LIFE AT AN ISRAELI STARTUP

BY MATTHEW LEWIS, GVAHIM ALUMNUS AND CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

life at a startup

Emigrating is a colossal task. Moving to a new home, learning a new language, moving banks, registering with a new government, even just fitting in. It’s a daunting experience, and I have an even higher respect for those moving with children. Arguably the most important task is to find a new career. When it comes to finding a new job, there are two kinds of people.

The first sees the whole process as a negative experience. They feel sure that this will be bad for their long-term prospects. They blame the people around them for the way they feel. They fall into a vicious circle of negativity and victimization.

The second kind of immigrant sees things very differently. They see this move as a chance to make a change in their life. It’s a chance to learn new things, establish new routines and meet new people. It’s also a chance to take their career in a new direction; a chance that most people never get.

Israel is a great country for making this change. It’s true that its economy is focused primarily on hi-tech and software. It’s also true that it may feel difficult to repackage yourself into the industry if you have little or no prior experience, but it’s far from impossible for many reasons.

1. Israel’s hi-tech industry is growing at an unprecedented rate.

2. Israel’s hi-tech industry has an acute shortage of employees.

3. Israelis are great at helping new immigrants. Please don’t take my word for it. Try reaching out to a few > Israelis on LinkedIn, tell them that you are a new immigrant and need advice with X, Y, and Z. You’ll get a helpful and friendly response unlike in any other country.

4. You are not the first to immigrate to Israel. Recruiters aren’t shy about looking at people’s transferable skills, especially if you’re willing to take a temporary step backward in your career.

Once you arrive, a Gvahim Career Program will definitely help you with the advice, CV and LinkedIn, career mentor, and contacts to get you set up.

In Israel, You will find many options in front of you: customer-facing jobs, technical jobs, recruiting, project management, and business strategy. You could work for one of the large corporate companies, like Microsoft, Intel, PWC, or Interexchange, or you could work at a small startup.

Many choose the startup route. It sounds fun, exciting, risky, and attractive. Few, though, know what joining a startup really means.

What is it like to work for a Startup?

To answer this question, I interviewed Gvahim members from a range of experiences within Israel: from corporate employees to startup addicts and entrepreneurs.

Daily Routine

As you can expect, working for a large corporate company offers a much more stable routine. Sure, you might stay at work late here and there, depending on your responsibilities and specific deadlines,[1] but overall you can expect the same daily timetable, you can plan holidays in advance, and take part in more hobbies. This is the career recommended for people that don’t seek adventure in their career.

On the other hand, a small startup will require more commitment. Later nights, unexpected calls at difficult times, canceling plans with friends and family, and a layer of uncertainty. Is this better or worse than a steady routine? That depends on what you want. Many people find satisfaction in the feeling that they are building something, contributing, responsible for a project, and needed by an organization. They accept the fact that this will eat into their personal lives from time to time.

Job Description

Generally speaking, when a large corporate company recruits someone, they want to fulfill a particular role. It’s possible that you’ll have to cover for a colleague or that you will work on a project here and there completely unrelated to your job description. But generally speaking, your role will be unidimensional. This is good news if you don’t like a stressful career, but many find it monotonous. In a small startup, you can expect to be talking to customers one hour, working on technical tasks the next, and then learning a whole new skill the next day that has nothing to do with your career up to that point. This multitasking is stimulating for some and stressful for others but has a huge impact on your development in the long run. More importantly, many employees find this way of working more satisfying, as it means you have a larger impact on the business.

Reputation, future career, and CV

Here’s a great question: Which is better for your CV: Startup experience or Corporate experience?

It’s a question that’s hard to answer because it depends on your future recruiter more than on you. Some recruiters find startup experience to be interesting and attractive. Others believe that experience from a larger corporation is more reputable and more easily verified than any startup experience on your CV. There is no right answer. I believe it’s important to make your career decisions out of personal interest, salary, and company culture, and not out of future career planning. The best stories I have encountered involve people who almost accidentally went from one job to the next, and never from people who sat down and planned out their careers year to year. Premeditated careers rarely go as planned.

Benefits

As Nadia points out in her interview:

“The salary is not the most important aspect of a job. You need to look at the entire compensation package and consider the feeling that you are part of something really revolutionary, and there may be a successful exit as well.”

Working for a Startup could lead to a huge compensation at some point, but it could also lead to a dead end. There are many stories of startups failing slowly and not paying their employees. That’s a risk you need to choose on your own.

In a nutshell

Each company is different. It’s hard to split the two as easily as I’d like to in this article.
That said, as a general rule, in a startup, you can expect more of a roller coaster, with its risks, mental exhaustion, and uncertainty in both salary and future career. Is this the right choice? It depends completely on you.

If you see a position you like in a company that looks like your kind of place and offers a salary you’re happy with, go for it, regardless of whether people call it a startup. We’ve all heard horror stories from both the corporate world and from startups. We all also know people with fantastic careers in both sectors as well.  The choice is yours.  Choose what is best for you.

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[1] Certain studies strongly indicate that extra workload doesn’t equal less happiness. People that work late and hard because they feel responsible for the project, valuable to the company, and irreplaceable are much happier than those that don’t feel this way that work fewer hours.