Q&A with Citigroup’s Director of Campus Strategy and Diversity Recruitment Deborah Bertan on internships in Israel

In April 2011, Deborah Bertan, Citigroup’s Director of Campus Strategy and Diversity Recruitment, joined 12 other representatives from Fortune 500 companies to participate in Masa Israel Journey’s Employer Thought Leader Summit.  
In one week, the companies traveled throughout Israel, meeting recent college graduates interning and volunteering, and Israeli companies hosting Masa Israel interns.  Bertan was so excited about what she discovered in Israel that she graciously agreed to share her experiences:
Q: What were your impressions of Israel?
DB: Because I had previously visited the historic sites, this time I was much more focused on getting a feel for the culture, the country, and the people.  I thought that the tour that the Masa Israel team put together was fabulous because it included visits to off-the-beaten track places.  
For example, we traveled to the Negev to visit young people who were building houses in their communities.  Dr. David Mendelsohn, Academic Director of Givat Haviva Institute [which works to advance Jewish-Arab relations in Israel] gave us a history lesson that inspired me to read Exodus.  We visited a homeless shelter where young Americans were volunteering.  We also got a real feel for Israel’s entrepreneurial spirit.
I was very moved by the whole experience.  It was incredible to see that kids from all over the world care so much about Israel that they want to take part in true immersion experiences and give back to the Israeli people.
Q: What were your impressions of the Masa Israel interns/volunteers?
DB: They were so incredibly impressive.  They are a group of bright, hard-working, passionate, and committed kids. I think that many doors will open for them because of the cultural sensitivity they are gaining through their experiences.
Q: What do you think Masa Israel participants gain by interning and volunteering in Israel?
DB: I think that the cultural sensitivity they gain is key.  Also, because of everything that Jews have experienced historically, Jewish participants will have meaningful and life-changing experiences, returning with a deeper appreciation of their heritage.
Having spent time living in Israel and contributing to the workplace, Masa Israel participants may develop an assertiveness that they previously did not have.  Through living on their own, they will develop a new level of maturity.
So many companies, including Citigroup, are truly global right now.  Having a global mindset and being able to acclimate to new cultures and create relationships around the world will put Masa Israel interns way ahead of the curve.   These internships definitely help young people develop this toolset.
Q: Are you interested in hiring Masa Israel participants?  Why?
DB: Yes, absolutely!  We already posted one of our opportunities on Masa Israel’s job board.  We are also trying to work out the logistics of another opportunity in which individuals apply for jobs at Citigroup through the regular recruitment process while in college, do a summer internship with Citi, and then defer their start dates for full time positions in order to take part in a Masa Israel internship.
These Masa Israel interns are very bright, committed, and passionate, and while I don’t know their GPAs, I assume that they are strong.  It’s a benefit for us to hire people with global experience.
Q: How do you see major corporations fitting into the trend of international experience?
DB: If they are not there already, then they will have to get there.  We have a truly global economy and I believe that most of the economic growth will happen outside of the US. It’s important for businesses to hire candidates with a global mindset.

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