What Serving in the Israeli Army Taught Me about Working in Tech

There’s plenty I learned serving in the field-intelligence unit that has served me well in tech. By Nofar Diamant (Automation Developer, Perion) Moving to high-tech from the field-intelligence unit of the Israel Defense Forces, known as Unit 8200, I gained tools to succeed unlike those I could’ve received anywhere else. Serving in an army unit focused on protecting the lives of Israeli citizens could not have been a better introduction to an industry where revolutionary advances commonly occur. The combination of learned technological knowledge, persistence to perfectly solve problems, female empowerment and leadership skills gave me a unique backdrop to tech. Some background: In Israel, the army serves a role similar to that of U.S. colleges for high-school students. After high grades on intelligence tests, I decided that a role in an intelligence unit would be fulfilling and important. I began in basic training, combining physical exercises with drills. I then continued into a specialized cyber-security course, as part of a 20-person team (including five women), where I learned many technical tools I’d come to rely on over the next two years as part of the 8200 Unit. Upon completion of the army, I moved into the Israeli tech sector, a natural progression for many 8200 graduates. Over the course of my time in the army and now in tech, I have learned a number of important lessons that can be applied to numerous other professionals. Below are the four notable takeaways.

1. Women Have Unique Opportunities and Challenges

While basic training was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my army service, most of our activities were meant to get us into an army mindset stereotypically associated with male soldiers: drills, scrimmages, etc. At every assembly we needed to acknowledge army leadership — yet never in the history of the State never has a female reached that level. While it bothered me in theory, it didn’t seem to affect me as a regular soldier. When I considered entering the army leadership, nearly all officers were male. Once working in my unit, most of the commanders were male. I needed to occasionally adapt my communication to get messages across. Many of my colleagues were slightly challenged when trying to communicate, while being incredibly creative, adept and effective at computer engineering. I’d need to learn how to connect with these fellow soldiers, as people sometimes couldn’t look me in the eye due to social awkwardness in a man’s world of computer engineers.

2. How to Discern Tasks in a Pressure-Filled Environment

The army taught me to work effectively under pressure. There was a need to fulfill people’s needs as fast as possible, sometimes with major ramifications should the task not be completed. At first I thought every task was “Dachuf,” or urgent, but I soon learned to tell the difference between what truly was urgent versus what wasn’t. I also learned when to say “no” to requests, either because they would be impossible or impractical. It was easy to fall into the trap of accepting all requests, when in reality it was important to deny certain unobtainable tasks, especially when working in army intelligence.

3. The Importance of Camaraderie in Cyber-Security and Tech

As I completed my army service, I first secured a job at Perion working in QA. I fit in well. My time in the army had taught me how to learn on my feet, find holes or opportunities in a network and find solutions as a team. In the army, you must cooperate with fellow soldiers — with constant high stakes and incredible responsibility. Everything was earned as a team and everyone was accountable. While teamwork manifests itself differently in the corporate world, collaborating together is still the best path to efficient product development.

4. Never Stop Searching for Perfect Solutions

Nothing can compare to doing cyber-security when you understand the safety of your nation, everyone around you and yourself, relies on the work you are doing. This means that everything you are doing must be totally flawless, and that you are really giving it your all. As a team leader of six, I needed to inspire and push my soldiers to have that same mindset. From a social perspective, it was slightly difficult when I needed to use a strong hand with one of the boys on my team by disciplining or providing less-desirable tasks. At the end of the day, every task plays an important role in protecting the nation. Working in tech, I have found I actually get more respect as a female than I did as a soldier or back in school. My background in 8200 and the role I play at Perion really contribute to my ability to inspire those around me regardless of gender or other cultural obstacles. While the army was a great start, I can really now appreciate my job, and my role in advancing the app ecosystem that our world is becoming more and more dependent on.

About the guest blogger: Nofar Diamant is an automation developer at Perion. Perion provides online publishers and app developers with intelligent, data-driven solutions to monetize and expand the reach of their applications.