Natali Tshuva of Sternum: “Build a team that shares your vision”

Build a team that shares your vision — Don’t surround yourself with clones of you, but make sure that the people around you helping you to achieve something, are people who share the same values and/or vision. Personalities can be and should be diverse for sure, but the vision should be in unison. As part of my series […]

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Build a team that shares your vision— Don’t surround yourself with clones of you, but make sure that the people around you helping you to achieve something, are people who share the same values and/or vision. Personalities can be and should be diverse for sure, but the vision should be in unison.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Natali Tshuva.

Natali brings with her over 10 years of experience, both as a researcher and a team leader, in the field of cyber security and software development. After graduating magna cum laude B.Sc. in Computer Science at the age of 19 from Bar Ilan University, as part of a special program for gifted and talented kids, Natali was hand picked to serve in the IDF’s 8200 elite technology unit (the Israeli equivalent of NSA) as a security software engineer.

Prior to founding Sternum, Natali held several cybersecurity related roles, including leading numerous R&D teams for two global cyber intelligence market leaders.

Having identified critical gaps in the IoT security market with life-saving consequences, Natali now leads all aspects of Sternum’s vision and mission execution, both technologically and commercially. Overcoming both technological and market barriers in the IoT cybersecurity space, Sternum now partners with top global companies across different industries.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

Well, I grew up in Rishon LeTsiyon, a city in the center of Israel, about eight kilometers south of Tel Aviv. I’m the youngest of five, with four older brothers in a very entrepreneurial family (my father started his own business at a very young age and built a successful company). So as you can imagine, I learned not to shy away from challenges easily. I played competitive basketball and handball for a while, it was quite the active upbringing to say the least, (but with four brothers, anything else would have been weird). I also really liked understanding how things work and kept asking “why”, until reaching the underlying causes. When the opportunity came to combine high-school studies with BSc. in Computer Science, as part of a special program for talented kids, I was eager to learn more and take on the challenge.

After graduating magna cum laude BSc. in Computer Science at the age of 19, I was hand picked to serve in the IDF’s 8200 elite technology unit (the Israeli equivalent of NSA), as a security software engineer with cybersecurity special expertise.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Studying advanced mathematics had quite a profound effect on me, I’d always approached problems, equations, and challenges in a certain way, but engaging in such complex theory and advanced problem-solving completely opened my mind up to how solutions can be found. I slowly began understanding why, as George Polya said, “it’s better to solve one problem five different ways than to solve five problems one way.” I think that embracing this kind of analytic thinking at a very young age really helped shape my thinking.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

“Making a difference” falls into a pretty large spectrum. For me, influencing one person could be just as significant as bringing disruptive and impactful technology into the world. So, “Making A Difference” for me means to understand what it is that you can do better than anyone else, and to leverage that to achieve results. I think by identifying these particular strengths that (almost) only you possess will create the most significant, unique difference. Sometimes, the challenge is to identify those unique traits you should focus on leveraging.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

Despite the pandemic, the world is currently experiencing some tectonic changes — one of those being the connected revolution. Today the world is becoming hyper connected, the number of connected IoT devices are increasing by the minute. Fifty billion devices are expected to be connected by the end of 2021, meaning that the Internet of things (IoT) will have a major role to play in the coming decades. IoT devices are going to play a major role in our power grids, railways, smart cities, and even our own medical treatments. That, in my humble opinion, is the next most important revolution coming. This revolution needs to be secure, and it must be intelligent. That’s the impact we’re making, and the change we are bringing to this industry — securing devices from the deepest layers to protect life-related implications, and making sure we have controls to collect the high volume of data from all these connected devices and gain insights for future developments — be it medical treatments or better energy consumption.

I’m really passionate about this connected revolution, since it will affect every part of our lives.

Because more devices will be connected in the future, devices performing life-critical operations, or executing significant transactions, must be legitimately protected and secured. One of the things that also really drives me is how, over time, we can absorb IoT data in order to gain really valuable insights into what the data means, or how it could be utilized moving forward.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

When I was a kid, I always dreamed of becoming a doctor, feeling that this was the best way to truly touch people’s lives. While that dream always stuck with me, I also found computer science and cybersecurity incredibly interesting. I decided first to pursue cybersecurity, studying and working extensively in the field. After a long and very interesting career, I eventually reached a crossroads. I knew I wanted to do something impactful — I just needed to find the best way to do so.

