How One Oleh is Helping to Transform the Way People Drink Water

Here is the extraordinary story of a marketing-genius Oleh who, already successful, saw his successes skyrocket in Israel.

How One Oleh is Helping (photo credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)
How One Oleh is Helping
(photo credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)
“There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs,” are the bold words plastered on SodaStream’s front entrance. It’s a Sunday morning, and the marketing department is buzzing.  Behind large glass windows, people huddle next to computer screens.  Multicolored SodaStream machines, ready to infuse flavored bubbles into any plain glass of water, line almost every ledge.
Barak Orenstein, a soft-spoken 36-year-old, is fully immersed in his work, several open binders strewn across his desk. He’s only been in Israel for eight months, and yet, as SodaStream’s Global Brand Building Communications Manager, he’s already helped create “Water Made Exciting,” SodaStream’s repositioning brand. In the coming months, he’ll be launching a worldwide major ad campaign.
With its strip malls and huge parking lots, SodaStream’s Airport City base may look like anytown, North America. But for Barak, the high-paced Israeli startup culture makes SodaStream vastly different from the Canadian work culture of Barak’s past. But, this was exactly the change that Barak was seeking.  He turned down jobs in New York and Paris in order to make his mark in Israel.
An Israeli Success Story in Canada
Born to Israeli parents in Winnipeg, Barak may have grown up 6,000 miles from Israel, but his childhood was filled with Hebrew, Israeli music, Israeli food, and biannual trips to Israel. After graduating from the University of Winnipeg, Barak headed to Israel for two internships at e-commerce companies.
“I’ve always had this pull to Israel, and I wanted to explore my roots and get a taste of the ‘Start-up Nation,’” said Barak.  “The dot coms were booming in Israel, and I was able to gain fantastic experience in my field.”
Barak returned to business school, and began his career at L’Oreal, where he learned the nuts-and-bolts of marketing luxury and mass products. From there, he entered the world of beverages, and quickly rose the ranks, working on brand strategy for Absolut Vodka, Badoit Sparkling Water, and Evian Natural Spring Water.  At Evian, Barak helped launched the Roller Babies’ viral video, which won a Guinness World Record for most viral video ad of all time. 
Barak Meets Michelle, Israeli-style
Professionally, Barak was at the height of his career.  But, personally, Barak wanted to settle down.  At the suggestion of his brother, a rabbi in Toronto, Barak joined Jdate, and soon after, he met Michelle.  
Michelle was also an Israeli who had grown up in Canada, and the two spent their first date eating hummus and playing matcot [Israeli paddleball]. They married in 2012 and Michelle gave birth to their daughter, Eden, in 2013. 
“We always shared a love of Israel, but we were intent on building a life in Toronto,” said Barak. “Then, after Eden was born, we started to think, what kind of childhood did we want her to have? We realized that we wanted her to be exposed to the Jewish holidays and speak Hebrew and enjoy the things about Israel that we’d only experienced from afar.”  Having grown up hearing his name mispronounced, Barak also wanted to be in a place where his daughter’s name would no longer be mangled.
Barak began looking into job opportunities in Israel, sending his resume to Nefesh B’Nefesh’s employment department and Israeli recruiters.  He landed a series of Skype interviews for a marketing position at SodaStream. While on vacation with his family in Orlando, Barak learned that he’d nabbed the job.
“We jumped for joy because we knew that it was going to be a life-changing experience for the three of us,” said Barak. “It was going to change the trajectory of our lives.” Two months later, the family of three touched down in Israel and settled into their new home in Kiryat Ono.  

Acclimating to Work Amidst War
Only a week after landing in Israel, Barak started working at SodaStream.  A day later,  Operation Protective Edge broke out. Barak soon adapted to running to SodaStream’s bomb shelters, checking in with Michelle and then returning to his office.
“Huddling with my co-workers really made me feel like we didn’t just share professional goals--we were all in this together as Jews,” said Barak.  
Barak’s team always quickly transitioned back to work.  “SodaStream is creating a revolution in the beverage industry, and everyone has always been very focused on making a difference,” said Barak.
The atmosphere at SodaStream was full of energy, and Barak quickly adjusted to people bursting into his door with ideas and listening to his co-workers’ extremely honest opinions.  “I’ve learned a lot about business courage--how to take risks, make rapid-fire decisions and voice my convictions without hesitation,” said Barak. “SodaStream is like a huge playground. We get to have fun, try new things, be creative, and bring things to life.”
The company knows how to let loose, too. Since arriving at SodaStream, Barak has attended a SodaStream movie night, celebrated their new factory’s opening in Lehavim and observed Chanukah by sharing songs and sufganiot with local school children.  
Barak believes that SodaStream is a worldwide success story. “Irrespective of race, religion and background, people love our products,” said Barak. “We are changing the way people drink water and helping people live healthier lives.”
Bubbling with Excitement
Now almost a year in Israel, the Orenstein’s life has entered into a sweet routine.  Michelle works with children with autism, and Eden returns home each day from her gan singing Hebrew songs.  When not working, the Orensteins explore Israel, visit Barak’s parents in Ashkelon, and take Eden to the Ramat Gan Safari.  Barak especially treasures Shabbat in Israel.  “It’s a pure family day, when we can just enjoy the peace and quiet that descends on Israel,” said Barak. The couple is also expecting their second child, due in September.
When Barak decided to move to Israel and leave the security of his past professional life, people told him he was crazy. But, with talent and determination, Barak was able to find a position that not only advanced his career, but added meaning to his life.
“But there’s nothing like being able to work for an Israeli born and bred company--and make a difference,” he said. “There’s no where else we’d rather be.  We’re just bubbling with excitement — both in work and in life.”