Alexander Shapiro
Humanitarian Professional Living in Lod

High-Tech Community Gathers to Support Ethiopians in Tech

On February 11th, 75 people working in Israel’s high-tech industry gathered at the Check Point offices in Tel Aviv to support Tech-Career, an Israeli NGO that gives Ethiopian-Israelis the training, skills, and connections necessary to break into the high-tech field. The event’s attendees all contribute to Tech-Career in some way, including through providing mentorships, teaching courses, and helping graduates find jobs. Tech companies represented included IBM, Wix, Checkpoint, AT&T, Apple, Bynet, Orbotech, Taboola, SQReam, Huawei, and others.

Tech-Career was founded in 2002 by and for Ethiopian-Israelis, who continue to struggle to overcome barriers to economic advancement and social integration. At present, over 60% of Israel’s 140,000 Ethiopian-Israelis are under 25 years old, and 52% of their families live below the poverty line.

Tech-Career’s aim is to offer young adults a game-changing opportunity to break their families’ cycles of low-wage employment and poverty through technological training, career preparation, and job placement in the high-tech industry. Tech-Career offers a range of courses, both residential and part-time, in subjects like Quality Assurance, Java, Cybersecurity, and Web Design.

Tech-Career students hard at work (credit: YNet)

In addition to hard programming skills, students at Tech-Career also gain invaluable soft skills and life confidence. Meir Mula Mersha, a Tech-Career graduate now working at Checkpoint, said that through Tech-Career he learned soft skills like teamwork and self-learning, and even learned important basic skills like “how to prepare for an interview, what to wear, and how to behave” in a professional setting. Meir also said that completing the mandatory volunteer hours required of Tech-Career students taught him to be “selfless and motivated.” Nina Gispan, the former CIO of Netivei Israel, said that these soft skills and qualities are some of the most important things new employees can bring with them to the workplace – maybe even more important than their technical capabilities.

Practicing teamwork and presentation skills through group projects

Meir Mersha, the Tech-Career graduate, added that, before Tech-Career, he didn’t think there was any possibility to enter the tech industry –

I was just a security guard.

Tal Keinan, of Dynamic Loop Capital, agreed that the most inspiring part about Tech-Career is that students go from having “no tangible understanding of working in a startup,” before the program, to “making a dream into a reality” after.

In addition to addressing the needs of Ethiopian-Israelis, Tech-Career is also working to address the Israeli high-tech industry’s pressing need for an additional 10,000 workers. This shortage is due in part to high levels of inequality in Israel, an issue that Tech-Career has partnered with similar organizations to tackle.

Tech-Career students on a recent visit to Facebook

Today, over 600 young Ethiopian-Israelis have graduated from Tech-Career, with a 93% job placement rate for graduates over the last five years. Ms. Gispan, the former CIO of Netivei Israel, said,

The employees I’ve hired from Tech-Career are some of the best employees I’ve ever had.

How to Help

There are many ways to assist Tech Career, including by providing time, money, internships, work assignments, site visits, and industry connections. Examples of ways to help include:

Adam Goodvach, of Cyren, taught a mini-course on the business side of technology, including sales skills.

Arnon Yaar, a freelance CTO, was a mentor for Tech Career students and taught a workshop on innovative thinking.

Tal Keinan, of Dynamic Loop Capital, made hiring connections with his fund’s portfolio companies.

Carmit Guy, the CEO of Logica, wants to provide internships and work assignments, so Tech-Career students can have “trial experiences in the field.”

Conclusion

Tech-Career is working to better integrate Ethiopian-Israelis into society by providing them with the training, skills, and connections necessary to break into Israel’s high-tech industry, which is desperately in need of employees. Tech-Career has a large and talented network of supporters who mentor students, teach courses, provide internships, hire graduates, and make industry connections. This network gathered recently in Tel Aviv to think about how they can better support Tech-Career, and how Tech-Career can do an even better job training its students.

It is easy to get lost in everything Tech-Career does – in all of the steps (practical and political) needed to integrate a whole community into Israeli society, and to provide skilled workers for the Israeli high-tech industry. At the end of the day, though, to appreciate what Tech-Career does, one must just ask a graduate what Tech-Career did for them:

It changed my life.

About the Author
Alexander "Jake" Shapiro is a recent university graduate living and working in the Israeli city of Lod. Jake studied international relations and political science at the University of Maryland - College Park. Jake has experience designing and implementing international development and peacebuilding projects around the world, formerly serving with IsraAID in Nepal, and the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy in D.C.
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