ADDED VALUE – Interview with Mark Ellins, veteran volunteer and mentor

By Larry Luxner

When multinational executive Mark Ellins — who runs the newly created High-Tech, Sales and Marketing alumni group within Gvahim — made aliyah back in 1983, he wasn’t serious about life in the least.

“I was a typical 18-year-old Jewish boy coming to play in Israel, work on a kibbutz and join the army,” he told us recently. “When I changed my status to ‘new immigrant, people said ‘Kol hakavod lecha.’ They were so impressed. In those days, it was a bigger deal than today. I have a picture taken with Yitzhak Rabin where he’s laughing at me, asking what the hell a Jewish boy from Beverly Hills is doing here. Even my friends on Facebook still laugh at me.”

But it wasn’t all about partying and getting lucky with girls. For the young Ellins, Israel was a bonanza professionally as well.

“I had a Forrest Gump kind of experience, where sometimes luck just landed on me,” he told us. “I was pulled into sales while studying at Bar-Ilan University. I thought high-tech was very interesting, so I started as a local salesman. In 1993, a company that imported software said ‘you should join us.’ That company turned out to be Microsoft.”

By the late ‘90s, Ellins saw how rapidly telecom was growing and wanted to get in on the ground floor.

“I just fell into these things that helped propel my career and enjoy the high-tech boom. It was a fun ride,” he said, recalling how he joined Efrat — which eventually morphed into Comverse Technology — and lived in Tokyo for two and a half years, enjoying first-class plane travel and luxury hotels. That high-flying lifestyle lasted all the way — all the way up to the dot-com crash of 2003; the financial crisis of 2008 finished it off.

Today, he said sadly, “there is no more Comverse. It was a billion-dollar company with one billion dollars in the bank. They lost it all.”

Ellins, 52, lives in Givat Shmuel — a small community near Petah Tikva — and heads sales and marketing for Brame Technologies. He’s been involved with Gvahim since 2008. And thanks to his rich and varied past, he knows what it’s like to start from scratch.

“As an oleh chadash, I had a great experience,” he said. “So I want to give back to olim, because I understand their frustrations. The market has been good to me, but it’s also slapped me in the face more than once or twice.”

The group Ellins manages for Gvahim has just over 1,300 members on its Facebook page. He’s also mentored at least a dozen Gvahim alumni who later landed high-tech sales and marketing jobs at major companies like HP, Amdocs and Arrow Computers.

“People would come to me even if I wasn’t a mentor,” he said. “I don’t do it to be remembered, but some of them have stayed my friends to this day.”

Since 2010, Ellins has specialized in the military and avionics computer electronics market. As such, he has some advice for new immigrants to Israel.

“Right now in sales, if you’re in a junior position, you should be looking at software as a service (SaaS),” he said. “And anyone with B2B experience should be looking into cybersecurity, homeland security products and project-based systems, but the defense industry is very, very difficult for an oleh chadash to penetrate. They will usually take an Israeli with an army rank, for example, a colonel.”

One more piece of advice from Ellins: “The market is looking for specific experience. You must fit the profile 100 percent. You can’t be just a good salesman and think you’ll be adaptable to every sector. That was back in the old days. Today, people must offer specific value.”