This Month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marsha Druker who I met while I was in University.
What inspired me about Marsha was her ability to go against all odds and take the risk to live her dream life. She quit an amazing job in Toronto to work as an unpaid intern in Israel for a tech startup.
A reaction she frequently got was,
“ARE YOU CRAZY?”
“WHY WOULD YOU DOWN PLAY YOURSELF?”
“YOU HAVE A GREAT JOB HERE IN TORONTO, WHY DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE?”
What she thought would be a 5 month internship turned into a full time position that she wanted switching from the corporate to tech startup world.
Read her interview below to learn about how she managed to make it happen financially, how she found the program, her challenges, risks, rewards, experiences and much more!
THIS is a story to inspire any of you unhappy with your career paths, for those who are looking for some change in their lives, who wish to travel the world and work abroad and for those who want to create their dream life!
This is her story…
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself? Where did you go to University, what were your plans after, what are you doing now?
I studied at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto and specialized in Marketing. As a typical Marketing grad, my plans were to work in the CPG (consumer packaged goods) world. I did exactly that for about a year; I learned a lot, but realized it wasn’t the right career path for me. I pivoted towards a marketing communications focused role, and for the next three years worked for a big company in the life safety industry as a Marketing Communications Specialist and then as their Manager of PR and Communications.
Now I’m doing something totally different in my life and career – I’m working abroad in Tel Aviv, Israel at a cool startup, Veed.me. I originally came on a 5 month program and was working as an unpaid intern and travelling the country. After my program ended, I decided to get a work visa and stay on as a full time employee.
2. Many of us dream about going abroad to work or study or volunteer but not many take the leap to make it happen. You went from working in a great position in Toronto to being an unpaid intern for 5 months without knowing what would happen after. What was that turning point when you actually decided to make it happen?
The turning point for me was the realization that the longer I put an opportunity like this off, the less likely I would be to go through with it. Being in my mid-20’s and unattached, it was a case of ‘now or never’.
I wouldn’t make such an unconventional and risky move if I didn’t believe that working abroad at a startup has the potential to catapult me in an exciting new career direction and act as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things.
3. Why do you recommend long term travel over short trips that we usually take with our friends/family?
Short trips are a great way to step away from your daily life, take a much needed break, and spend quality time with friends or family. But long term travel or living abroad allows you to fully immerse yourself in the culture of your destination and explore the place (and yourself) on a much deeper level, seeing the good, the bad and the ugly. I don’t think there’s any better way to push your boundaries and step out of your comfort zone.
4. From the time you moved there to until now, what are the top 5 things you have learnt about yourself/changes you have seen in yourself?
- More independent – living alone in a new country does that to you 🙂
- More present – the situation in Israel can change rapidly and people here know how to make the most of the present moment. It’s something that I really admire and am working on with practices like meditation, journaling, and gratitude training.
- More optimistic – I realize now how many different opportunities there are in the world. I’m still not sure what I’ll be doing after I leave Israel, but the thought is more exciting than scary.
- Learned that I’m not as introverted as I thought – Something that I’ve really enjoyed throughout my time abroad is meeting and getting to know local and international people from all walks of life.
- Feel a stronger connection to my Jewish identity and ties to Israel, although, I still have a lot to learn about the history, culture and language here.
5. A lot of us want to go abroad to work but don’t know where to start looking. How did you find the program that you went with initially? What kind of research did you do before you went? Do you know any other programs similar to Career Israel?
I was researching various options for working abroad for several months before stumbling upon Career Israel (a Masa program). An old friend from a past trip to Israel completed the program and posted about it on Facebook, raving about the awesome experience he had. After catching up with him, I knew I was on to something special.
There are countless different ways to go abroad. For example, a very popular option for native English speakers is to teach English in elementary and high schools all over the world (lots of programs and opportunities across Europe, South America, and Asia). There are also various volunteering programs in developing nations. Some startups (such as Buffer) offer remote work opportunities and bigger companies often have international offices where employees can transfer.
One of the best times in your life to intern or volunteer abroad is when you’re still a student, during your summer vacation. There’s a great organization called AIESEC that specializes in organizing these types of experiences for students.
6. How did you prepare yourself financially to make that happen? Is it expensive to make a move like this? How did you budget? Do programs cover costs?
Tel Aviv is definitely not a cheap city to live in. Rent is slightly lower than in Toronto, but food and entertainment costs are about the same, if not more at times.
I was fortunate enough to live at home throughout university and after. So, I was able to save most of the money I made working part-time as a server throughout school and in my jobs after graduating. In preparation for the move, I also took on a few freelance copywriting gigs and cut back on my spending. The program did provide a grant, which covered some of the expenses. While I was completing my program and unpaid internship, I continued to do some freelance work for my past employer and other clients.
7. What are some of the challenges you faced when you moved to Israel and how did you overcome them?
At the beginning, one of the challenges I faced was combating the negative perception and lack of understanding some people have about Israel. Most of my friends and family members were supportive of my decision to go live in Tel Aviv, but there were definitely a few who didn’t get it and expressed some concern. I had to work on tuning out opinions I didn’t ask for and not doubt my decision.
When I got to Tel Aviv, some of the challenges I faced were: familiarizing myself with the city and transportation system, learning the basics of the Hebrew language, and adjusting to living on my own. Living here feels very natural to me and I got the hang of everything (except for the language, which I’m still working on) quickly!
8. How does the lifestyle working abroad compare to life working in Toronto?
The lifestyle and work environment in Israel is much more casual compared to Toronto, especially in startups. Here, organizational structures tend to be more flat and dress codes much more laid back. The people here are incredibly smart, resourceful, and bold. There’s a collective feeling in this country that anything is possible.
My role at Veed.me is focused on content and growth marketing, but in true startup fashion, I contribute to and learn from all areas of the business (such as product, business development, and customer care). We have flexible hours, an office puppy, fun offsites, and I’m working with some of the smartest people around!
9. What advice do you have for 20 somethings who want to go abroad to work?
Do it! If you’re still a student, look into international co-op opportunities that might be offered through your school. If you’re already working, see if you can make it happen through your current employer by transferring to one of their international offices. If not, narrow down a list of places you’d like to live and look for a program or job opportunity there. Or, if you’re a truly brave soul, move abroad and figure it out from there.
If you would like to contact Marsha about her journey and ask her any more questions, feel free to contact her:
You can find Marsha Druker on the following:
I hope this story inspired you to live your dream life!
Stay Tuned for next month where I had the chance to interview a young online fashion entrepreneur.