Technion graduate and co-founder of Zeekit Ltd., a fashion startup that removes the hit-and-miss aspect of online clothes shopping by enabling shoppers to “try on” clothing — virtually — before buying. Zeekit won Israel’s Smartup2 competition in 2014, and Yael has been named one of the top three entrepreneurs in Israel.

Yael served in the Israeli Air Force, breaking gender barriers to become the first woman to command the field technology crews and to lead the Telecommunications Officer’s Course. She graduated from the Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering with honors in 2010, and started her career at Elbit Systems.

We had the chance to sit down and talk to her about her startup.

Can you tell us about Zeekit and how it works?

Speaking at Innovation Exchange, an event in Tel Aviv to tap into Israel’s community of innovators and entrepreneurs.

A user uploads a full-length photo of herself/himself and then proceeds to shop in our online store. Our software scans the web and fashion catalogs to analyze every item of clothing for size, fit and look. You can filter according to product type (i.e. dresses, shoes), price and brands. Once you have selected your items, we use image-processing technology to show you exactly how you will look in the item and what size you would take.

How does Zeekit differ from companies online with similar “try-on” features?

Other solutions do not show how the clothing will actually look on you, but how it will look on a 3D avatar. Our technology gives a more accurate picture. We analyze 80 different points of fit, such as the shoulders, armpits and collar. Once you are in our system, we can reconstruct every item of clothing out there and you can see yourself actually wearing it. We offer recommendations and choose the right size for a specific retailer. You can mix and match, and use our app to ask for the crowd’s help in choosing which dress looks better.

We have been called the Google of Fashion because we map the fashion world in a new way, making it accessible and giving you the valuable experience of seeing yourself wearing all the clothes sold online, without any additional effort from clothing companies.

How did your Technion education help shape your career?

Yael at the 2015 AIPAC Policy Conference

Zeekit’s technology is incredibly complicated. You can never tell what kind of pictures consumers will upload and there are no standards in how clothing is presented in stores. There are so many factors that influence the algorithms. What Technion graduates bring to the table is the methodology or spirit of taking a very big problem, breaking it into small building blocks, delving into every building block to create a solution for each one, and then zooming out and combining those solutions to make this huge system work as a whole. Many of our employees are Technion graduates.

Also, my favorite course at the Technion was image processing. So when I worked at Elbit, I took a few algorithms from my project at the Technion and applied them to my work designing microprocessors for computers of airplane cockpits. With Zeekit, I thought I’d take more or less the same math from the image processing algorithms and apply them to the e-commerce world.

Do you ever envision using these solutions for a greater good?

Image processing can push civilization forward in so many areas. We didn’t plan to be in fashion, but found an untapped niche in the marketplace. I had always intended to study biomedical engineering, and take my skills to the medical world. So in our next company, we hope to use our algorithms for human body recognition but focus them on medical analysis. I have so many ideas where we can use this technology to help civilization take a few steps forward.

danpic

Chairman of the Technion Executive Council and Microsoft Israel CEO Danny Yamin. Photo credit: Kobi Kantor

As Chairman of the Technion Executive Council, Danny Yamin, a Technion graduate and CEO of Microsoft Israel, advises the Technion on administrative and financial matters. At the time of his appointment in 2012, Technion President Peretz Lavie said: “Danny Yamin’s vast management experience in a global organization is essential at a time when the Technion itself is treading deeper into the global arena.”

Last month, ATS Associate VP of Communications Tova Kantrowitz had the chance to sit down with Danny on the Technion campus to talk about the work of the Council and to hear his thoughts about the Technion’s global reach.

What is the role of the Technion Executive Council?

It is like a Board of Directors at a company, and every university in Israel has a similar governing body. Our role is to supervise Technion leadership activity, help develop strategy and approve budgets. We have committees such as financial and audit, for example, which make sure everything is conducted according to the law and meets expectations. For any major plan the Technion has, we make sure that all decisions are consistent with the overall strategic plan of the university.

Who makes up the membership?

The Technion’s 23 Council members include public representatives such as myself, together with Technion professors, past presidents and industry leaders. Not all members are engineers or technologists, as I have tried to make the Council a diverse team in order to have a rich dialogue with the Technion leadership. Each volunteer member serves for nine years.

How has the Council benefited the Technion in recent times?

We have great leadership and management at the Technion, but global projects such as those in New York and China are new to the university. So having Council members such as myself and others with global multinational experience is very helpful. Right here at home, Israel’s future depends on quality technological education, and there is no doubt in my mind that the experience, knowledge and skills of our members contribute greatly to the influence and future of the Technion, as well as to the scope and quality of its graduates.

How is your working relationship with the Technion administration?

I have a strong partnership with President Peretz Lavie and I believe he is one of the Technion’s best presidents. We have lots of work to do together, and I feel privileged to work with him and to be surrounded by so many talented people.

What strategic goals do you help with?

We want the Technion to be on the same level as the Ivy Leagues. Our goal is for more young people to aspire to become students of the Technion. We used to export Jaffa oranges, and now we export knowledge, products, and know-how, and the Technion is an acknowledged leader in this space. We want to raise the Technion’s profile in this area to an even greater degree.

Why is “globalization” so important?

Globalization has a lot to do with the way people in Israel view the Technion. Success for a company is based on its becoming global, and one of the key attributes of the Technion’s success is its ability to be global. Representing Israel in this way is fantastic. When it comes to health and energy, Israel in general and the Technion specifically help solve the world problems.

Can you tell us a little bit about Microsoft Israel?

