Israeli high tech: No jobs for the middle aged

High-tech panel

A “Globes” panel of veteran high-tech workers reveals that the Startup Nation is no haven for its experienced elders.

The Startup Nation is not a haven for older Israelis. The government is currently advancing the import of programmers, a move that will undoubtedly hurt tech industry veterans. The Israeli tech scene, flooded with complaints about a shortage of qualified employees, has thousands of workers who simply cannot find a job.

They are in their forties and fifties or older and no one is willing to hire them.

Zvika Raviv is 56 years old. He studied mathematics and electrical engineering and holds a MBA. He was involved in software for 15 years and worked in microelectronics for the next ten years. “I worked at Lucid. When it closed, I started looking for work. I quickly realized that at the age of 50 there was no work to be found in Israel; I went to work in Taiwan, I would work there for three weeks and spend one here. That lasted until 2014. I was a development VP at the company. I tried to come back to Israel a year and a half ago; I looked for work for months, but again there was nothing for me.”

In management or development?

“As an employee. As someone who shows up, works, and is paid a salary. Anything. So I went to work in China. I was a marketing VP and eventually managed the company. And then, for several reasons, I had to come back to Israel I am still looking for work. Since 2010, I have been looking for work in Israel. The entire time I was in Taiwan and China, I kept looking for a job in Israel. I still have not found one.

“Now I’m thinking of going back. I am trying to avoid the scenario, but I am considering it. It’s funny, I speak Hebrew, English and German. I speak Spanish. I understand some Chinese. I was a development VP, a marketing VP, and operations VP, and I managed a company. I can fill any role. I worked in software, and yet I still am spun tales of why I am not a good fit.”

What kind of tales?

“Let me give you an example: an employment agency called me to ask if I was willing to work in a low-tech industry. I said yes. I sent a resume. After two days, they call me back: ‘Listen, the position is at Alliance, they are looking for an operations VP, but they are only willing to pay NIS 18,000 plus a company car. I offered it to someone much younger and less experiences than you. They said it was too low a salary.’

“I told her: ‘You know what? I’ll do it.’ She said I was overqualified. Two days later she phones back asking for a resume in Hebrew. I made one and sent it off no answer for a week. A week later she calls and tells me the company said I was too inexperienced in Israel. I’m a ‘sabra’. I worked in Israel my whole life, I studied here. I’m inexperienced to work in Israel? They basically used every excuse to avoid saying I was too old to work for them.”

“I was promoted without becoming a manager”

Yehuda Yizraeli is 56 years old. He stopped looking for high-tech work. “I don’t look because I won’t find. For whatever reason. It doesn’t matter why. At the end of the day, I need to care for my family, to wake up in the morning and look at the bright side of life. I lecture, I run workshops, and I consult. I have something to offer. Can I definitively say I wouldn’t take a job back in high-tech if it was available? No. If you ask me whether I would be willing to compromise, I would answer affirmatively. There is a massive difference between being salaried and being independent. I would compromise on the pay packet to have a steady income.

“I spent 25 years as a ‘circuit’ man. I was an ‘individual contributor’ meaning I got ahead professionally without being a manager. I loved it. I worked at Intel, Zoran, Chip Express, Mysticom, Saifun, and then home. I have a bachelor’s degree from the Technion and a MBA.

“My last two years in high-tech I worked with a lawyer on a patent suit for Saifun worth $400 million. I was the engineer. I always plan ahead. I realized looking for work in high-tech at 50 is a waste of time; I planned ahead and got the master’s degree, and today I consult people on how to prepare for this predicament, how to plan at a young age to land on your feet at this age.”

Golan Shalhov is 47 years old. He doesn’t think he’ll work in Israeli high-tech again, either.

“I’m a 47-year-old electronic engineer. Since 1996 I worked in software roles, and I later switched to hardware. I focused on product engineering at various companies including Saifun, Intel, Comverse, DSPG, and two small startups. I have a chain of private kindergartens I manage with my wife. It’s a side-business I’ve had throughout. Three years ago, I was fired from DSPG, where I worked as a new product introduction manager a managerial role after filling several engineering positions. I looked for work for a year, I had interviews at Mellanox and others but it was not working out; I decided to concede and focus on the family business.”

Is your high-tech career over?

“If they offered me a position as CEO or CTO, I would go back. But since I had no other choice, I developed my business, and that’s where I am today.”

Later in the conversation, he admitted he would even take his old job where he was terminated in a heartbeat.

“H”, a 50-year-old high-tech employee asked not to be identified by name. She said: “I was very selective in where I submitted my CV because I knew that if I simply sent it around it would end up in a database and never be seen. I turned to places where I knew I had the best chances for positions that were suitable. The responses were always positive. ‘We are very impressed, but we don’t have an appropriate position at the moment.’ Other times, I would apply for a specific position and they would say, ‘Actually, this isn’t the right time.’

“They would say I didn’t have enough experience in a specific sector. I would always tell them to look at what I’ve learned and how far I’ve come. But I would never receive a legitimate answer. They would only ever be ‘interested’ and put me on file. And these were companies that I could easily integrate into.”

“H” is an electrical engineer, with a master’s degree in electronic engineering and a bachelor’s degree in materials engineering. “I was on staff for many years; I turned independent some 14 years ago. I have 13-14 years of experience in project management. I worked in component engineering for companies in the defense sector. I worked in waterworks, with water treatment technologies. I worked there while taking a break from microelectronics, and I became the representative of a large multinational company specializing in industrial water treatment systems. We founded a company, which I ran until last year. Ever since then, I’ve been looking for a salaried position.”

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 21, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

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