How I transplanted from NYC right to the zesty Israeli High-Tech ecosystem

All Inspiration Top Content May 11, 2020
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How I transplanted from NYC right to the zesty Israeli High-Tech ecosystem

I’m a 25-year-old guy from New York and about 7 months ago I made the biggest move of my life.

I was living in NYC, working for an Israeli property-tech startup, and lived a close 30 minutes from my family. 

However, I decided to pack up, move across the world to Tel Aviv, Israel, and begin a new chapter of my life.

So far, the risk I took has worked out exceptionally well. For starters, I am now the newest lemon on the Zesteam 🍋, working as a Marketing Manager & doing customer success.

It has been a long and windy road that led me to where I am now. But pursuing my personal goals of living in Israel, learning the language, working in the tech scene, and submerging myself in the Israeli way of life has been the greatest ride I could have hoped for.

Even through the unexpected craziness that is COVID-19, I have been rolling with the punches and making the best of the situation. I have been able to spend more time growing at Zest during an exciting time (we’re launching a new product in the next few days).

I’m really excited about this launch, and can’t help but give a sneak peek into what we are working on.

We are launching a new version of Zest where the high-quality content in our repository will now find its way to you without having to stop what you’re doing. It’s sort of like a Grammarly widget, but instead of suggesting to fix your spelling, it suggests a very relevant piece of content for you to consume and easily share with your team. 

For instance, if you’re writing an email on Gmail, you’ll automatically see a relevant piece of content pop up that you can read and attach to the email with one click. Talk about maximizing productivity and team knowledge-building!

How I went from Real Estate to Tech

I graduated from University in 2016, where I studied Business Management with a Specialization in Entrepreneurship.

Throughout my college years, I interned for multiple real estate development companies. Immediately after graduating, I began working at a NYC Real Estate & Management company. 

I was following the path I thought I wanted. The path that was laid out for me. It was a track that seemed relatively safe and would provide me with a long-term career where I could follow the traditional life plan of: work in a secure job, get married, have kids, and then retire.

However, I knew that wasn’t enough for me. At least not yet.

In terms of my career, I wanted something more challenging. Something that is new and exciting every day. Something that makes me feel like I am constantly growing.

Working in a tech startup has always been a desire of mine. I have loved the fact that startups are small teams where everyone is working passionately towards one goal. Defined roles are a gray area and it’s always all hands on deck. Not only that, but you are starting something from scratch. Something new. Something that will change or improve the way things are currently done. One small idea can change the direction of the ship.

On a personal level, I also wanted to experience living in a new country with a new culture.

I wanted to explore the world and I knew I would regret it later on if I didn’t at least try it out. I felt I had much to learn about myself.

So, in March of 2017, I left my job in NYC and went to Tel Aviv for a temporary internship with a real estate investment company.

Transition from real estate to a property-tech startup

After 5 months of living in TLV, I knew that this was a special place. I was exposed to the startup ecosystem that exists here and was instantly drawn to it and wanted to be a part of it; If I could get into a startup company, I would finally be able to live out my dream.

(Not to mention the great friends I made, the beaches, the nightlife, and the Falafel that drew me to this city).

However, my internship ended and I was booked to go back to New York. So that’s what I hesitantly did.

But before I left in August of 2017, I became acquainted with an Israeli property-tech startup company. This company was particularly exciting to me because it mixed my two interests: tech and real estate.

I went back to New York and joined that company as the Strategic Account Manager in their NYC office.

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This was an incredible experience for me. I was surrounded by amazing, smart people all the time and I learned how startups operate. Being in such a new company allowed me to gain experience in several areas including sales, client onboarding, customer success/account management, and product management.

🍋Quick Zesty note: During this time is when I actually became a Zester, quickly realizing how useful their tool was and how easy it was to integrate.

My personal desire to go back to TLV

I had finally made the move into a tech startup company, but I still had an itch inside of me to actually live and work in TLV for more than just 5 months.

I wanted to experience the Israeli “tech world” ecosystem up close and personal now that I had some experience under my belt.

