At a world-renowned school like Cornell University, it is not surprising that students are competitive; with tough admission statistics and invaluable alumni connections — not to mention the astronomical tuition costs — it makes sense that students doggedly pursue pre-professional majors to best position themselves for high-paying, prestigious jobs after college. This creates a cutthroat culture that I have come to accept as a reality. My experience this summer as an intern in Tel Aviv, Israel, however, has radically altered my perspective, taking me outside the pressure-cooker I have grown so accustomed to.
After beginning my summer internship at Hibob, a mid-sized HR technology startup in Tel Aviv, the positive and progressive workplace culture has been a surprising and welcome change from the cutthroat environment I am used to at school. Instead of students trying to one-up each other and beat each other on a particular test, Hibob revolves around collaboration and unity. From my first day, I was shocked by every employee’s willingness to help each other and work towards a collective goal. At Cornell, the end-goal of most students is to outperform their peers on an exam and position themselves favorably on the curve. In contrast, I’ve come to learn that everything at Hibob is a team project, with each department supplementing each other to make a wholesome and effective product.
Growing up, I was only exposed to the work culture at Manhattan law firms or financial institutions. To me, 90-hour work weeks and employees competing for the all-important “partner” label were to be expected. At Cornell, it seems like most students have been unable to escape this lifestyle, as they pursue coveted internships that proliferate these same values and expectations. This creates a system that encourages stress and competition over fostering community and collaboration. Thus, it is refreshing to see how Hibob acts in terms of employee engagement and retention: they make every worker aware of their importance to the organization, which encourages a unique sense of community. This is directly responsible for Hibob’s past successes and positions them well for continued success in the HR-technology marketplace.
When I reflect on my goals for this summer, I immediately think of professional development, exposure to the many facets of marketing, and meaningful experiences I can apply back at school and in future professional endeavors. These goals remain true, and I honestly believe my internship will help me achieve each one. Yet after two weeks in Hibob’s office, and working with t-shirt-clad colleagues, I already had the most valuable takeaway of all: exposure to a new kind of work culture. I am truly undecided about my future career path and often times, given the environment I grew up in, it feels like I have limited options. Going from Cornell to Hibob, the culture shock I have experienced has done more than give me work: it has given me perspective.