'I Have Two High-tech Jobs and I Also Waitress – That's Where the Best Conversations Happen'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: Two millennials trying to figure out their professional lives in a changing world

Liat Elkayam
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Lironne Koret.
Lironne Koret.Credit: Meged Gozani
Liat Elkayam

Lironne Koret, 26, lives in Tel Aviv; arriving from Rome

Hello, can I ask what you did in Rome?

I was there on a trip from work. The whole office went. One of those trips that combine fun, business, bonding and work.

Let me guess: You’re in high-tech.

I work at a high-tech company that advises big companies and even governments. What makes us different is that we create large communities of experts.

Like the Israeli Tapuz forums?

Sometimes. Let’s say there’s a company that wants to know the best, most innovative way of teaching reading. We locate a diversified, interdisciplinary community of leading experts who have something to contribute. The platform makes it possible to create simulations, forums and conference calls between members of the community.

Who are the members of that sort of community? Academics?

The company has existed for a decade and has a database of experts in different fields. Their interest is partly economic, but I think what’s important for them is the community aspect and the cooperation. People like to work with us, especially those who deal in niche areas, because if you’re a geek about something specific, good luck finding someone else like you.

What’s your position?

I’m the communities director. When something new comes in, I have to do research, look for experts, find the top people, until it all comes together. Doing just one thing is hard for me; this way I get to deal with a range of subjects and people. When we dealt with blockchain, I learned about technology, geopolitics, international relations and security.

How did you get into this at your lofty age?

Through some people I know. I’m good at locating opportunities, and it happened.

That’s a partial answer. We’ll try it in reverse. What did you do in the army?

I was in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. From there I went to New York and was in charge of digital diplomacy at the Israeli delegation to the United Nations. I translated things into content that people, not necessarily Israelis, would want to share. I created a clip with children from all over the world who try to explain anti-Semitism, and it came out really well. Even the president of the General Assembly shared it. I liked working there, but I’d rather not talk about the next chapter in my life.

Sounds dark.

I dipped my toes in politics.

In which part of those turgid waters?

As a spokesperson. It was interesting to see the Knesset from within and help people, but it really wasn’t for me. And then I was accepted to the university of my dreams.

Yale? Harvard?

No. An international university in San Francisco called Minerva. You study there at an Ivy League level for less than half the price, but the main thing is that it’s a university that is calibrated to the needs of the 21st century. There are no lectures, no exams; you study the subject ahead of each class and then there’s a discussion. Most professions are going to change in the future anyway, so instead of giving a degree in a specific subject, they give a set of tools. Each semester is held in a different city in the world.

Sounds like a dream.

We started in Berlin, I was in San Francisco, and in January I’ll be in Argentina. You live with your fellow students; the whole city is the campus and there are projects with local organizations. The idea is to assimilate into the local environment. I have friends from Egypt and Pakistan; we bond over hummus with a Jordanian.

Is it hard to get in?

They don’t only look for [academic] achievements, they want people who have done things, and Israelis apply at an older age, which is an advantage. Admission is not based on a psychometric exam; they have a test that checks creative and critical thinking and the ability to improvise.

So what are you doing here?

I was supposed to be in India, but at the moment I’m studying from Israel and saving money, even though I am on a scholarship. I work for another company that is trying to find a solution to conflicts through technology. And I’m also waitressing a little.

What does waitressing have to do with it?

That’s where the best conversations happen. Besides, this year I also set a goal of giving of myself a little time.

Good luck. How do you manage it all?

When you get thrown into the water early, you learn how to swim. But I’m pretty sure that this doesn’t work with real swimming.

Kieran Sullivan.Credit: Meged Gozani

Kieran Sullivan, 20, lives in New York; flying to Istanbul

Hello, can I ask what you did in Israel?

Traveled around. I was here for a few days, mainly in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I came here after 10 weeks in Rome, now I’m going to Istanbul for a few days.

How was Rome?

I really liked it, but I don’t think I could live there. It’s a very ancient city with a problematic public transportation system and tremendous crowding. It’s not so convenient to live there, but the food is amazing and the place is enchanting, although I don’t think I’ll ever eat pasta again. I feel like I have to work out for the next two years.

Are you originally a New Yorker?

I’ve lived most of my life there, but I’ve also lived in Hong Kong. My parents are married, but my father is in London and my mother is in New York, so my brother and I travel around. It’s a bit strange and challenging, especially for my parents, but we celebrate the holidays together and talk a lot by FaceTime. I’m in college anyway, so I’m away from home a lot.

Which school?

I’m at the University of Chicago, which is a very tough place and academically stressful. It was chosen as the “most caffeinated” school in the United States, but I have friends to chill with who help me take care of myself. I’m in a fraternity, and it’s a large part of my college experience.

Toga! Toga! Toga!

It’s not what people think, it’s not “Animal House.” During recruitment week, you don’t really have to do anything weird – on the contrary, it was one of nicest things I’ve ever experienced. We were drunk most of the time and were sent on all kinds of missions that we had to video as proof, like drinking beer on the top of a certain building in Chicago. Initially I didn’t think I would want to join a fraternity, but then I went to a party and met people. They were nice, good students, not party animals. People who are fun to talk to and will also help with personal or academic problems, people I think of today as family.

That’s a very different picture from what’s been painted by the American media.

I live in the frat house, with two roommates. I actually do go to the library a lot, because it’s a bit hard to study there, what with people playing beer pong every night.

What are you studying?

In my program at the university you have to major in history, economics and philosophy. The philosophy part is the best, economics is studied from a monetary angle. I also took art history, because I appreciate art and like getting lost in museums, but I don’t know that I would want to make a career out of it.

Why not?

Because I want to make money. I really hope I’ll find something I like to do after I finish school, but if not, I’ll probably work at a bank. I’m young and I’m not yet sure about the things. I hope I’ll soon be able to figure it out, because I only have one year left, and there’s a lot of pressure. I’m on the brink of becoming a real person, and that’s scary.

What is the scariest part?

The idea of being alone. Next year I think I’ll leave the campus and live alone; the real world is big. I’m only 20, but everyone I know is stressed and burned out. They all work really hard, but they feel that they’re not succeeding like they’re supposed to. Most of them are pessimistic about the future – climate change, competitive markets, the economy. It’s easy to get caught up in the flow; it’s part of the reason I’m afraid to grow up.

We all are.

In my generation everyone is tired, people drink huge amounts of coffee, no one has any patience and they’re expecting a lot, and fast. You are constantly bombarded with information and with people’s personal lives through the social networks. I also spend far too much time there [online]. I just met a girl who isn’t on Facebook, and I thought that was really cool, but how does she survive? I don’t think I’m strong enough. Now on the trip I understood it, because there were times when I didn’t have a connection. I got really stressed. Maybe I need something like a Google restart to understand where I’m going.