“Being a hero is all about being an example to others, someone who is inspiring…
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I come from a middle-class Israeli family, and I have three younger sisters. My dad is a businessman. My mom raised us and later went into child development. My dad has six brothers and sisters, and he was the first one to go to college. When I think about myself as a kid, I was never obsessed with any specific thing. I was fairly interested in everything, which definitely is the case now as an adult. I got really involved in the Israeli boy scouts, which helped to develop my project and people management skills at a young age. This was really helpful when I joined the military.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
I manage Maxwell House coffee and mainstream coffees, which means I’m in charge of how the brands are doing, present and future innovations, and ownership of profit & loss. One project I recently worked on was a partnership between Maxwell House and the award-winning Amazon show the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. We worked together to develop a Haggadah (a booklet used for the Jewish Passover) that would showcase both of our brands. It’s a great example of the mash-up of history and constant innovation that represents this iconic brand.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
In Israel, military service is mandatory, so it’s something that you share with the entire culture. I joined the technological unit for military intelligence. Ultimately I spent four years there, three as part of my mandatory service and then one additional year after that.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?
Although I can’t go into specific details, I can share that my team was preparing for a project for about 7–8 months. It was very high stakes; significant intelligence results were on the line as well as people’s lives. We had prepared for many different alternative scenarios that might happen. When our window of opportunity opened, we began deploying. When we were halfway into deploying, despite many hours of training, something happened that we did not expect. The situation in the war room was very tense. There were a few minutes of panic — nobody knew what to do, even though there were some very important and experienced people there. The person who ultimately came in with a solution was a junior person on my team. It was kind of a crazy idea, but it emanated from having a very intimate understanding of the situation. His solve worked, and our project was extremely successful. I took a few things away from this experience: 1) it’s very important to have a culture of people speaking up even (and perhaps especially) when the stakes are high, and 2) it’s important to have people intimately familiar with the work and good at their jobs, because no matter how much you train, you won’t be able to expect everything.
I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience?
To me, a hero is somebody who embodies the values that they live by. There was a team in the military that had an opportunity to gain lots of life-saving intelligence, but it was an incredibly difficult situation. It was the call of the team’s commander. Knowing the risks, he decided to go for it, and he paid a personal price for this. Being a hero is all about being an example to others, someone who is inspiring, and someone who thinks about themselves last.
Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?
Military experience is highly transferable. People leadership is key (as opposed to simple project management). Sometimes you must manage people who are older, some who are close friends, and you have to know how to get the best out of all different types of people. It has been a great benefit for me here at Kraft Heinz. Our rituals & routines help increase efficiency, but they also allow for a lot of autonomy. You own your business and your work. It’s very similar to my military experience, where you get a ton of responsibility early and learning often takes place on the job. Also, there is a directness to Kraft Heinz culture that is very similar to my military experience. The only difference is that the scope is much different. Here the work is intense and results do matter, but it’s not life or death like it is in the military. My military experience really helps to put things in perspective and allows me to keep cool when things are intense.
As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. Did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?
Honestly, I didn’t struggle after my deployment. I think it’s because in Israel everyone goes through the military. It’s a shared experience instead of a personal experience and I think that helps a lot for people transitioning back to civilian life.
What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
In the military, you are intensely involved in your people’s lives. You live and eat together, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You really get to know your people across each aspect of their lives. Maintaining that — knowing people across different aspects of their lives — is key to success. You have to know what they care about and how to develop them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been lucky to have mentors throughout different parts of my life. Each new opportunity, if it was successful, was because of that mentor. I keep in touch with all of them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A former Israeli Prime Minister once said, “we are at the peak of the beginning of the middle.” His point was that we’re always in a process.