'Sydney Is Like the Perfect Woman. But I’m Still in Love With Tel Aviv'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: An Israeli woman who's breaking the glass ceiling in Australia

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Einat Sukenik.
Einat Sukenik.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Einat Sukenik, 38; lives in Sydney and flying there

Hello, what do you do in Sydney?

Five and a half years ago, I established a startup in Australia with a partner. It’s called Upwise. We take data from the social news media and create a platform that helps managers understand what’s happening in the technological market.

I didn’t understand a thing. Can you give me an example?

Managers don’t really have the ability to understand what’s happening in the market, so they look at reports, go to consultants or ask their analysts to come up with the information. But there’s no tool that tells them what they need to know clearly. We help them understand what’s happening in the market in real time. What’s going on in the realm of startups? What applications are out there? What is the competition doing? That way we make it possible for them to identify risks and opportunities, and to take action accordingly.

What’s needed in order to create a startup?

It’s important to enjoy it, but you also need the ability to manage emotions – not to get over-enthusiastic and not to get depressed. But the name of the game is to be authentic, always to know who you are and to admit your vulnerabilities courageously so people will connect with you.

How did you happen to create a startup in Australia?

I worked for a large international company and then I had an offer to relocate for 15 months. I was the mother of a little baby and my husband said with a small sigh, “Okay, why not?” We had to pack up everything within five weeks. But when we got there we realized that relocating isn’t so simple, and we immediately extended our stay.

Ignorance is bliss.

I had a secure, high-paying job there, and by 5:30 P.M., I was already home with the children. Perfect, right? But I had a formative experience. One evening I went to put my son to bed and his doll looked at me and said, “Elmo is so sleepy.” I understood that Einat is so sleepy. I was always an entrepreneur and never wanted a big house or a lot of money. I just want things to be interesting. So I left.

That was brave.

And then, when I was on maternity leave, I had an idea: to start something in Australia like “Science at the Bar” in Israel, only with entrepreneurship, “Innovations on Tap.”

Did it work?

Even though I didn’t know anyone, I suggested it to a few organizations. A very big company said, “Wow, yes!” and suddenly the glass ceiling looked closer and I felt I could break it.

And you weren’t hurt?

No – even though things are even more difficult for women in Australia than in Israel. You have to dance the dance, fly off and leave the children. It could actually be a place that drives you forward, because even though there’s a lot of guilt there’s also a lot of power. There’s no time to get into ups and downs, and there’s an engine that makes you understand what needs to be done. There’s no doubt that it’s harder for a woman. If a man goes off for three weeks to work, people tell him “Well done,” but my husband, if he stays with the children for two weeks – you need to build him a temple.

And do the prayers help?

Happily, my husband is very supportive. He really does deserve a few medals. That’s one of the reasons I married him. He always said “Why not?” to everything. And I’m constantly challenging that “Why not?” He’s the real star in all this and I love him.

Do you miss your family?

For two weeks I saw them through the telephone.

Is it fun in Australia?

Life in Australia is quiet and tranquil; even the dogs look happier. It’s easier for a startup to stand out, because in Israel you’re swimming among the sharks. Sydney is like the perfect woman – brilliant, rich, beautiful, calm – but I’m still in love with Tel Aviv. By the way, can I send regards to someone through the newspaper?

It depends ....

I had a physics teacher in high school named Hanoch Pashut, who one day asked me to stay after class and asked me what I think about the place of women in the world. I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “You have a role. You think differently and you need to change the status quo.” I’ve been looking for him for years to thank him. Those five minutes, when someone tells you that you can do it, are sometimes everything.

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