Sitting in my overpriced, cramped, room in my NYC apartment and always speaking to my friends back in TLV telling me about how great of a time they were having certainly started playing on my mind that I should move to where I belonged.

I also had Israeli work colleagues and was connected to Israelis all the time. I was constantly being reminded of the life I wanted to try out.

How I made my way to Zest and what I’m doing on the Zesteam

While working in NYC, there was one more daily reminder I had of the Israeli high-tech ecosystem I wanted to join: whenever I opened a new tab on Chrome, Zest would pop up.

A small thing, sure, but it was a constant reminder in my face of the tech world in Tel Aviv.

With all of these factors eating away at me, I decided to give Israel a real shot and officially made the move from NYC to TLV in September of 2019 after 2 years of living in New York.

Fortunately, I was able to move to Tel Aviv and continue working in my position with the property-tech startup from the Israel office.

After about 6 months, the company had a reorg and I decided to take the opportunity to move on. I decided to focus on my personal goals. I started Hebrew classes,  got a part-time job as a chef for a trendy restaurant and really immersed myself in the Israeli culture.

In parallel, I started looking for a new challenge in the tech scene.

A business mentor and good friend of mine who I first met while working in NYC introduced me to Idan, Zest’s CEO.

We met for coffee and I fell even more in love with Zest and their vision. The environment they had created and drive to succeed was invigorating. Nevermind that this tool was an integral part of the knowledge I gained at my previous company.  We decided I would start out part-time, working on a few projects while I continued to hone in on my cooking skills.

Life in the times of the novel coronavirus

In February, I officially joined the Zesteam. It was great. From the get-go, I was thrown straight into the deep end. I loved it and it was exactly the kind of work environment I thrived in. I had learned how to balance 2 jobs in completely separate fields and had never felt better.

And then Coronavirus joined the picture.

Israel went into lockdown and the restaurant I was working in closed indefinitely. Losing a job and all the free food that came with it left me in shock. I was left with much more free time than I had planned on and didn’t know how to fill the void.

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I took the first few weeks to take it all in and start focusing on what I actually wanted to do with this spare time.

First, I was able to give a lot more love to the Zesteam. Slowly but surely, the areas I worked in started to ramp up. What began as some content writing on the side turned into a marketing role with a splash of customer success.

I have truly come to feel like a real member of the Zesteam, joining the weekly team meetings and managing projects on my own from start to finish. 

At the same time, I started taking an online marketing analytics course in order to improve my abilities and polish my skills.

I also started a website/blog called Song Per Day to pass the time. I wanted to learn more about web development and engagement. I ended up putting a lot of time into this (more than I would have expected),  but it has been a blast and has taught me a whole different side of the tech world.  If you like music, check it out for 1 random song recommendation every day. No, this is not me trying to promote 😉

The whole coronavirus quarantine situation has been a huge change in my life, as I am sure is the case with everyone else. It has been a challenge, but whenever I reflect on it, I am reminded of this line from a Grateful Dead song:

“Once in awhile you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right” – Grateful Dead

If you think about it, Corona (the beer) is often served with a lemon; for me, it was an extra zesty lemon 🍋

Adapting to the new normal

People have been waiting for the world to go back to normal. However, the truth is, there is no going back and it’s time to look forward. 

The world is in a different place and we have all had our lives changed. It is time for us to adapt and evolve. If we can internalize this experience that we are having and use it to create exciting opportunities, we can thrive and reach new heights.

For me, this has meant growing in my position at Zest and working on improving my skill set in other ways. I have become more confident in my creative abilities and learned how to really utilize my time in my work and personal environment. In my experience, I’ve seen that any person with drive, passion to experience, create, and dare to fail while striving to succeed will make it work in this world.

As Israel and the rest of the world slowly make their way out of this dark tunnel, I am excited for what the future holds. I was always curious as to why Zest used a lemon as their brand. A flavor that can change the entire dish with a drop.  But during this time I’ve realized what it’s all about. We cannot control what life throws at us but it’s always important to add your own twist.

Who knows where we will end up, but it will be okay as long as it’s served with a slice of lemon.

Erik Haribson

CMO, Aweber

"Zest is quickly becoming the #1 channel in our GA"