Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the Tech Industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Osnat Barak, the Chief of People, Operations & Culture at Tomorrow.io.
Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?
I was born and raised in Israel and grew up in a suburb just outside of the city of Tel Aviv. I enjoyed both the quiet and pastoral environment, yet every time I wanted to have some “big city“ experiences I just needed to hop on a 30 min bus.
Since my childhood, I have always loved being part of a team (ex: youth movement, Kibbutz and more). People have always been my biggest passion, which is why I love being part of the team and shaping the culture at Tomorrow.io.
What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?
I studied Psychology, Sociology, and Anthropology for my undergraduate degree and Organizational Behaviour for my Masters (BTW my thesis was on how early awareness to cognitive biases can reduce their impact. Super interesting stuff!).
After my masters, I went on to study Group Facilitation, Coaching, and even Spiritual Psychology. I find that I use all of these skills today while I work to bring in not only the best employees to Tomorrow.io, but also building a strong and powerful team.
Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?
It’s funny, I always attribute the foundation of my career to the skills I learned while I was managing a bistro restaurant for 5 years. You meet so many people, spanning so many types of life situations—it really forces one to learn how to listen, understand various needs, and how to create a space that allows others to feel welcome and comfortable opening up.
I moved on from managing the restaurant to work in an assessment center - a place companies send their candidates for a full day of assessment that includes group dynamic, behavioural interviews, personality tests and more. It was from then on that interviewing and assessing people became my sweet spot, as it is today!
Following the assessment center, I enjoyed a short time working as an independent consultant in a private consulting company in Israel. It was through this experience that I discovered my need to actually be part of a team, not external to it. I learned that my biggest passion was and is for startups- each and every person has a tremendous opportunity to make a real impact on shaping a company and its products. Finally, I learned that a strong culture was the vehicle to enable people to make this impact, not to mention a strategic tool to help an organization achieve its goals.
When I moved to Boston almost 2.5 years ago, I planned to finally take a moment to rest and spend time with my family after a long 20 years of working in the fast-paced tech industry. But then, by chance, I met Shimon Elkabetz, Tomorrow.io's CEO and co-founder, and my plans completely changed.
Within minutes of speaking with Shimon, I recognized an opportunity of a lifetime. Tomorrow.io had the vision, products, and potential for great impact unlike anything I had ever seen. And above all, Tomorrow.io had the people to make it happen. Everything was super unique and stood out from any company that I had ever known before. It turns out, I was right 😊
What is your current role and responsibilities?
I’m the Chief of People, Operations & Culture at Tomorrow.io. Together with my team, we’re responsible for creating the most optimal conditions for top-notch people to impact, lead, dream big, own, achieve and grow at the company. And we do that by striving to provide a nurturing culture with operational excellence that supports successful scale across all units and teams globally (reminder, we have offices in Boulder, Tel Aviv, and Singapore in addition to our Boston HQ). Further, I focus on helping Tomorrow.io be a model employer who leads by example to everyone the company touches— employees, candidates, investors, customers, vendors, competitors, neighbors, and more.
Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally? Was it always your goal to be in this position?
No, As far back as I can remember, I was sure I was going to be a therapist. After my BA I took a gap year, which by chance gave me exposure to the organizational industry. It was love at first sight.
For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?
Ha! I can’t choose just one!
“Give the hook and not the fish” - coach, mentor. Ideally, you will know you did a great job when you are not needed anymore :)
Be the things you lead for - be passionate about what you do. Our domain has a lot of ambiguity. Your professional integrity and your values should always lead you. Be a real partner to the leadership team but not less to each and every other person in the company.
Don’t get stuck on paradigms and tools - really listen to what the organization and the people need and create the tools and processes to support them.
Connect to the business and the product. The company resonates with its product, its people. In order to be a true partner, it’s essential to care about the product and understand the roles and contributions of each and every person in the organization. As businesses scale, this can become more difficult. But I can’t stress enough how vital it is.
What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?
- Active listener and a true partner.
- Passionate about what I do
- Generalist (ability to wear many hats, be versatile)
What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work? What’s most challenging?
It’s rewarding when you get to the office, walk-in, and you feel that people are happy. You feel the vibe, you see the collaboration and know that people are proud to be part of that team.
Knowing that we supported one's growth, that I inspired someone and gave them tools to better deal with challenges. Knowing that the company treats its employees with honesty, fairness, and respect. As an employee in a startup, I meet many points of hard decisions. Hard decisions always involve people. Lead by those three values, it helps overcome the challenges.
In addition, another challenge that you can encounter in startups, especially those with hypergrowth like Tomorrow.io, is the tension between moving fast and getting it perfect. I learned that sometimes it’s more important to move fast and fix later. The only thing that I don’t compromise on is the people.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
Definitely the team we built at Tomorrow.io. Tomorrow.io is in hyper-growth and the market is so competitive. The fact that we hired almost 70% of our employees through referral tells a lot about the high engagement in the company and how passionate people here are about it.
Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?
I support two non-profit organizations that deal with unprivileged youth by performing managerial development courses, training on interview methods and tools, as well as leading team building workshops.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Spending time with my family! I have an 18 year old college kid and 3.5 year old twins! We love traveling and spending time together. I have to say it’s inspiring how kids can make a great adventure from everything out there reminding us about simplicity...
How do you manage stress?
I make lists. I break everything into small tasks and through that, I gain a feeling of control. And I go for a run :)
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
Zero! I don’t drink coffee.
What's one of your favorite places in the Boston/New York area?
Breakheart reservation is so close to home and you have this beautiful place that within an hour walk you have it all - A lake, playgrounds, amazing trees, dog-park, turtles, and a park. Every time we’re there it just feels like a new experience.
What advice do you have for recent college graduates?
It’s a never-ending journey, be humble and open for change. 20 years ago I never thought I’d find myself so fascinated by organizations and teams’ dynamics. I LOVE my job and I feel honored to do it. Just look at everything as an opportunity to build relationships.