Alumni Stories

Rachel Brender-Ziv

Rachel Brender-Ziv
 Class of 2014
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Founder of Pitaya

My name is Rachel Brender-Ziv and I'm an Alumna of the Sofaer MBA class of 2014. The MBA gave me the tools to leverage my skillset and work experience with a fresh perspective in the international business world.  Since graduating the Sofaer MBA, I held a strategic business development role at Microsoft, and most recently I've co-founded a new company called Pitaya.  

Before I joined the Sofaer MBA program, I worked primarily in business development roles in B2B companies in Tel Aviv, and in London,.  I found my niche in the hi-tech field of fast paced sales and value-driven products.  Part of my role as a sales and business developer, was to interface with high powered executives spanning all C-level roles in companies, from low-tech to hi-tech to public sector. I thrived in that environment, because I could constantly learn about problems and opportunities in a variety of fields!  It was really exciting, but I felt that I lacked some fundamental tools to get myself on the same playing field as the C-level executives, rather than swooping in to simply sell them a tool.  

Enter the Sofaer MBA.  I took a strategic decision to leave London and return to Israel in order to pursue my MBA.  With the support of my boyfriend (now husband) and my family in America, I took a year off from my career and focused on the core subjects of the MBA with the rest of my international class.  I learned from the experiences shared in the classroom, and through our many group assignments I gained new skills and knowledge in finance and economics, topics I had barely touched on before.  I graduated the program in 2014 with confidence, as a well-rounded international business woman.

The day after my graduation I began working in a strategic channel position at Microsoft.  My role was to manage a partner sales channel for a suite of business products in Israel, totaling over $10M in sales.  The role was a challenge in both its depth and horizontal reach, as I had to compete in a fragmented market and build value for customers ranging from charities to small businesses to major enterprise accounts, while simultaneously balancing the budget for marketing and trainings of business partners.  My MBA factored in immensely when I look back on my ability to thrive in the role.  I studied customer’s public financial statements to understand their strategies, I directed marketing dollars for the greatest ROI, and I stood on an even playing field with CEO’s and CIO’s on a weekly basis. 

But through my years working in hi-tech, I began to see a clear trend that nagged at me every time I stepped through a new customer’s door.  Companies with incredible products and services were fighting tooth and nail for top talent, and struggling to invest in their people in a way that mattered to them.  The process for providing employees a truly enriching environment to grow, was fragmented and not streamlined.  I saw this problem over and over again, from both a macro and micro level- until I realized that it wasn’t a problem, but an opportunity I knew how to solve.   

I left Microsoft in early 2016 to begin working on a company of my own, known as Pitaya.  Pitaya is a digital platform  where hi-tech companies can discover and book providers in order to enrich their workers’ experiences through content or activities.  These suppliers run activities from hands-on skills workshops, to team off-sites, and the list goes on.  We vet each and every provider to make sure what they’re offering is high quality and will serve a strategic purpose for the employee’s holistic work experiences.

I co-founded Pitaya with an incredible partner, Alexis Ostrobrod, and together we have built our venture from the ground up.  Alexis and I are big advocates of workplaces that are enriching and fulfilling for employees.  We’ve seen incredible companies who have holistic patterns of employee investment and their output is dramatically stronger than competing companies with a lack of this culture.

With Pitaya, we’re democratizing the “awesome place to work” experience.  Corporations with tight constraints have so many external priorities, that the beating heart of their organization (their people) can often be misaligned.  Pitaya makes it simple to invest in the employee’s learning, their communication, and their sense of team unity.

I wouldn’t have been able to capture the essence of the market, or perhaps wouldn’t have been able to execute this dream, had it not been for all I experienced until today.   

The Sofaer MBA was a major part of the lessons learned and I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to be part of it. 


 

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