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Sarah Levy Schreier: “There is always a reason to stay optimistic”

I believe in the freedom and autonomy of individuals and in emphasizing freedom of choice. People should have their own choice in all fields of life and specifically in managing their health. I find true alignment between my personal beliefs and the values through which Sight operates. Sight emphasizes the importance of patient centricity in […]

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I believe in the freedom and autonomy of individuals and in emphasizing freedom of choice. People should have their own choice in all fields of life and specifically in managing their health. I find true alignment between my personal beliefs and the values through which Sight operates. Sight emphasizes the importance of patient centricity in all that we do: people should own their own data, make decisions on where and when they go through diagnosis, and take a proactive role in leading their own care. Therefore, I am not looking to start a movement by other means at the moment; I am taking part in the changes I want to see in the world through my daily actions.


As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewingSarah Levy Schreier. Sarah joined Sight to build and lead its technology dream-team. She is responsible for all of Sight‘s R&D and Product teams as well as its medical-regulation and operational activities. Top of her class at the elite Talpiot program, Sarah gained her technology leadership experience during a brilliant military career, where she commanded elite cybersecurity teams and led projects in the intelligence special technology unit. Sarah holds an M.Sc. in Condensed Matter Physics from the Weizmann Institute of Science, and a B.Sc. in Physics & Mathematics (magna cum laude) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

When I was 18, I joined an elite military program in the IDF called “Talpiot.” It was a highly exclusive program training 40 cadets, selected from a pool of 5,000 candidates, to become technological leaders in the security sector. The Program includes a B.Sc. degree in Physics and Mathematics and wide-ranging military training. According to Forbes, “‘Serving in Talpiot’ is like having a Rhodes scholarship, a presidential fellowship, and a Harvard M.B.A. rolled into one.”

After 3.5 years I was recognized as the top of my Talpiot class and joined the special technological unit of the intelligence corps. I spent six years there, where I led complex and strategic projects involving a variety of technical disciplines and managed a cybersecurity department that employed some of Israel’s best software engineers.

I spent over 10 years in the IDF, and that’s where I developed my passion for leadership, my interest in solving hard and complex problems, and my aspiration to make a difference and work for a good cause. That’s also where I met some of the smartest people I know, who work with me today at Sight Diagnostics.

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

While I was interviewing for the CTO position, I was three months pregnant and had 2 young children at home. Yossi Pollak, the CEO of Sight, offered me the job but it was based in Jerusalem and I was in Tel Aviv. I told Yossi I couldn’t manage to relocate my whole family, so without hesitation, Yossi told me that he’d move the whole office to Tel Aviv instead. Yossi’s accommodation to meet my needs shows that good companies can only be built with good people. He believed in me and put his trust in me. I’ve taken this approach to hiring and career-building to heart and have embraced the spirit of investing in others at the company in the same way.

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

At the first few conferences I spoke at, I had mispronounced the word hemoglobin multiple times. Since hemoglobin is a common term used in blood diagnostics, and I led a blood diagnostics company, I felt embarrassed when I was told that I’d been saying it wrong the whole time. For me, this was a lesson of humility and a reminder to be open to feedback because there’s always something new to learn.

OK, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CTO that most attracted you to it?

While I was in the military, I learned that knowledge, will, and dedication turn the impossible into something possible. Through my military training and background, I gained a foundational knowledge of tech and operations, and learned to work with talented technicians and engineers and lead them to develop the will and dedication needed to fulfill challenging missions. This experience allows me to think two steps ahead in my current role, drive innovation for the company, and inspire others to do the same. What makes me most excited about being CTO is that I can make an impact through management, lead others to collaborate to solve big problems, and help them achieve their goals.

Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

The difference between executives and other leadership roles is a matter of ownership. As an executive, you own the company, the mission, the success, and the failures. You feel a personal responsibility for every step the company takes, for every employee, almost as if they were your own family. Running the company is your day to day mission.

What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?

I am deeply fulfilled and appreciative of the opportunity to shape the company according to my vision, values, and intuition. I love to inspire others and give them direction so that we’re all moving towards the same goals and accomplish the company’s mission together.

What are the downsides of being an executive?

As an executive, the weight of the company’s success is on your shoulders. If something goes wrong, there’s no one else to blame. If a change needs to happen, you need to be the first one to do it. It’s a personal price you have to pay, so that’s why the company’s mission has to be worth it — and at Sight, it is.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?

One of the myths I often hear is that executives can’t have a life or raise children, especially if you’re a woman. I like to think I’m living proof that puts that myth to rest because I have 3 kids at home that are happy and thriving. Having a family, personal life, and career all at once is possible — it’s just a matter of having priorities, boundaries, and good time-management skills.

