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#Meet_The_Oleh: Amy Vogel

Aliyah Date: August 2020 Made Aliyah from Providence, Rhode Island Currently living in Givatayim

Amy may have made Aliyah during the pandemic, but that didn't stop her from finding an awesome job in the unique field of transportation technology. Keep reading for the rest of her story...

Amy Vogel taking a selfie outside with her boyfriend
Amy Vogel with her boyfriend

Amy made Aliyah from Providence, Rhode Island, just before the second lockdown in Israel at the end of August. She is now living in Givatayim, though originally she had planned to live in Tel Aviv. Since everything is closed in Tel Aviv currently, it made sense for her to live just outside the city with more space until things open back up!

Amy planned to make Aliyah well before the pandemic, but of course, the Coronavirus held everything up. Amy's boyfriend is Israeli and they had been together for a while, so they decided it made sense for her to move to Israel.

Outside of her relationship, Amy has always loved Israel, and she knew she wanted to move somewhere outside of the East Coast. Moving to Israel also gave her the opportunity to expand her horizons and immerse herself in a culture she loves and that means something to her.

Another factor that interested Amy was all the career options in Israel -- the Start-Up Nation! She had previously done an internship at a company called Optibus when she was a sophomore in college. She was drawn to that company particularly because she was studying transportation, and they make bus schedule optimization software. She majored in Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, with a minor in Urban Planning. People in Amy's program were interested in energy systems and sustainability, mainly. Amy's field is a niche but very interesting.

Amy Vogel wearing a graduation gown and cap while pointing to a sign that reads 'home of a 2020 MIT Grad'

Amy learned a lot at her internship, but she also developed a love for Tel Aviv and the high-tech world. She saw opportunities here and wanted to go for them. While in Tel Aviv, Amy met her boyfriend at the Technion and that made the idea of living in Israel even more of a possibility.

Many people in Amy's program are very career-driven and move to technology hubs such as Silicon Valley after graduation. But it's rare to see someone move to Tel Aviv. The internship Amy had given her the confidence to pursue the field here, knowing there would be lucrative opportunities.

And it seems that Amy's hunch was right because she found a job shortly after making Aliyah! She was sitting in quarantine at an Air BnB and was supposed to do Ulpan Etzion to learn Hebrew in Haifa. She found out she was waitlisted for the program, so she had to explore other options.

She was looking at jobs and found the company Via, there were many positions available there that struck her interest. She started the interview process while in bidud (quarantine) from landing in Israel, but soon after her bidud, there was a country-wide lockdown. She got the job and started working there very quickly, but Amy is happy with how it worked out!

Via is a transportation technology company that has a research and development team based in Tel Aviv, with the Business Development Department in New York. While they provide lots of different services, one popular means of Transporation in Tel Aviv, "Bubble," is powered by their software. Her role is as City Implementor and QA Analyst. They wanted to make their software flexible so they can easily create apps for any city that wants to use it, so Amy's job is to configure those cities. She works with the project manager and developers to configure an on-demand rideshare system that meets the unique needs of the city, including customizations such as mapping parameters, multiple language support, pre-ride notifications, app aesthetics, and more. In addition to setting up these features, she does QA testing on the system to make sure it's ready for riders, drivers, and operators to use on the day that the service launches.

Talk about a cool job! Amy says, "I really appreciate this field – all day at work, I work on complex software, but then after work, I'll be sitting in a Bubble on my way to Tel Aviv, and if I see something that doesn't seem right during my ride, I take a screenshot and send it to my team to make sure the issue is looked into. It’s real-time. It’s not necessarily part of my job, but it’s fun that there is a tangible aspect."

In terms of the challenges of Aliyah, Amy agrees that the language is hard. She has studied Hebrew a lot in the past but still feels she has a long way to go. And of course, there are pandemic-specific challenges, such as not being able to see her family in America. It's also hard not to see her family in Israel--because of the lockdowns, restrictions, and worry about Corona, it's difficult to be unable to visit for a simple Shabbat or holiday meal.

Of course one of the best parts of Amy's Aliyah is that she is reunited with her boyfriend -- they were long-distance for more than a year (and because of Corona, couldn't visit each other for 9 months!) So she really appreciates the time together now. But Amy also loves her job -- she feels very fulfilled on these fronts and is excited for this new stage of life.

Amy's advice for Olim is practical -- do research on what to bring to Israel beforehand! There are a lot of random items you can't get here. For example, if you want a Swiffer mop, be sure to pack that! But she also admits it's also not necessarily sustainable to rely only on American products -- we found that out the hard way this past year of the pandemic!

Her other piece of advice is "don't underestimate the importance of learning Hebrew." It's fine not to know Hebrew if you're coming as a tourist, but if you want to make connections, do well in the workplace, and bargain in the shuk, Hebrew is valuable.


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