I have been the CEO of Microsoft Israel since 2004 but have worked at the company for 12 years. We have R & D centers here in Haifa and in Herziliya. I represent Microsoft in Israel, and Israel at Microsoft. Microsoft is a business, but as a company we invest in Israel in areas such as education. The fact that there are significant Microsoft R & D centers in Israel speaks to the importance of investment here. The majority of engineers in the Haifa facility are Technion graduates, and we also employ students and provide scholarships. Microsoft is part of the unique Israeli ecosystem that includes large companies, start-ups, and strong academic institutions – all these ingredients work together to create the “secret sauce” for success.

Given your busy role as Microsoft Israel’s CEO, why did you decide to take on the Technion position?

I previously served as Chairman of the Technion Alumni 100 Club and was also a member of the Council before becoming its Chairman. Volunteering is my way of giving back to the Technion because everything I have is thanks to the education I received. I was raised in a middle class family and the only asset I have is my Technion education.

What role does the American Technion Society play in advancing the Technion?

We are happy to have the support of the American Technion Society. It is the largest Society; it is a great help and we need it. The country has many needs and government support is not enough – that is where the ATS comes in.

Avi Hein and his wife were newlyweds when they left Maryland for Israel in 2004 to make Aliya. At the time, he was interested in a career focused on Zionism and politics, but it didn’t take long to catch the entrepreneurial bug.

“I wanted to be part of what would later be called the ‘Start-Up Nation,’” Avi said. He then proceeded to dive in head first — working in Israel’s high-tech sector.

Avi had been living in Israel for a number of years and was fluent in Hebrew when he decided to go back to school. He considered both English and Hebrew programs, and chose the Technion’s MBA Start-uP program.

Avie Hein

Avi Hein at the Sarona complex in Tel Aviv, where the Technion offers the Start-uP MBA as well as other academic programs.

“My main requirement was that the program be on a high academic level from a top-notch university.” He was specifically focused on technology management with the goal of continuing his career in high tech, rather than doing something like finance or consulting, and the Technion Start-uP MBA program fit the bill. “This program provided a holistic view of how to run a tech company, from seed funding to managing a thriving company.”

“Avi was one of our first group of students, and our second class with 20 students is already underway,” said Dr. Avital Regev Siman-Tov, Managing Director of Technion MBA Programs. “Israel is the perfect place to learn about start-ups,” she says. And since Technion alumni have founded or managed two thirds of the Israeli-based companies listed on Nasdaq, she adds that “the Technion is the best institution to teach start-up skills.”

Today, Avi is a graduate of the first class of the Technion Start-uP MBA program, a one-year international program in Tel Aviv, taught entirely in English and focused on technology management, promoting entrepreneurship and start-ups.

The Start-uP MBA curriculum covers a broad range of courses while exposing students to Israel’s thriving tech scene through internships, consulting projects and on-site corporate visits. It is unique in that it is taught by leading professors “on loan,” so to speak, for short periods of time, from elite universities all over the world. To do this, some courses are taught in weekly blocks, so that students have one class all day – from Sunday to Thursday. “Its intense schedule allowed the Technion to bring in top professors. But instead of having two months to do one class – you have two weeks at best,” said Avi. “The program was at a very high academic level and was very demanding.” Unlike most of his peers, Avi is not an engineer. But his background was not an issue, since the courses were mostly business-oriented.

Avi in front of one of the three Technion buildings at Sarona.

Even though Avi had been working in Israel’s high-tech scene for a few years, the program provided industry visits to companies he had never been to. “You work in your own company all day and don’t get to see what other companies are doing,” he says. “It’s exciting because in Israel, unlike the U.S., we are used to doing more with less. It is about results and getting things done with much less focus on bureaucracy and procedure.”

Avi found the most beneficial aspect of the program was learning how to build a company from the initial idea to launch and learn how to apply the traditional aspects of functional management— applying that information to his own work. As Marketing Manager of IncrediBuild, a 12-year-old software company that accelerates software development processes, enabling popular products that include game consoles such as the Playstation and Xbox, he still deals with budgets and IP questions like a start-up would. “There are a lot of the same issues working in an established technology company, and having the Start uP MBA helps,” he said. “Today you need a business degree, focusing on technology management. People who know the technology often don’t know the business. Others who only know business don’t know technology. The Technion MBA provides a unique mix of technology and business. As a graduate of the Technion program, I understand the financial aspects and the perspective on how to view the whole business. For example, in class we debated case studies of how to enter new markets and explore new business models as a software company. This is something I’m working on now.”

But perhaps the best part of Avi’s experience was the international student experience. “It was great to be exposed to students from China, Mexico, Israel, the U.S., Australia, etc. and to understand their expectations. It helped me stay in touch with that global environment,” he said. “If, in the future, I want to set up a marketing campaign in a particular community in the world, I will have a greater understanding of the culture, what is expected, and I will have someone to talk to in order to see things from their unique cultural perspective.”

Classes are located at the Sarona campus in Tel Aviv, which is convenient due to the proximity to the heart of Israel’s business center, and it is just a short walk from the Azrieli Towers. But according to Avi, the location has other benefits. “Being in the center of things helps. Many of Israel’s top high-tech companies are nearby. In addition, this campus is gorgeous. It is not a traditional university campus, and students love the environment. One of the things we learned in our Consumer Behavior class is that people are affected by their environment. When you are in a positive beautiful environment, you tend to perform better.”

Though Israel has had high-tech for a few decades, people did not regard Israel as a high tech superpower until the publication of the book Start-Up Nation. Now the public knows that “if you look inside the iPad or iPhone, or turn on your computer or game console, the software is based on Israeli tech,” he said. “People look at Israel as a vibrant high-tech country.” With the Technion Start-uP MBA under his belt, Avi is certainly part of this innovative, entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Click here to visit the Start-uP MBA website: http://startupmba.technion.ac.il/

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers