November 15, 2016
CareerHub Interview is an ongoing series where we speak with and learn from emerging leaders working and volunteering in the Jewish community. Below, we catch up with Karen Alpert, senior directory of systems and technology at BBYO. Karen shares her story of professional growth, how she moved between Jewish organizations and how she was able to take advantage of new opportunities along the way.
1. Tell us about your story as a Jewish professional thus far.
I seem to now be a career Jewish communal professional. When I moved to Washington DC and began a job Hillel International after graduating college, I did not expect that I’d stay at Hillel for almost 17 years. But I had a lot of opportunity for movement within Hillel, so my curiosity and desire to grow essentially allowed me to advance to three different careers all within the same organization. I started in development, moved to IT, and then took on a leadership role with Hillel’s new data and measurement initiatives.
And then a position opened up at BBYO that got me really excited. It was an incredible opportunity for me to stay in the Jewish community and really lead something. So in May I took over IT at BBYO. My job is to bring together the organization’s various IT roles and systems and figure out where we need to go from here. It’s been a good move.
I sort of joke that I’m still not a hundred percent sure that I know what I want to do. But when this opening came about at BBYO, it just seemed to combine my past experience and really became a jumping off point as a next step for me, and so I took advantage of it.
2. What have you found most interesting about your transition from Hillel to BBYO?
People ask all the time- was it a good thing or bad thing to move to an organization so close to my previous one? For me, it’s been great. I’ve stayed within the same building and still work towards a meaningful mission. What’s been interesting is how similar the two organizations are, and the ways where the organizations stand on their own.
Hillel is a lot larger, so in comparison BBYO feels young, like it’s more of a startup. At Hillel I was able to develop professionally by consistently seeking out new opportunities to advance, but at BBYO there are seasonal opportunities for growth extended to everyone at the organization. It’s highly encouraged at BBYO to try out a bunch of different things, to visit camp in the summer and to meet with student leaders.
3. You moved between two organizations in the Talent Alliance. Can you share how this affected your move, if at all?
Because I moved from one organization in the Talent Alliance to another, I did receive a few special benefits that recognized my time worked at Hillel. But what’s most valuable to me about the Talent Alliance is that it exists. It sends a message that these organizations are committed enough to actually encourage movement and growth for their employees. They value talent remaining in the Jewish community, and are willing to incentivize staying there. And that has some sway. Now that I’ve worked for over 17 years in a Talent Alliance organization—that’s a lot of history and tenure I can take with me each time I transition to my next step.
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The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or program participants.