Another myth is that you have to be good at politics, and even have to fight or manipulate others to get to the top. Rather, building a strong company culture where people want to work for you, does not have room for this kind of games or manipulative behavior. At Sight, it’s more important and valuable to maintain integrity, transparency, and a positive, hard-working attitude.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I have spent many years surrounded by male leaders and have come across many challenges related to gaining respect and appreciation in male-dominated environments. Oftentimes, people meet me in the office for the first time and immediately assume I am the secretary or a human resource manager, and that I’m probably reporting to the man next to me so they turn to him instead. These situations can be funny, embarrassing, or even inappropriate but, soon after, when the interaction becomes professional I don’t feel the gender issue plays a role anymore. I feel the main real challenge for women executives is about combining work with motherhood. As I said earlier, work becomes another family, and you need to run your two families side by side. Today, more than ever, I feel this is possible, especially when the company culture is one that respects the employees’ lives, families, and needs. So my advice is to make the most of your time off and focus on accomplishing goals and results rather than the hours that you’re putting in.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I didn’t know that working at a startup would feel like such a roller-coaster. I’ve spent six years at Sight, which is the longest I’ve stayed at a single company, and yet each day is different and exciting. I’ve learned to enjoy the ups and downs and even thrive off it.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I’d give the same advice to female and male leaders to thrive. Your success depends on the success of your team. It’s important to genuinely listen to others and implement feedback so that they feel heard. To ensure everyone is motivated in their work, you have to encourage and empower them with responsibility, trust, and positive reinforcement.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I owe a lot of my success to my parents. They raised me to believe that nothing can stop me from reaching the top. Gender never played a role.

Today, being a mother of three young children, I get lots of support and help, particularly from my mother. She does everything in her power to allow me to do my job, promote my career, and not let the fact I’m a mother slow me down.

I also learned a lot from my mentor in the army, who taught me to speak to others at their level and respect them for what they do, whether they were leaders or junior.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

In my role at Sight Diagnostics, I’ve been able to lead the R&D team in developing products that provide patients with access to accurate, convenient, and pain-free blood testing that delivers lab-grade results in minutes.

One of these products, Sight OLO, delivers Complete Blood Count (CBC), which is one of the most essential and ubiquitous tests that provide a picture of an individual’s health. Sight OLO is simple and easy to use, only requiring two drops of blood from a finger prick or venous sample. The blood is placed into a disposable test-kit cartridge, which is then captured by Sight’s computer vision technology, producing over 1,000 highly detailed images of the blood. These images are then analyzed by proprietary machine learning algorithms, to measure, classify, and count the different blood cells and identify abnormalities in the blood. Sight OLO is currently operating in hospitals and clinics across five continents to transform healthcare and improve the patient experience all over the world.

This year, we’ve deployed Sight OLO, in Sheba Hel Teleshomer, a world-renowned hospital, to help monitor the health of COVID-positive patients. We’ve also developed and validated a prototype to bring CBC to the homes of vulnerable patients to support companion diagnostics for treatment like chemotherapy. The company has recently raised 71M dollars in Series D funding to expand R&D in this area and scale our manufacturing to meet the need for this type of technology.

Previously, I also helped build and deploy Sight’s initial product, which was the world’s first automated microscopy device for Malaria diagnostics, dubbed Parasight. Malaria is still one of the world’s deadliest diseases, largely due to ineffective and costly diagnostics. To date, over one million tests have been sold to accurately and consistently diagnose Malaria in 24 countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Don’t let having a family stop you from pursuing your dreams.
  2. Don’t panic. Everything is possible, just do it one step at a time.
  3. Different people will be the right people for the different stages of the company.
  4. Think big.
  5. There is always a reason to stay optimistic.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I believe in the freedom and autonomy of individuals and in emphasizing freedom of choice. People should have their own choice in all fields of life and specifically in managing their health. I find true alignment between my personal beliefs and the values through which Sight operates. Sight emphasizes the importance of patient centricity in all that we do: people should own their own data, make decisions on where and when they go through diagnosis, and take a proactive role in leading their own care. Therefore, I am not looking to start a movement by other means at the moment; I am taking part in the changes I want to see in the world through my daily actions.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” ~ Mark Twain.

Throughout my career I faced (and sought out) complex challenges. When facing such large and intricate problems, the path ahead is not clear in advance. This may lead to negative reactions: frustration, confusion, and loss of morale.

What I have found to be the right approach is stated crisply in the quote above. Breaking the problem to something more palatable and then taking the first step, is what makes a difference.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


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