At age 10, LinkedIn Chief Product Officer Tomer Cohen was already writing computer programs in BASIC, a programming language created in the 1960s and still popular in the 1980s.
Born and raised in the city of Beer Sheba, Cohen represents the embodiment of the Israeli dream: his parents immigrated to the country from Tunisia, endured the hardship of the ma’abarot (transit camps) and started working at a very young age to support their families in their new life. Yet, as Cohen told the Israeli daily Haaretz in 2020, the example they set and their love for education were crucial to inspire him to pursue his goals.
"I dreamed of being a tech entrepreneur from a very young age, and as a boy I was always looking to create and to build solutions for people's needs,” he recalled. “As I grew older, I realized that technological revolutions are an inseparable part of social and cultural evolutions."
'A community of professionals'
Fast forward some 30 years, in June 2020, the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Cohen was appointed to his current position at LinkedIn, making him was of the most senior Israeli tech executives in the Silicon Valley company, reporting directly to the company’s CEO and overseeing thousands of employees.
“As the chief product officer, I am responsible for everything we build,” he recently explained on the “Decoder” podcast by the technology-focused news website The Verge. “It starts with setting the product strategy for the company, to then overseeing the teams building it. That includes the product leaders on my team who are leading specific areas, the design team, the business development team, the news and editorial team and then our content production teams as a whole.”
Cohen moved to California some 15 years ago to attend an MBA at Stanford, after serving in an intelligence unit in the IDF, taking a year-long trip to Latin America and South-East Asia and working as a programmer while he was earning a Bachelor’s Degree at Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheba.
“I remember my first real interaction learning about LinkedIn when I came to the Valley in 2008,” he said on Decoder. “I went to a lecture about social networks at the Stanford engineering school, and all the buzz was about time spent on the internet and traffic. The founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, was on stage, and he talked about how LinkedIn exists so people can reach out to professional communities and get their jobs done, whether that’s accelerating their career, partnering, fundraising, or getting a job.”
“That’s the reason we exist,” he added. “LinkedIn, at its core, is a community of professionals who come together to share ideas and expertise, but also to get and give help to each other.”
'Still connected to Israel'
While the Silicon Valley has become his home, Cohen is still very connected to Israel, as his Twitter feed - where updates about LinkedIn alternate with posts about the Jewish state - shows.
Recently, he also decided to invest in an Israeli start-up, Broadcust, which offers new automated marketing solutions for medium and small businesses.
Tomer Cohen will be at the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on June 5. Get tickets.