“From Chicago Jewelers Row to the Ramat Gan Bourse” by Joe Hakimain

Since the early years of high school, when most young adults are scrambling to comprehend all the choices around them, to select their university and to outline a path in life, I have had it easy. My mind has always been set on working in the fascinating world of diamonds. In 2007 I started working at my father’s Jewelry Store in Chicago’s Jewelers Row during the summers, while studying at the University of Wisconsin Business School during the year. This past summer after I graduated from University and after I finished my fourth summer of working at my father’s store, I decided I wanted something new.

I contemplated what my next move should be. An important part of my life had always been my Jewish identity and my proud support and love for my homeland, Israel. I still loved the diamond business and really wanted to expand my experience and knowledge about the business. That’s when I realized that working in Israel at one of the biggest centers of diamond exchange in the world, the Diamond Burse in Ramat Gan, was an amazing opportunity for me. The only question was: which diamond company would be the right fit for me?

I researched many opportunities and options for my time in Israel and I found a program called Career Israel, which allowed you to live in Tel Aviv and work at any job in your field. After a few calls to Career Israel, they told me that there was a company at the Burse which had a position open. Fast forward some exchanges of calls and emails with the company’s staff, a meeting with the Chairman and Vice President at the JCK show in Las Vegas and that’s when I knew it: YDI Ltd was my perfect match.

I joined the YDI team three months ago and cannot put into words how amazing my experience here has been so far.

On the first day at work, I came into the YDI office expecting to get an introduction and training, but was instead thrown directly in to the assorting room, handed two plastic bags full of diamonds and told to start grading them.

It was like a scene in a movie: a young American guy who barely speaks Hebrew, grading diamonds with five Hasidic Israelis in a small room. I kept looking around, expecting Quentin Tarantino to jump out from behind the door and shout, “cut!”

After a week of astonishment during which I saw and handled more diamonds then I have seen in my entire life, I moved to the stock department where the heart of YDI beats. If I thought that the assorting room had more diamonds in one room than I’d ever seen, then I was about to get the upgrade of a lifetime. The stock department was a whole new world for me, a room filled with millions of dollars worth of diamonds parceled off perfectly according to YDI’s innovative assortment code.

I spent around a month in the assorting department and then moved on to sales where the real action happens. Although it was hard to understand some of the interactions in Hebrew at first, sitting in a room with two Israeli’s doing business was one of the most enriching experiences I have had so far. As my knowledge of diamonds and the business grew, I was being immersed deeper and deeper into the world of Israeli work culture as well. Unlike the formal business environment which I am used to in the States, here shirts and jeans are acceptable, people are very individualistic, yet results are crucial and it is not uncommon to hear a friendly screaming battle between two employees.

Now, after my journey around the company in the three months I have been here – working with customers, interacting with co-workers, walking around the Burse, talking to international clients – I have realized that YDI is a very special place.

Here I was, this young American guy from Chicago’s Jewelers Row who came to Israel knowing very little about diamonds. Fast forward three months, after being taken in by this amazing company at the Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan, YDI, and I had a newfound expertise, I was learning a new language and a new culture, and I was learning the ropes of one of the most incredible industries in the world.

I have learned more here at YDI in the last three months than I have in the last four years of my life. As the Israeli’s say “Life is a movie!” and I can’t wait to see what the next scene has in store for me.



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