Jerusalem Post

High salaries, comfortable offices and “reaching for the stars”. Long hours, crazy pace and recovery “sabbaticals”. Are you sure that you want to work for a hitech company?

Larry Derfner of the Jerusalem Post has put together an exposé titled Inside the hi-tech bubble. He paints a bleak picture of what is now considered to be Israel's #1 export but the stories could easily have come from employees in Silicon Valley or elsewhere.

Scared or intrigued?

Here are some choice quotes from interviewees in the article:

“Israelis who work for large companies say that being relocated to America is an opportunity for relaxation”

“I got no management training, which is typical in hi-tech. They throw you in the water and if you swim, great, and if you drown, well, that's too bad. G-d forbid they should give you swimming lessons.”

“I understood from the beginning that if you're good, you advance, and if you don't advance, it's a signal that you're not good enough.”

“Everybody wants everything yesterday – bosses, customers, everybody's working at hyperspeed. I never felt I had the time to do the job as well as I wanted – I was always up against a new crisis”

“The job got into every corner of my life. I felt I was working all the time, that when I was home I was still at work. My children were being raised by babysitters.”

“No one tells you to stay at the office until eight at night, every night, but if you go home at five more than once or twice, it shows up in your year-end review.”

It happened to me

After my release from the Israeli Army in 1999, I started my hitech career working as a programmer for during the Internet Bubble, splitting my time between Paris, France and Seattle. I quickly took on a “firefighter” role running from virtual fire to virtual fire and putting them out.

I advanced when others didn't, became a manager with no management training, and worked the longest hours. A few times I even put on tefillin in my cubicle at daybreak and then left in a company-paid taxi early the next morning.

As long as I loved that job, putting in all that effort felt effortless. It was challenging and fun and there were amazingly-talented people working there.

After almost 2 years there, I resigned and moved back to Israel. I was no Amazon failure – they got a terrific return on their investment – but if some of the above quotes ring true, it's because I tolerated that situation at that time.

Companies can only take advantage of you if you let them

There will always be companies, especially small startups, that will continue many of the terrible practices mentioned above. However, as more and more talented employees push back for “work-life balance”, the industry will have no choice but to evolve to accommodate them.

The smart companies that really care about their employees will always do everything they can to keep you happy. But you need to tell them what you want, and the job interview process is the best place to do it. Life is too short to spend years wasting away at a bad company.

Is it better in America? I think that's just typical grass-is-greener envy. If anything, the changes will happen sooner in Israel where people get married and have kids younger than in other Western countries.


You don't need to be afraid to work in hitech, but more than in other industries you do need to keep things in perspective. Like with any job, know your priorities going in, check yourself every few months and you'll be fine.

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Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. harryh

    My favorite part of that article was the mention of the attractive salary! 20,000 shekel a month like it was the end all of salaries. 60,000 dollars a year? What a joke. If I am pulling 14-15 hour days I best be making double that at the very least.

  2. Alan Wilensky

    I have been not only in startups, but established companies that have made an art over ‘manufactured crisis’. The departments have evolved a method of pressurizing everything, from internal operations to software build delivery.

    In 90% of the cases, these synthetic cultural ‘steam cooker’ methods result in nothing substantive from the standpoint of productivity and long term team cohesion. There are times in the critical start phase (not all the time at that) where deliveries have to be made as promised, but more often hat not, this is extended way beyond reality.

    Mature management knows what predictable, sane, healthy teams can accomplish. Green-horns promoted up will often create crisis to elevate their importance.

    I just left the R&D lab of in international telecom where the whole lab was hurrying up to so NOTHING.They haven’t delivered one project of consequence in years.

    A team that has survived as a cohesive, longterm unit that meets long term milestones and the strategic goals of the company, as opposed to thje latest manufactured crisis, is a precious thing in today’s hight tech business – and rare.

  3. Sam

    Well, this is true but the most important thing is “Companies can only take advantage of you if you let them”. There is an English say “start the way you intend to continue” – if you start the job going home at 17:30 every day, they learn to accept you like that from day one and no expectations are built for you to stay late. If you stay late from day one, don’t be surprised that when you leave earlier eyebrows are raised.

