Reboot the Careers of LatAm Techies, Scientists
Israeli community initiative sprouts to help immigrants put down professional roots – because what happens to ‘them’ affects us all.
Argentinian molecular biologist Fabio Zon arrived in Israel on a professional internship program, eager to launch his scientific career. At 26, he had graduated from a top university, working on genetic engineering and researching artificial skin. Yet, in Israel, even after completing an internship at the prestigious Weizman Institute, he spent five months working as a carpenter, struggling to find the right job.
Zon is one of 120,000 Latin American immigrants living in Israel. According to Federico Pipman from the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, 20,000 Spanish speakers have arrived in a new wave of young professionals in the past few years.
Career Barriers for Latin American Immigrants
Even for the most talented and best-educated outsiders, joining the insular local society isn’t easy, particularly breaking into local professional networks. “I wrote a lot of huzpani cover letters to tech companies,” Zon told me, using the Hebrew word for a mix of confidence, boldness, and out-of-the-box thinking. Today, at 29, Zon is a Fermentation Scientist at Chunk Foods, an Israeli food-tech startup, where he built the company’s first lab.
For the new wave of professional immigration, Reboot LatAm is a new, volunteer-run community for Spanish-speaking newcomers to Israel. It exists because while the potential is great in Israel’s science and technology sectors, so are the barriers to entry for immigrants.
According to Marina Slutzky, the co-founder of the Reboot LatAm community, and a Nevo fellow who works in deal operations at OurCrowd, many from Latin America report feeling undervalued and perceiving bias against their academic backgrounds and language skills. Slutzky herself studied business management at a prestigious university and has a professional background in social impact leadership. Yet, in Israel, re-starting her career wasn’t easy.
Grassroots Community Initiatives Offer Support
450 Spanish-speaking professionals have joined Reboot LatAm since February 1, 2023, when Slutzky and co-founder Daniel Orozco, a computer vision developer at tech company Clarifruit and another Nevo fellow, launched the non-profit community. Their mission is to help Spanish-speaking tech professionals new to Israel share information and build social capital, fast-tracking immigrants to opportunities in the local tech ecosystem.
Orozco told me,
Before there was a community, all these job offers, new courses, and events were being shared organically via word-of-mouth, but much of it was being lost. We are providing a way to share the information in one place and help each other.
With the WhatsApp-based community, Slutzky and Orozco aim to address the critical need for a channel that uplifts Olim from the Spanish-speaking community and centralizes the exchange of information within the growing community.
Immigrant Economic Impact on Israeli Companies
Israeli employers recognize the value that immigrants bring to Israeli society. Amos Golan, the CEO of Chunk Foods, Zon’s employer, told me,
While immigrants often face language and cultural barriers getting into Israeli tech, for us, employees with international backgrounds help bridge the company’s US and Israeli operations. And, of course, Fabio’s top-notch science education and experience mean that he brings a lot of scientific rigor to the table.
As another example, earlier this year, nearly 300 tech companies signed up to support displaced professionals flooding into Israel as a consequence of the war in the heart of Europe, rallied by an independent volunteer team I am a part of. Founded by immigrants, including Daniil Chernov and Ariella Raviv, our national movement to support displaced professionals and immigrants is called The Reboot Startup Nation, operating in English, Russian, and Ukrainian for most of 2022, serving 15,000 people.
Today, our LatAm founders are adapting our cross-sector partnerships and resources for Spanish speakers. Immigrant professionals or those who would like to support them can join the free Reboot LatAm community at this link.