From NGO to Startup Pro
“I could never imagine having such a robust career in the US!”
Name: Rachel Schonwald
Originally from: Oklahoma
Made Aliyah: 2011
Lives in: Tel Aviv
Job: Publisher Development Manager at Playbuzz
Who doesn’t guiltily sit in front of their computer every now and them to take a “Which Ice Cream Flavor Are You?” type-quiz? These bites of online entertainment have become a fun part of our everyday lives as we interact on social media. Little do we know- Playbuzz, an Israeli startup, is the format creator of much of this style’s online content we interact with on a daily basis!
Behind the quizzes, in her Tel Aviv office, is Rachel Schonwald. Rachel found the digital startup world after years in the non-profit sector. Upon making Aliyah she felt limited by her current field of work, and decided to reinvent herself into the ever-growing world of Israeli startups.
Now an expert at digital media, startups, and more, Rachel is glad to have made this dramatic transition. With a lot of hard work, and an ounce of Israeli chutzpah, Rachel has learned the ropes of the digital media industry and could not be happier. “I could never imagine having such a robust career in the U.S!” says Schonwald.
I spoke to Rachel to hear more about her inspiring career transition…
What did you do before moving to Israel?
I got my degree in Liberal Arts, majoring in business and Jewish Studies from Indiana University.
I worked at a tourism company called “Authentic Israel.” We were a Birthright provider, as well as BBYO summer trips, and MASA programs. I worked for just over a year in the U.S, and then in Israel for another two and a half when I made Aliyah. I was in charge of logistics, registration, and social media.
How did you find your job?
After a few years in the non-profit world, I realized that there wasn’t anywhere for me to grow. I was already reporting to the CEO and another director, and felt that I was limited to only a few different companies and job opportunities. After realizing that it wasn’t beneficial for the long term, I started looking for a job in a completely different market.
I found a job at Media Shakers, doing media buying, working with publishers, and networks. I worked there for two years, and really started to understand the ecosystem of the digital advertising world.
My friend had applied for a job at Playbuzz, and since my boss was out of town, I served as her reference. When speaking to the recruiter at Playbuzz, I decided to use a bit of Israeli chutzpah, and asked if they were looking for anybody else. I sent in my resume on Thursday, had an interview on Sunday, and a week after that, I had an offer.
At the time, the company was growing very rapidly. I was the thirtieth person in the company, now there are eighty. Three months before I came, there were only ten!
What do you do at Playbuzz?
Playbuzz is a visual content company that people interact with whether they realize it or not. Famous for our online quizzes, we are constantly creating new formats to display information. We work with big companies such as Time, People, and Entertainment weekly, to incorporate our formats into their publications. We create the format and then teach them how to use it, in order to enhance their business.
I focus on the German office. I’m on the phone talking to them about what we create, how to improve it, what users like and don’t like.
What do you love most about your job?
The people at Playbuzz are really amazing. Everyone works so hard here, really running towards the goal of being very successful. The content is fun and exciting. My job is basically to do what people love to do on social media all day. I feel pretty lucky!
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Both the weapon and curse of start-up life is the vast amount of responsibility, and long work hours required in order to get the job done.
How important is Hebrew to the field?
In the digital and start-up world, especially when dealing with clients that are abroad, it’s not vital- but culturally it’s very helpful. Everybody in the company speaks English, and if you don’t speak Hebrew, it’s really not a problem.
Is there good earning potential in the digital startup market?
It depends on the company, how funded they are, and how big they are. If you are one of the first ten people in the company, you won’t get paid as much. However, it’s still a good living, and definitely enough to get by.
What qualifications do you recommend for someone interested in this field?
It’s less about your qualifications and background, and more about what skills you have. If you area social worker, you understand people well- so you would be great with clients. These skills can transfer to B2B relations and marketing skills- it’s all about how you sell them.
What advice would you give?
Don’t be laser focused on a specific career path, rather, open to all ideas. If there is anybody who has learned this, it is me… There was a long time that I thought I was going to become a Reform Rabbi! My husband worked at the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC, and now is also in a startup.
Be as resource as possible, and look into every job. There are opportunities here that you may never have thought of. Do market research, ask your friends, and build your network.
How do you feel about living in Israel?
It’s really great. We found great jobs, a great apartment, great friends, and have built a great life for ourselves here. Come in knowing it will be hard, and that u have to work for it. But, the hard work makes the payoff so much better!