If Israel’s hi-tech arena wants to grow, it needs to get more people involved, said Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk, corporate vice president at Microsoft Corporation, who also serves as the general manager of its Israel-based R&D Center and CTO of Cloud & AI Security.
“We call ourselves the Start-up Nation, the hi-tech nation, but we are only 8% into hi-tech,” she said. “What we need to do as a nation is dramatically increase that number.”
She said that 15% of citizens should be in hi-tech, to truly make Israel an economic superpower.
Braverman-Blumenstyk is the first woman to head Microsoft’s Israel R&D center. She said the company is developing cyber products in Israel that are leading the Microsoft security product line, in addition to its usual efforts.
“Only last week, we announced that we will double the number of employees that we have in the R&D center in the next few years, and this is after we increased it by 40% since February 2020,” she said.
But she admitted it will be hard to do, because in Israel there is a lack of engineers and other hi-tech workers.
“That is why it should be a national mission to fix that – and we can,” Braverman-Blumenstyk stressed.
She suggested three ways to do so, the first being education. The second, she said, would be diversifying who enters the field.
“We really have to make sure that women, Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews – that everyone participates in hi-tech,” she said.
Her own company is planning to open up five new centers, including in Jerusalem and Beersheba, in order to engage Israelis living in the periphery, as well as these other sectors. Microsoft opened a center in an Arab village a few years ago and since then has increased the number of Arab workers it employs fourfold.
Finally, she said that it is time to bring Israeli scientists back home.
According to Braverman-Blumenstyk, there are 150,000 Israelis working in hi-tech abroad. If only 10% of them came back, that would infuse 15,000 people into the country’s hi-tech workforce.
“The Israeli hi-tech system is very unique; there is nothing like this in the world,” she said. “Hi-tech is the best thing that has ever happened to Israel.”