“So You Want To Work In Israel?”
To cap a semester filled with great events and educational seminars, The Tamid Group had its final event on Wednesday night, December 16th. Ezra Kapetansky, NYC and International Regional Director at Tamid Group, moderated a panel of two Israeli startup executives, Jack Gottesman and Lior Vaknin.
Jack Gottesman was originally from Chicago, Illinois and made Aliyah in 2007 after spending two years in Yeshiva. He graduated from Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC) with a degree in communications and media studies. Jack is currently the director of marketing and customer development at Umoove, an up and coming software startup recently featured on Forbes’ Top Sixteen Israeli Startup Watch, that developed a mobile app that is able to track both your face and eye movement from any mobile device. Jack discussed how making Aliyah before college definitely helped him acclimate to Israeli business culture, but believes that there are endless possibilities to make it in Israel. However, he noted that “the earlier you can get to Israel, the higher the chances that you will find a way to be successful.”
Lior Vaknin was born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel, was a Paratrooper in the Israeli army, and recently moved to the U.S. to start his organization, Israeli Startups NYC. His organization is the largest active Israeli-American tech community in New York City that helps entrepreneurs, startups, investors, and local partners network and successfully collaborate. He described how as Americans we have a great language benefit. Speaking from his past experience of working with Israelis he explained that “Israelis, no matter how hard they work on their accents, will always sound like Israelis. For sales and business development positions, you will always have an advantage.”
The panel also answered a question that many have, which is how the salaries in America compare to those in Israel. Jack made it very clear that you won’t make nearly as much money as you will in the U.S. “In most entry level jobs in Israel you’ll be making between 8,000 to 10,000 shekels a month. In dollar amounts, that is just scraping about $27,000 a year,” he said. However, as Leor pointed out, “You just need to put in perspective. The salaries may be lower in Israel, but the cost of living is also significantly lower. You can do much more with less money.”
“What about the army?” Ezra asked the panel. He continued, “even though the new law allows new Olim over the age of 21 to be exempt from army service, how does one build a network if they don’t go to the army? Is it worth it to volunteer anyway?” Leor was quick to respond that as much as the army is an experience that can shape your character and give you skills that would be applicable in all areas of your life, Israelis don’t look at Americans any different for not doing the army. Jack, on the other hand, regretted not doing the army. He felt that the army is an easy connection and can help foster relations with anyone. He said that “if you show up to work on the first day and don’t have any way to relate to the Israeli office, the army is a great way to connect. It is a basic conversation starter. ‘Oh, you were in this unit? My cousin, uncle, nephew, etc. were in this unit!’ The army is good for networking and culturally to understand how the country works.” He notes however, that he was able to do it without the army, you will just need to work harder to network.
Offering their advice on moving to Israel, Jack made it very clear that you have to understand the true ramifications of making Aliyah. He told the audience that “Aliyah is an amazing thing, but it has definitely been commercialized into this fantasy that people forget that Israel is a struggle.” “It’s a real life over there” he said. “For all the amazing startups that you hear about, there are hundreds more flops and failures.” His tip for success is that one should both “work hard and network hard. People respect that.” Lior seemed to take another route. He told the audience to “just go.” He described that while we are still young and have nothing to lose, now is the perfect opportunity to try our lives in Israel. “You will fail,” he said somberly. “And many times after that. You will think this is the worst thing in the world, you’ll call your parents [to tell them] how you made a huge mistake. But a few weeks, months will go by and you will make it work. If you go out there and try, you can make your dream happen.”
Although starting from very different positions, both Jack and Lior agreed that if you want to work for a startup, especially in Israel, you need to believe in what you are doing. “Working in a startup isn’t a 9-5 job” noted Jack. “You will be answering emails at 1:00am, and that is tough, but if you work for a company that you find to be meaningful, you will feel that you are building something- you are investing in yourself.”
Jake Schrier, an Economics Major at Yeshiva College, described the event as a “real dose of reality. There were moments that seemed discouraging as you come to realize that the dream of Aliyah isn’t such an easy transition, but overall I feel more ready and prepared to take the next step in creating my career in Israel,” he told The Commentator. The event was a huge success, enlightening those hoping to gain from the panel’s wisdom and experience, so that one day they too can take the steps to create successful careers in Israel. The panel characterized the journey ahead as one filled with many twists and turns, but one thing is clear: with hard work and devotion, you will find your way to be successful in Israel. As Jack Gottesman said so clearly, “There are so many different ways to make your career a success, you just need to make yours happen.”