Allie and her mentor, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum.
Making Waves in High-Tech
A Young Religious Mom Moves her Career Forward with a Little Help from Friends
FemForward is an innovative program designed to help women working in Jerusalem-based tech companies advance their careers and advance to managerial and senior positions, offering lectures, a mentorship program and networking opportunities. The program addresses the ‘broken rung’ trend, in which women in entry-level positions are less likely than men to be promoted to first-level managerial positions. We spoke with Allie Feuerstein, Director of International New Business at OurCrowd and a participant in FemForward’s first cohort, to learn more.
Tell us a little bit about your Aliyah story as a religious olah from New Jersey, and how you began your exciting career in high-tech in Israel.
Growing up, I never thought I would make Aliyah; it wasn’t on my radar. But when I came to Israel to study at Midreshet Moriah, I fell in love with the country. My parents really wanted me to come back to the US for college, so I went to the University of Pennsylvania and then made Aliyah a few weeks after graduation.
While still in America, I started dating my husband, and we soon realized that we had booked the same Aliyah flight! It felt like G-d was patting me on the back and saying, “Allie, you’re doing the right thing by making Aliyah. Here is a husband for you!”
My first job in Israel was working as a research assistant for Daniel Gordis on a book that he was writing called Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn. For the last chapter of the book, we interviewed the authors of Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, and I was incredibly inspired – I wanted to play a meaningful role in building a company. I had some friends who were working for OurCrowd, an investment platform for investing in startups based in Jerusalem. I got an interview there, and the rest is history.
What brought you to FemForward, and how did it impact your career?
I had been working at OurCrowd for two years when Rachel Wagner Rosenzweig, a friend of mine who runs the FemForward course, told me about it and encouraged me to join.
A key lesson I learned early on in the course is that if you want to advance in your career, you can’t wait for a promotion to fall into your lap. You have to promote yourself and make the case to your manager for why you deserve a promotion. At the time I participated in FemForward, OurCrowd was growing rapidly, and people who started at the company at the same time I did were being promoted. So I went to my manager, an Orthodox guy, and said to him that I felt I was ready for the next step in my career and that I think I could manage a part of the team. He said to me, “Wow, are you sure? I assumed that since you’re a young mom you just wanted to take it easy at work.” That’s when I realized that there needs to be a real cultural shift within our religious community. Yes, I love my kids and will always be there for them, but that doesn’t mean I can’t grow my career at the same time.
I spoke about the situation with Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, my mentor at FemForward, who suggested I speak with my manager’s manager – which is exactly what I did. I pitched him on why I believed I was the right person to lead our new team in Europe and Asia. I also went to the Chief Growth Officer and made a presentation. They were both very pleased, and I got the promotion a week later, which was very exciting.
I finished the FemForward course about a year ago, and I’ve shifted from being an individual contributor to now managing a team of eight people and have more than doubled my previous salary. It’s fair to say that the program worked exactly as it was designed to!
It’s incredible that your mentor at FemForward was none other than Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem in charge of foreign relations, international economic development and tourism – and a fellow olah. What was it like to bond with Fleur and learn from her?
Having one-on-one time with Fleur was incredible. Fleur is a well-known figure in Jerusalem and so I’d known about her for some time. She is so confident, very direct and she can hold her own in a room full of high-powered men; she knows what to do so that her voice is heard.
OurCrowd is a very male-dominated company on the management level, and Fleur gave me a lot of tips on how to present myself and make sure my voice would be heard with a very male culture. We’re still in touch and go out for coffee once in a while. She’s someone I really look up to; she has a beautiful family, she’s a mom of four kids, and also has an incredible career.
What advice would you give to other young women making Aliyah who are interested in working in tech?
Have an open mind. If you were working in a different field in the Diaspora, you may have to start at a lower level in Israeli high-tech in order to get your foot in the door. Just start with something, and it should lead to opportunities. There are so many high-tech companies in Israel who are looking to grow extremely rapidly; there are companies hiring a hundred people in one year. There are many opportunities for growth and professional development, so if you really want to grow your career, high-tech in Israel is a great place to do it.