The Bay Area is home to many transplants. A famous hub for those working in the tech industry, it has quickly developed into a diverse global center. However, with relocation sometimes comes culture shock, and many seek comfort in community. The local design community, for example, has grown into a thriving network within the last decade. But, for designers belonging to Silicon Valley’s 50,000 strong Israeli population, there was still a void.

Because Israel boasts its own booming tech industry of startups and tech companies, such as Mobileye, many Israeli founders and designers end up relocating to the Bay Area for their jobs. Yet, when Karen Aharoni-Mack, designer and founder of Beavory, arrived from Israel three years ago, she was immediately left wondering…where are all the Israeli designers?

While taking her first steps into entrepreneurship developing her startup, Mamabot, a conversational personal assistant for aspiring and new moms,Karen remained active in the design community, attending numerous meetups and teaching at General Assembly. She met very few Israeli Designers, though she knew they were out there. So, in pursuit of uniting the  Bay Area’s vibrant Israeli design community, she founded Israeli Designers in Silicon Valley.

Since its founding in January, over 130 designers have joined the Facebook group. It is a hugely multidisciplinary group, including experts on software, user experience, interior design, and graphic design. But, everyone has something in common: their Israeli culture and a passion for design.

“For me it was important to connect them here, because community is very strong and it has great impact. I think there should be a connection between the Israeli tech industry and the design community here. I wanted to invest in something that I’m passionate about and to give back to my community.” -Karen Aharoni-Mack

 

Eliad Goldwasser, Director of Design Services at SAP Design, AppHaus Palo Alto, and an active member of the Israeli community, joined within a few weeks. Despite living in the Bay Area for 13 years, he also knew very few Israeli designers. He joined forces with Karen by offering up space at the AppHaus, which gave rise to the group’s first meetup in February.

           

Photos by Luiza Naslausky at http://luizanaslausky.com.

To establish a somewhat familiar setting, Karen and Eliad ordered everything Israeli: Zume pizza, Challah bread, and pastries. But at a deeper level, they used empathy to help the attendees establish a connection.

 

“It’s a mixed feeling, because you want people to connect to where they are, but I think it’s a good place to start, because when you have someone that can understand the way you think and who shares the same background, you only need to know one person to open the door.” -Karen Aharoni-Mack

 

After first introducing the group to SAP’s design thinking journey as part of Karen’s mission to connect the designers with local companies, Eliad guided an activity using SAP’s storyboarding tool: SAP Scenes. Scenes not only allowed the designers to experience a new, collaborative tool and learn new skills, but it also allowed them to experience empathy for their characters and for each other, during their initial meetup as strangers.

Eliad and Karen developed a relatable scenario about a designer for an Israeli fashion company that relocated.

 

“It was actually the story of a good portion of people in the room, so it was very easy for them to empathize with the character. And, that was Karen’s intention. Out of 40 people that came, 36 of them were women. It’s a lot when the husband gets relocated. A lot of them left a career behind and have to adjust to a new place, a new language, etc. It was great because they took the exercise personally.-Eliad Goldwasser

 

Since the group’s initial meetup, the Israeli Designers have also visited Facebook’s HQ for a live demo of Oculus Rift, WeWork Valley Towers, for a hands-on workshop about finding connections and collaboration, and they’ve had a private event with Ronit Kfir, interior designer, design blogger, media persona, and lecturer. News of the Israeli design community’s vibrancy and fun culture is spreading quickly through local companies, and their calendar of events is almost full for the entire year.

Moving forward, Karen’s goal is to open a channel of communication between a wide range of tech companies and the Israeli community. She is planning a week-long immersive design conference and an index to make the network more accessible to new members and founders.

Ultimately, Karen is working to develop a supportive network that provides the Israeli Designers in Silicon Valley with opportunities to learn and further develop their design skills, all while forming a strong sense of community between members and beyond.

Photos by Luiza Naslausky at http://luizanaslausky.com.

 

“Design can close the gap between people. It’s global- it doesn’t matter where you’re from or your background. If the design is good, everyone can relate to it. It can really make a change in people’s lives.” -Karen Aharoni-Mack

 

To learn more about the Israeli Designers in Silicon Valley, visit their website here.

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