How a war correspondent wound up working for Nokia Software

How a war correspondent wound up working for Nokia Software AP Correspondent Aron Heller before departing on the first-ever direct flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates on Aug. 31, 2020.

In 15 years as a Mideast correspondent for the Associated Press, I received countless e-mails from readers to the thousands of stories I’d written. Most complained, critiqued and even threatened. But I never encountered anything quite like the one that arrived on June 6, 2020.

Responding to a global roundup about those who’d lost their jobs to the coronavirus pandemic, this random reader reached out to ask about the Israeli computer programmer I had profiled. He stumbled on the article in his local newspaper in San Jose and said he found it interesting since he was in the “software business” and had R&D contacts in Israel.

“I am not sure if it is possible for you to connect me with Itamar Lev,” he wrote. “Either way, hoping he finds a solid job and we would be interested in talking to him.”

Only the e-mail signature revealed who this mystery man was: Bhaskar Gorti: President, Nokia Software and Chief Digital Officer.

It was incredibly refreshing to encounter a stranger who had reached out simply to empathize with the plight of someone who was struggling, and to extend a genuine gesture to help. We quickly developed a rapport and I was happy to play matchmaker.

It was only after making the connection that eventually secured Itamar Lev a software engineering job at Nokia that I stopped for a moment to think: “Hey, why not me?”

I’d been pondering a career change for a while. As much as I loved journalism, I was tired of the daily grind and curious about what else was out there after covering elections, wars and countless eruptions of regional violence, political drama and religious strife. I had reported on breaking news across a variety of disciplines ranging from business to terrorism, entertainment to sports, and had interviewed a bevy of world leaders, military chiefs and elderly Holocaust survivors.

But there was one field that was still largely out of my reach: technology. Despite being surrounded by people in Israel’s primary growth industry of high-tech, their world remained an enigma to me. It didn’t help that any time I inquired about what they did they’d struggle to explain, launching into an esoteric, acronym-filled description that only added to my confusion, and caused me to tune out.

It was a shame, since I figured that behind all that jargon there must be interesting stories that could resonate with outsiders like me. These people were changing the world, but I couldn’t understand it.

To my surprise, Bhaskar related to my frustration. My interest in deciphering the mystery of technology melded with his desire to communicate better what they did. And that’s how, a few months later, I improbably ended up at Nokia.​​​​​​​

It’s a wild story, one I think captures the power and reach of the news media, the enterprising initiative of a high-ranking tech executive and, to a larger degree, the shifting nature of both our industries.

Now, in my early days with the company, as I take my first baby steps into this ominous assortment of information, I’m on a journey of discovery of how to fulfil that mission of making technology more accessible to the masses, and how it can improve rather than hinder the world in which we live.

With technology becoming so central to every facet of our lives, we must understand and explain it better. I hope I can help.