That childhood dream of mine to become a doctor stayed with me, but it was time to decide: Should I continue on the already successful path or switch focus completely and enter medical school? I battled with this question for a while, using my favorite method to find the answers — to experience and collect as many data points as possible. As part of this journey I realized how remote care, or therapeutic medical devices are improving and saving people’s lives, and how it is going to be much more significant in the future. This is where I also researched and realized how they are lacking the proper security and data controls to protect and enhance them. I knew I could do something about that. The realization that through my unique expertise I could make a real impact on varied industries, including the medical industry, was what led me to pursue Sternum vision.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

To be honest, I’ve not always been the biggest believer in Eureka moments. Part of who I am includes not being afraid of challenges if solving them means true impact, and if I carry with me a true belief that I will impact or create something, which was the case with cybersecurity and data-based insights for the IoT revolution, then I will fully invest myself. There was no real Aha moment, after we validated the product, the need, and the impact, this was the moment when it became clear to me it would be with pursuing.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

Firstly, make sure you have a deep passion and knowledge of the space you want to explore, it’s going to be a long journey and passion will keep you resilient while your expertise will make the difference. Secondly, and I can’t stress this enough, you need to validate. Validate the market, validate the need for your solution, and validate what sets your product apart from the rest of the industry. It was only from a place of deep cybersecurity knowledge and research that I knew full well we had a real product on our hands. Finally, build a team around you that is passionate and would like to go all the way with you on the journey.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I remember when we were just starting out, it was clear that there existed a huge need for our product. Yet, it seemed investors remained worried that in certain, more conservative and highly regulated industries such as the medical sector, there might be too much hesitation in using a start-up company’s product to protect devices. One of the investors even shared concerns that we were not only trying to climb a mountain, we were tackling Everest. He eventually didn’t invest yet that didn’t stop us from getting to the summit.. This perception of punching above our weight hasn’t stopped us from pursuing industries considered too lofty for startups. We’ve since provided real-time protection and observability to hundreds of thousands of medical devices, including those of the world’s largest medical device manufacturer — Medtronic. Looking back, I’m glad we didn’t back off from these challenges.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

We rented an office with only one restroom cubicle when we were just starting out. I don’t need to paint the scenario out for you here; just imagine the problems we had. Logistics is important in business, and sometimes a lack of preparedness can leave you dealing with the strangest of circumstances.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

I have many talented and experienced friends who I’ve consulted with throughout the years, though I’m very careful from who I take advice from. One of my mentors, Professor Gabi Barbash, provided me with profound advice at the beginning of my journey. Before I started Sternum, I was seriously considering changing direction and becoming a doctor, so I consulted Gabi, who besides being a doctor himself, was the CEO of one of the biggest hospitals in Israel. I explained how becoming a doctor was my dream, but that I had already established a prominent career in the cybersecurity and computer science space. Gabi heard me and asked about my motives. Then he delivered his advice.

He said, “You have a talent, and with it you could be a great doctor, just like you’re a great technologist; however, you are ALREADY great at what you do. Take that and use it to make an impact on other industries including the medical one.” He added, “Don’t waste any more years becoming the best in a new field when you already established yourself as the best in another.”

This was a very important insight, which gave me that extra push to co-found Sternum and make an impact on the medical industry through my existing unique skill set.

Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Imagine a hacker attacks the implanted pacemaker of one of your loved ones. You won’t be satisfied with anything less than an urgent alert and immediate protection, right?

That’s our main motivation in bringing embedded real time protection to a life-dependent device. Instead of mentioning a specific person, think about the hundreds thousands of devices people are using every day that are already monitored and protected with our technology.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Well, the IoT space remains generally unregulated in comparison to how fast technology is developing. For protection to be real, we need to establish standardised approaches to what exactly constitutes protection, there needs to be a raising of the bar for how these devices can be protected, and regulations or laws enabling that. We recently saw in the automotive industry, government legislation regarding the standards of software quality and safety required by manufacturers was passed by congress. These sorts of moves need to be duplicated in the IoT space, which is maturing quickly and being more widely deployed. I’d also like to see more of an industry push to incentivise device manufacturers to roll-out devices with functionality for protection and monitoring, as they have the full ability to implement that compared to the end-user.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).

Focus — Sometimes, you can picture lots of things you can do best, are needed, and are going to be a huge success. Unfortunately, the resources available usually don’t support that at the time, especially if you are a creative person with a big vision. Stay focused and map your goals and plans into a timeline. Don’t worry yourself, you can achieve everything, you just need to retain patience and focus.

Build a team that shares your vision— Don’t surround yourself with clones of you, but make sure that the people around you helping you to achieve something, are people who share the same values and/or vision. Personalities can be and should be diverse for sure, but the vision should be in unison.

Trust yourself— It sounds cliche, but there’s a lot of value in ignoring the noise around you. The last thing you should surrender is your own judgement and instinct.

Expect speed bumps ahead— With so many external factors out of your control, things never go exactly as you planned, even if you’ve done everything perfectly upto that point.

You can’t always be as prepared as you would have liked — As Ben Horvitz said, “The only way to learn how to be a CEO is to be a CEO.”

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Well, I believe that it is simply the most satisfying and meaningful thing you can do with your life.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d probably have to go J.K. Rowling. What she was able to create is true magic.

How can our readers follow you online?





This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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