  4. ahuvah

    The first thought that popped into my mind when reading that article was to tell the high tech workers to stop kvetching. Israeli’s are leaving Israel in the pursuit of monetary wealth. What amazes me is that those of us who want to make serious money understand it is a lot of hard work, lots of unpaid hours but hopefully in the end it will all be worth it (or we will burn out).
    Making money is not easy nor simple and there are a lot of sacrifices involved. If quality of life is more important than the quantity in your life – then yes, the high tech world is not for you. But every single person who enters the high tech market is fully aware of what it will take to make it big. I guess the high tech market has a faster burnout rate than investment banking or other such professions.
    But this is the future of our country – establishing new businesses to help fund our own economy.

  5. Annette Davis

    Regarding Alan Wilensky’s comment about “steam cooker” methods, the following scenario says it all: yesterday I went for a job interview as MarCom Manager at a company just about to put their product out to market. I have an excellent track record, the VP Marketing really liked me, the HR thought I was suitable, but the CEO, who behaved like a steam cooker victim, felt that I am too calm to do the job????????!!!!!!!

  6. Jacob Share

    harryh- so true, but you’re looking at it in hindsight plus you know what salaries are like in the US. That guy hadn’t done his homework.

    Alan- I wish didn’t have so many examples to back up everything you said.

    Sam- that’s good advice for life. Always be yourself.

    Ahuvah- it is hard to sympathize with people who sound like they want to have their cake and eat it too. I think you’re half-right. People do have some idea of what they’re getting themselves into – eg. long hours – but that doesn’t mean it’s ok. The fact is that the burnout rate is a bad thing for the employees *and* the companies, who get a lower return on their human investment. There’s no justification if everyone loses.

    Annette- the CEO did you a favor. The VPM and HR must have known about him but said nothing. If not for his idiotic honesty, you might have signed a contract only to quit later in frustration. Serenity is a virtue especially in times of crisis- keeping a cool head. You’ll find someplace better.

  7. josh

    I agree somewhat with Sam, though not entirely about the part of ‘making facts on the ground’ that fellow workers will get used to.

    On one hand, I tell coworkers in my dept. that even if they are not religious, they have every right to refuse to work or fly on Shabbat. Unfortunately, many don’t care, but I do know several non-religious people who won’t budge. The most senior one was been promoted nicely over the years mainly because:

    on the other hand, IMO, if you are a ‘serious’ person, respect other people, do the work properly, and are productive during regular hours, then it is natural to be able to push for flexible working conditions, either all the time or whenever something comes up.

    As for working ‘too hard’, money isn’t everything. ‘Making more money than one knows what to do with’ – I know many people who could find ‘better’ paying jobs for perhaps less work, but they like the modest people they work with and frankly, they admit they ‘don’t need’ more money. Suckers? Merely convincing themselves not to take the step to leave their current position? I don’t think so. Every person has different motivating factors, generalizing like the article naturally does is very misleading.

    About country work cultures, I see the difference between us Israelis and foreigners when I get to fly to our sites. The folks there earn much more, (drive gorgeous cars and talk about their plasma tvs) and usually work nine hours and not a minute longer (staying an extra hour is ‘working late’ and Israelis have an expression saying ”the pencil drops from their hand at 5pm”) while we stay into the evening. Would I trade my life here for a relocation overseas, no way.

  8. Tommy

    I think its a part of being in the tech industry. It’s demanding, but if you like what you are doing, it isn’t “hell.” But there are companies that overwork you without recognition. One such company is, Check out what people thought of jobs. These are the companies to avoid. But there are also good demanding startups that are fun to work with. For example, people thought qualcomm was a great place to work for.

    In the end, i think people just need to research into what they are getting themselves into before signing up for the job.

  9. Annette Davis

    There is a syndrome in US, as opposed to Europe, that is being adopted here in Israel, as is everything that comes from US, that the longer hours you work, the more you are worth to the company.
    I’m sure there exist hundreds of research papers proving that after a certain number of working hours, effective performance declines. After all, we’re human beings, not robots.
    The new trend in New York is sleep chambers, where it is mandatory for employees to take a one-hour quality resttime midday, as it has been recognized that performance improves thereafter.
    One day, in a few years time, that trend will reach these shores too.
    The Ministry of Labor standard is 8 hours net work per day. How many of you can honestly say that you perform well working more than that? And I’m talking about working intensively, not spending time chatting or taking breaks.

  10. Kate

    There are certain sectors of the High tech economy where this is true and other sectors where things have been getting better. Video game development has been getting better, but it is more competitive and new people have a hard time getting in now that experienced people are looking for jobs too.

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