@davidrgoldsmith and ask him to tell you one of his jokes ;)
I still remember my first conversation with Parin. I was a shy, quiet 11-year-old boy, nervously waiting for the school bell to ring to signal the start of registration. Whilst I was looking out of the window, the kid opposite me said hello. The first thing that hit me was the size of his hairdo. Believe me when I say Parin had a massive haircut back then. Clearly, the concept of ‘lean’ start-ups affected not only his business approach but also his appearance. We got chatting and realised we had a lot in common. Not only did we live close to each other, not only were we both of comparable upbringings (you’ll be surprised by how similar Indian and Jewish families work), but we also got the same bus!! The 158 if I remember.
Over the next year, our friendship grew, until he dropped the bomb shell on the last day of school. “I’m moving to Cheltenham.” Well blow me down with a feather. Goodbye, forever, my first friend from school and my birthday buddy (both May 22nd of same year!)
Then some dude came along called Mark Zucker something, created something called Faceleaflet or whatever and would you believe it, but some skinhead was stalking me asking to be friends. After doing the necessary background checks, it turned out it was my old friend getting in touch. Over the next few years, we’ve had the pleasure of catching up and just generally having a laugh at each others’ expense!
Then, a couple of days ago, he pops the question…”how do you fancy writing in my guest blog?” Finally, my chance. I…am….a…GUEST BLOGGER. I am Leona Lewis coming on Sunday night X-Factor to sing my new single. I am Rihanna to his Matt Cardle. Tears, literally, flowed from my eyes.
So here I am. Having removed the fly that got caught in my eye, writing a piece on how I got to where I am today, living in a foreign land, with high hopes for the future. I shall begin...
You’ll be surprised how lost you can feel once you’ve finished a history degree. Standing in front of a cameraman, beaming away with a fake certificate in your hand, wondering what the hell am I going to do after spending the last three years writing about some egotistical Italian fascist?? I needed a direction. Anything. So I sat down and thought about the future. Where do I want to be and how do I get there?
I built a rough idea, starting with the place I wanted to be, rather than the path I was going to take to get there, that would come after. I knew I wanted to try and live in Israel. I had spent a gap year teaching English and volunteering there and I enjoyed the lifestyle. I believed (and still do) in the ideals of the early founders of the State and I respected the mentality. New industries were being built (the high tech industry was really beginning to take off in the early noughties) and there was a real sense of entrepreneurship permeating every aspect of society. A country constantly evolving, pushed on with a purpose to prove itself day after day. I wanted not just to be a part of it, but at the forefront, helping to push, pull and drag it forward.
So I knew where I wanted to be, but not necessarily knowing how to get there. I knew that Israelis in general were highly educated and intelligent. So, I had a barometer of what I needed to do to succeed there, just not necessarily what I wanted to be.
And that is how I fell into accounting. I needed to add a string to my bow, and I felt accountancy opened avenues within the business world that I wouldn’t normally have had. I wasn’t an accountant by nature. But I had (and still do) a thirst for knowledge and challenges. And boy was it a challenge. There were times when I felt I didn’t have the ability to get through. I stopped looking too far ahead and concentrated on each challenge as it came. Staying focused and persevering. I got through, just. And then I had a chance to realise my dream, to move to Israel and to create something new.
I came a few months after finishing my three years in London. In between I travelled to India for a few months, arriving in May of last year.
My experience of moving to a new country has been relatively smooth. ‘Smooth’ is my way of saying when things aren’t going your way, the key is to take a step back, relax and analyse each situation objectively. Ultimately, whatever happens, learn something new. These lessons have helped me adapt further to the culture which only a few months ago seemed so alien, but now feels somewhat normal and increasingly logical.
With all these experiences I have been through, I have arrived to the present. I start my new job this week, something that I am extremely excited about. My goals of settling in a foreign country and helping create something new, is very much on the cards. My new role, in general terms, is the creation of a thriving, bustling and competitive investment market in Tel Aviv.
Our goal is to create a financial market which puts us on ‘the map,’ alongside other financial capitals in the world, be it London, New York or Singapore to name but a few. In essence, my role will be as a salesman, selling arguably Israel’s greatest asset, its people. People who are not only intelligent and hard-working but possess a certain quality that seems to be quite unique in its abundance in such a concentrated and small place – chutzpah! There isn’t a direct translation from the Yiddish vernacular, but think of it as a personality trait that has a sprinkling of gall, a smattering of guts and big dollop of “unbrazened nerve” as the scholar Leo Rosten so readily put it.
It will be a long road with plenty of challenges along the way, but I have absolute belief in the product I am selling. Yes, I don’t deny that it is a risky business and it may not come off, but it is a risk I am willing to take. After all, by definition as a new immigrant in a new land starting afresh, I am a risk taker.
What do I hope you take away from my experiences? I think they can be best summarised under the following headings –
1. Go out there and introduce yourself. Like that 11-year-old boy who said hello to me in my first week at school, it takes guts. But from my experiences, everyone wants to connect on a personal level. It is how I found the role I am starting this week. I fired an email off one rainy day on a whim and three weeks later, I am beginning something that I truly am inspired by. I wish all of you this sense of excitement I have for the future.
2. When things aren’t going your way, never give up. Get back up and try harder. Learning from your failures is just as important as enjoying your successes. After I failed my first accountancy exam (and spending the next day in a deep sense of despair), I took a step back and reflected. I saw where I had gone wrong and actively changed what that was. I improved my method of studying and ensured that I moved forward, refusing to give in. It felt good. Two years later I passed all my exams in the time necessary and achieved my greatest academic achievement, the ACA.
3. Be prepared to take risks. Now, I’m not saying always take the riskier path. I’m not saying don’t have a backup plan. What I am saying is be prepared to take risks in order to achieve what you want to achieve. In making the decision to move to Israel I chose to become qualified in a field I knew nothing about with a good chance I would fail to adapt. In choosing to move to a foreign country I was giving up 27 years of what I had known for something I didn’t. In choosing the role that I begin this week at a small company, I turned down a job that was offering more money in an established firm with clear career progression. But at no point have I ever regretted my decisions. The only regret I would have was not taking the risk necessary to follow my dream - creating and adding to the country that I want to spend the rest of my life in.
4. Enjoy your life. Go travelling. Challenge yourself. Do something you enjoy.
I hope you guys took something from what I wrote. Do please feel free to connect via twitter - I am always happy to talk and chat about anything I have or haven’t written about, be it moving to a foreign country, applying for a professional services firm, travelling or about creating a competitive investment industry in Israel. Wishing you all the best for the future!