With the retirement of Intel CEO Paul Otellini, the company is looking for a replacement who can help lead it to greater success. Various names have been bandied about, including Intel Executive VP David (Dadi) Perlmutter from Israel.
But there’s another candidate from these parts: Jerusalem resident Sa’id Haruf, 26, a top-level Intel engineer who’d like the opportunity to run Intel himself. That, at least, is what Haruf told US President Barack Obama when the latter visited the Israel Museum Thursday for a look at top Israeli hi-tech inventions and innovations.
Harif was there representing Intel, as well as Maantech, the hi-tech “finishing school” for Israeli Arabs, which was developed to help them become more integrated into Israel’s hi-tech scene. Haruf told Obama all about Maantech, which helps train Israeli Arabs to interview, prepare resumes, and improve their Hebrew and English skills.
The encounter impressed the president sufficiently that he referred to Maantech when he spoke at a press conference in Ramallah later Thursday. Israelis and Palestinians, Obama said, “are both very entrepreneurial peoples,” and could work together to advance the entire region, like they do “in a program that helps Israeli Arabs” in Israel’s hi-tech industry “started by Cisco CEO John Chambers” that he had heard about at the Museum. “Imagine if you could have a strong Palestine that could create jobs and prosperity for all,” Obama said, describing the benefits Israelis and Palestinians could bring to the entire Middle East if they worked together.
Haruf was being just a bit tongue in cheek when he told Obama that he wanted to run Intel. “I would settle for something smaller, too,” he told The Times of Israel. But for Arab college graduates seeking a hi-tech career in Israel, Intel is one of the best places to apply. The company has 600 engineers from the Arab sector. It’s the largest hi-tech employer of Israeli-Arabs — and it has been for decades — Haruf said.
Haruf studied in Lebanon and is now working on a master’s degree at the Technion in Haifa. He lives in East Jerusalem, and admits to feeling uncomfortable among Israelis, mostly because of the different cultures among Jews and Arabs, and the language barrier. There’s also discrimination in the workplace against Arabs, he adds, because many Jews, in their turn, are ill at ease with Arabs.
But he feels quite comfortable at Intel, where his wife also works. “I have never experienced any discrimination in the company, neither in Israel nor in the US, where I was working for several years. In addition, there is only full respect for my culture, from all perspectives. Intel has made it a policy to seek out people from other cultures and to promote diversity, in the belief that different people will contribute different ideas, which can be used to revolutionize technology.”
Maantech is a great tool to ensure that engineers and other tech workers from the Arab sector can cope in the Israeli hi-tech sector, Haruf said. The program was established in 2011, after President Shimon Peres and Cisco CEO John Chambers met at the World Economic Forum Meeting in Davos. At the meeting, the two discussed ways to help bridge the gap between Israel and its Arab neighbors, as well as with its own Arab population. Hi-tech seemed an obvious solution, and to that end Peres and Chambers established the program, which helps Israeli-Arab tech students prepare for the job market.
Candidates upload their resumes to the Maantech website. The CVs are evaluated by experts, and candidates go through a series of practice interviews, learning how to present themselves. They also attend various seminars and labs, including workplace simulations, group dynamics, a review of the hi-tech industry, and more, all designed to help them “talk the talk.” Candidates can get special coaching help, English-language classes, or referrals to courses where they can learn a specific skill they need for a job. “It’s helped a lot of my friends,” said Haruf. “I was very proud to be representing Intel and Maantech at the event, and very proud to meet President Obama.”
Perhaps it was Haruf’s impassioned comments Thursday morning, delivered as Peres looked on, that impressed Obama so much. “Ensuring opportunities for Arab students to work in companies like Intel is very important,” Haruf told the president. “My message to Israeli Arabs is that with determination and hard work, they can get jobs in hi-tech, and advance to senior positions. I want to increase the motivation of other young people to study engineering and other hi-tech subjects, and not be afraid to look for work in the industry.”
Then, Haruf said, he told Obama about his future plans. “In 20 years’ time, I want to be president of Intel” or some other large hi-tech company “that provides opportunities and jobs for Arab students.” Obama’s response? “He sort of chuckled, and said ‘Why not?’ ” said Haruf. “Then he moved on.” Apparently, though, Haruf — as well as Maantech — made a big impression on the president, considering that he thought to mention the encounter in his Ramallah remarks.