Name: Paul Serkin
Originally from: Binghamton, NY
Made Aliyah: August, 2009
Lives in: Jerusalem
Job: Founder and Chief Technologist at PCGUY
Paul the PC GUY’s website reads, “Meet Paul, the PC Guy (and, hard as it is to believe, he is even friendlier than he looks!)” His website is true to its word- Paul is truly a friendly, personable guy, with a cool brand and a great business! It is no wonder he has found small-business success working with people by servicing their PC computers throughout Jerusalem.
Knowing that computers were the future, Paul was always interested and eager to gain expertise in the field. People knew that he was the guy to turn to for all of their computer needs. Upon making Aliyah, Paul decided to take this hobby and turn it into his own full-fledged business.
Don’t be surprised to find a PCGUY hat roaming around Ben Yehuda Street! Paul’s brand has truly taken off, and he is thrilled to be doing what he loves in the country that he loves.
I sat with Paul to hear more about his small-business success…
What did you do before moving to Israel?
I worked in the computer department of various end-user companies as well as computer service/applications developers. I was the manager of the computer department of a large New York City hospital for ten years leading to a consulting career in Healthcare computing.
What do you do now?
I travel all around Jerusalem servicing anything to do with computer systems- hardware, software, repairs, diagnostics, virus removal, and more. I also offer a service through which people can purchase a PC through me, with delivery, and set up included. I service computers mainly in people’s homes, as well as at a few small businesses and non-profits.
How did you find your job?
Computers were always my hobby. I loved them since I was in high school and always had a knack for them. Upon making Aliyah, I was unemployed and attending Ulpan. My classmates quickly got wind of my knack for computers, and would line up in front of my desk during break, asking me various questions about their computers.
I discover that this was a niche market and decided to start the business. Thankfully, it took off unbelievably, and “The PCGUY” has become a buzzword in the Jerusalem-Anglo community!
How did you kick start your business?
I went to a MATI small business seminar, but decided not to attend the training. Through Nefesh B’Nefesh, I found an accountant who helped me with the technical paperwork.
How did you come up with your brilliant branding?
I worked with the Nachum Segal Radio Show in the U.S, helping them with their computers. That led to me advertising on his evening commercial radio show where Nachum frequently featured a commercial for “Film Guy.” I joked that if he could be “Film Guy,” I would be the “PCGUY!” The name caught on, and I had a graphic designer create a logo for me, as well as a website. I eventually printed out cards, magnets, and hats, which I now see sported across Jerusalem!
What do you love most about your job?
Even if I had all the money in the world, I would still get up every morning and do what I do. I am a people person, and I like the thrill of problem solving. I love solving problems that Dell and Microsoft say they can’t fix!
I love providing an American style of service – that is unique to Israel – to my customers. If you take your car to an Israeli mechanic and say that it can’t turn left, they will tell you to turn right three times instead! Israelis look for a creative solution. Americans want a technical solution.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The users that know a little, but think they know it all!
How important is Hebrew to your field?
It is very important because my clients, for the most part, don’t speak Hebrew. I have to be on the phone with the Internet companies on behalf of my clients as part of my job. My Hebrew is at an intermediate level, which functions perfectly well for my work.
Is there good earning potential in the computer-fixing industry?
I am making less than ten percent of what I made in America, but I have never been happier. There is less earning potential here in Israel, but your priorities change once you are here. I had a niche market, and the Anglo computer user community was willing to support me. However, I didn’t make Aliyah to make lots of money!
What kind of qualifications do you recommend for somebody interested in the computer repairs field?
Most important is to have a knack for it. I never hire computer science majors. They were great at theory, but not at hands on work. With computer diagnosis and repair, you must be hands on, go with the flow, logical, and able to deal with many different curveballs thrown your way.
What’s your funniest culture shock moment pertaining to your job?
People often call me saying; “You installed Hebrew in my computer, and when I type a capital “Shin,” I get an “A” instead!” I guess they don’t realize there are no capital letters in Hebrew!
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a small business in Israel?
The biggest thing is to open your eyes, look around, and see what’s missing. Think outside the box. If you have a skill- use it! In order to reinvent yourself, you have to be mindful of your skills.
Keep in mind what you like to do. You will not be successful if you’re doing something that you hate!
Things work differently here. Recognize that different isn’t necessarily better or worse. Have a good attitude, and know that being different is okay!
How do you feel about living in Israel?
My only regret is that I didn’t do this 40 years ago! In 1978, I left Israel after a year in Yeshiva, and the next time I came back was in 2002! In March of 2009, I decided that the U.S was no longer for me, and by August, I was here. I still attend as many Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight arrival ceremonies as possible.