Do It With Passion or Don’t Do It at All

“In Israel, no matter if you are rich or poor, young or old, male or a female, if you have a PhD or you dropped out of school at 16, it seems that if you have the passion — you have an equal chance of becoming successful.” — Inna Braverman, Co-Founder and Marketing Director, Eco Wave Power

Not long ago, I became familiar with this phenomenon known as the Israeli business ecosystem. Though a native Israeli, I grew up in the US and spent most of my career in global markets, operating within the American business culture. All I knew about my home country was that it had its own special magic and when I heard anything said about Israel in any discussion I had the internal need to passionately advocate for it. It’s like when you hear someone talking about your mother: you can say anything you want about her, but hearing one word against her from an outsider and you’ll be her biggest supporter.

It took me years to understand where this passion came from. Today I know it comes from the culture that pushes you to be your best self, even when you’re tired and want to take a break or give up. It’s the mindset that doesn’t allow you to sit still, that impels you to take care of your colleagues, and even your competition at times, because if we don’t take care of one another, who will? It’s the Israeli business culture magic that you might never notice if you don’t take a step back to acknowledge it and gain some perspective.

Teva Pharmaceuticals Masa
Me (center) with Masa Israel’s Career Services Delegation at Teva Pharmaceuticals headquarters in Jerusalem, after meeting Teva staff and Masa interns, November 13, 2016.

As Inna puts it, “the most dominant aspect of Israeli culture is most people believe that they can do everything, and that there are no limits to their passion.”

Masa Israel Journey and I are like a whirlwind love affair. It just happened. Overnight.

I saw it and knew it must be mine — this is the place that would allow me to put my passion to work. I was presented with the opportunity to not only help young adults develop their careers and take the world by storm, but also to make my country part of their success stories At the time, I was working in the private sector and told Ido Aharoni, then-Consul General of Israel to New York, a dear friend and exemplary speaker, about the opportunity with Masa. The reaction I got was “you’re crazy to leave the private sector for a nonprofit.” I responded, “Well, we Israelis don’t know any other way than to follow where our passion leads.”

While familiarizing myself with Masa, I realized we’re sitting on a goldmine! Imagine this: here is the second most innovative country in the world, which has one of the largest tech and business ecosystems on the planet, some of the greatest minds known to man, and, here’s the kicker, it’s so small and tightly knit that there are virtually zero degrees of separation. For example, our most recent professional development event featured Waze’s VP of Community and Operations as a guest speaker and he was only a single phone call away. So how did this happen? What is so unique about Israel that makes its business culture so phenomenal? Well, firstly, it’s not a culture, it’s a way of life.

Israelis don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and we encourage others to do the same. As members of an immigrant society, we never take things at face value. Rather, we constantly try to improve and reinvent things and ourselves. This is how I approached my new role at Masa.

Israeli Business Culture Magic: 101

About one year ago, I joined to Masa’s North American team to establish the organization’s new business development department to show partners and potential participants why Masa – and, by proxy, Israel – is a global competitor and trendsetter in the international experience market. In speaking with alumni and participants, we found that by immersing themselves in the Israel business culture they attained better negotiating, decision making, and risk assessment skills, as well as the work ethic of self-starters who persist through challenges, own their work and projects, and openly express their ideas and opinions in the workplace. At the same time, we saw startups like Datorama, Playbuzz and others hire Israeli managers to train their American teams in order to improve performance and increase creativity.

Clearly, this unique Israeli business culture magic offers a global advantage to companies and their employees; an advantage that U.S. colleges and universities want to offer their students.  Through the business development department, Masa builds symbiotic relationships between American colleges and universities and Israeli businesses. American students gain professional skills, knowledge, and experience within the flat and agile Israeli business culture. Meanwhile, the zero degrees of separation within the local ecosystem allows them to develop professional networks with business leaders and entrepreneurs that help them secure employment upon their entry into the U.S. job market. At the same time, Israeli companies are getting the college-educated, native English-speaking interns in Israel, who understand the U.S. markets, and potential future employees who understand the Israeli business culture and way of life.

Naftali Bennett Masa
Me (center) and Masa Israel’s Deans of Education Delegation meeting Israeli Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem to discuss English education, social mobility, and Israel’s unique business culture on Thursday, January 12, 2017.

The rest of the international experience market — namely, the Global Internship Conference and American Gap Year Association — recognized our unique value proposition. We are honored that each organization has given us the opportunity to share our knowledge with the global community at their respective annual conferences in the coming months.

“Without passion, you don’t have energy. Without energy, you have nothing.” — Warren Buffet

Looking back on my amazing first year, full of ups and downs, like any new venture, I see how much we’ve achieved and how much more we have to accomplish. For the first time, Masa initiated partnerships with major universities including Columbia, Yale, Princeton, Northeastern, Boston University, University of Central Florida, and George Washington University, as well as others to create customized career development programs in Israel. We established partnerships with leading U.S. service organizations, such as Teach For America, Peace Corps and City Year. Additionally, we brought two delegations of career services professionals and deans of education schools to Israel; we toured the east coast, facilitating professional development workshops to give partner universities and their students a taste of the startup nation; we created an initiative to connect our American interns in Israel’s business ecosystem with job opportunities when they return Stateside; and we’ve been invited to speak at two global conferences in the coming months. I say ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ because I couldn’t have done it without my team and amazing partners.

Special thanks to Inna Braverman, Co-Founder and Marketing Director of Eco Wave Power, a renewable energy company that designs, manufactures and operates proprietary EWP wave energy converters, who contributed to this piece.

About the Author
Adi Hila Yoffe is Masa Israel Journey’s Director of Business Development for North America. Born in Israel and raised in the United States, Adi Hila brings North American business acumen combined with an Israeli mentality to the table. Her mission is to drive participation, develop new initiatives, collaborations and partnerships in the business and NPO sector.
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