Meet Jake Guttman, an elite firefighter turned senior sales development representative for a growing Israeli high-tech company.
Guttman’s dramatic career pivot was enabled by SalesClass, an online masterclass initiated in collaboration with Nefesh B’Nefesh’s UpGrade program to help Olim integrate into the Israeli ecosystem and build rewarding careers. The UpGrade program offers multiple short-courses to help people pivot their careers into the Israeli marketplace.
Guttman is one of 300 people who have completed Nefesh B’Nefesh’s SalesClass since it was founded in 2020 and will be offering its 13th cohort in October. “SalesClass gave me the fundamentals to tackle the world of sales and SaaS (Software as a Service),” says Guttman, an Oleh from New York. “When I decided I wanted to change my career, I was incredibly lost. SalesClass taught me the terminology, like KPIs, [key performance indicators], and CTA [calls to action], so when I went for an interview, they were impressed that a firefighter knows these things and that I could speak their language.”
SalesClass was conceptualized by friends Jake Levant and Sonya Meloff based on Sonya’s previous experience launching a sales upskilling program called Sales Camp in Canada and Jakes connections within the Israeli tech industry including recruiting exceptional sales instructors and establishing a partnership with Nefesh B’Nefesh. “Half my friends lost their jobs during the pandemic,” Levant says. “At the same time, I was working to hire people abroad. I thought, “Why should I hire people abroad when there are so many people here who need jobs?”
However, it wasn’t so simple. The skills Levant was looking for weren’t the same as the ones many unemployed Olim possessed. “They had the power, but not the direction or the knowledge,” Levant says.
Levant approached Rachel Berger, VP of Employment at Nefesh B’Nefesh, and together they launched SalesClass, a six-week online bootcamp to teach people everything they need to know to be successful in sales. Berger’s unique access to Olim and her knowledge of the hurdles they were facing when entering the Israeli job-market, made her the perfect partner.
The hyper-focused course teaches people how to make cold calls and help potential customers find solutions, how to contact people over LinkedIn, and how to prove your value so you can help people. The course includes lectures from professionals in the field as well as role playing to practice the learned skills.
Guttman, the firefighter turned senior SDR, says the course helped him sell himself when he went to interview at the company he currently works for. “Speaking with knowledge and confidence is ginormous in sales,” he says. “It’s all about how you talk and address people.” Guttman participated in SalesClass in early 2022 and landed a job in high-tech by April of that year. Guttman has now returned to SalesClass as an instructor to help train other Olim.
SalesClass is just one of the many professional courses in Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Upgrade program. The organization has since launched a Content Marketing Class, a Digital Marketing Course, a Finance Class, and a Fundraising Class in response to requests from Olim. In addition, Nefesh B’Nefesh, who works in close cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA,has partnered with affiliates that provide other courses in many topics including web development, marketing, cyber, and more.
“This is very important for Olim,” Berger says. “You’re not just brought here. We care about your trajectory here. We have built a community of people who want to give back.” Berger notes that all the courses are taught by volunteer Olim who want to pass on their knowledge and help other Olim find their place in Israeli society. Some of the volunteer instructors even hire students who excel in their courses.
“Olim really have a special talent, which is their mother-tongue English language,” says Berger who has spent the last 20 years helping Olim integrate into Israeli society by facilitating local career opportunities. . She’s seen the struggle many Olim have, especially lone soldiers or others whose experience may not translate into the Israeli ecosystem. “We need to make sure Olim have opportunities to use their skills and backgrounds in order to succeed here.”
Nefesh B’Nefesh is at the forefront of adding new courses to the UpGrade program based on student requests and needs of the industry. Their courses have helped people from many different backgrounds, such as students, farmers, carpenters, and tour guides, and ages range from early twenties to sixties. Through the courses, students are given the opportunity to be reeducated and use their backgrounds to find more financially rewarding careers which enable them to thrive in Israel. Berger says that at least 75% of their students are gainfully employed after completing their respective courses.
One happy graduate of UpGrade is Sharona Benjamin, who made Aliyah from the UK in 2006. Benjamin had worked in human resources prior to coming to Israel, but found herself bouncing around admin or customer service jobs which weren’t aligned with her skills. Benjamin participated in the Content Marketing Class in January 2022 and just three months later was hired as a Marketing and Content Writer for a health-tech company.
“I really didn’t think it was possible to change my career,” Benjamin says. “Not having strong Hebrew, it was hard for me to find any training opportunities.” Benjamin says she had instantly wanted to apply when she heard of the UpGrade program. The course helped me feel confident to apply to my job and it made me realize that I could do itIt was also very relevant on my resume and was a big topic of conversation during my job interview.”
Until now, the UpGrade program has been very grassroots. Professionals come wanting to share knowledge or Olim come requesting courses in a certain field. Berger says that Nefesh B’Nefesh is looking to continue growing the program and systemize it with more courses and programs based on the needs of the Israeli ecosystem. “We create courses based on where the opportunities lie ,” Berger says. “In some fields, demand outpaces the supply of professionals. If you don’t have the skills for that vertical, you can learn. We’ll help you find a solution for a rewarding career.”
For more information, visit https://www.nbn.org.il/upgrade/