Saturday, January 09, 2010

Working life in Israeli High-tech

Working in Israel is different – especially from working in Europe. The working week consists of 45 hours – depending on the industry you work in, it translates to a 5-day working week of 9 hours. Most companies provide food – the fridge is stocked with fresh vegetables, cheese, and humus. There are also cookies and bread. Company kitchens boast a water cooler, microwave and toaster. If you are lucky, your company also provides a card for purchasing lunch from various restaurants. (You still have to pay one-third and income tax over the two-thirds that the company pays).

In Israel, especially in high-tech, employees are highly skilled and highly motivated. Almost all of them (myself included) have two Master degrees. Oliem need to realize that having an MBA is almost mandatory to get to senior management levels.

Especially in high-tech, the culture is heavily influenced by the Israeli army. Since everyone in Israel joins the army at the age of 18 and leaves the army 3 years later (2 years for women), the ethos of army life translates into business life. The army experience shapes the future employee work ethic and attitudes. Outside of Israel, employees are given a task and see it as a task; however in Israel, it's a mission. Every task is taken with the utmost seriousness, and “white nights” are no exception - employees in the Israeli office will not go home until the task is done.

High-tech in Israel is product/invention driven. Especially marketing is the stepchild – not really considered to be a serious asset for the company. Many CEOs and VPs know that they might come across as rude, pushy and aggressive. The language is to blame for it – there is no “I would if I could, but I cannot, so I wouldn’t”-nuances in the Hebrew. There is only a present, past and future tense and an imperative. Due to the culture and the political situation, Israelis are high gear. This often confuses business partners abroad, who like to mull over questions and decisions.

Applying for a job in Israel is an interesting event. LinkedIn is a favorite tool for HR managers to scout for talent. Since it’s a small country, networking is important – most jobs are not even posted, but filled throught personal recommendations. Recruiting companies (there are a lot of them) are highly active and will send your resume on, sometimes without even interviewing you. Once you are invited for an interview, you will be asked about your salary expectations. This is the tricky part – apart from the salary itself, you have to state if you want a car (valued at around NIS 3,000), kerens, lunch, vacation days, and any other extras that you want to claim. The best way is to quote a salary margin.

Especially in high-tech, there is a high turnover rate. Due to companies or collapsing or being taken over, the average working life in a high-tech company is 2 years. If you want job security, your only option is to work for the government where you will have job security but a very low salary. In high-tech, companies and managers give their employees lots of opportunities to explore new ventures, improve skills, and to come up with new initiatives. From personal experience, working in Israel is fulfilling, exciting and dynamic.