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My Story: From the Israeli Army to London Business School

London Business School MBA student Orel Hashmatia

Orel Hashmatia is a decision maker. You have to be when you’re leading a platoon of 55 new recruits through basic training and teaching them how to hold a gun for the first time, the former Israeli Defense Forces commander says.

Hashmatia, 30, was equally decisive in selecting an MBA program. She only applied to London Business School. She also decided as a young girl that she wanted to push beyond the limits of Shlomi, the rural village in northern Israel where she grew up. Hashmatia was the first member of her immediate family to go to college. “Ever since I was very, very young, I always wanted to achieve more, to test the boundaries and to find the next challenge,” she recalls. And not just the conventional ones, she opted to dye her hair pink in high school just before graduation.  “When I look back, it looks a bit silly, but I think it was a good experience,” she says with a laugh.

After completing her military service in 2003, she attended the University of Haifa where she studied law and economics while juggling a side job as a project manager for the Jewish Agency for Israel. Hashmatia then joined Elbit Systems Ltd., an international defense electronics company, as a junior legal counsel. The exposure to high-level decisions and an international business environment prompted her to pursue an MBA where she could pick up critical skills for a future career with multinational companies. 

Perhaps as a legacy of her military training, Hashmatia isn’t afraid to reassess decisions under new circumstances. A 2012 summer internship as the operations director for Taboola Europe Ltd., a video recommendation platform, opened up another career possibility—startups.  When Hashmatia graduates in July 2013 she’ll face another decision—whether to take an operational role with another startup or to jump into a blue chip company to gain more international business experience. “Now I’m looking ahead and trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up,” she jokes.

Her Story:

I’m always trying to challenge myself and progress in my career. When I was with Elbit Systems, I was basically the youngest person in the room in most discussions. I was lucky to have a fantastic boss who gave me exposure to everything that was going on. During my interactions with senior management, I noticed most of them had international experience. Israel is a very small pool, and I know the world is becoming more and more globally connected.  So it was important for me to get a global education and experience, even though long-term I see myself back in Israel. I knew that an MBA at LBS would allow me to do business internationally more successfully.  It would give me a more diverse experience to broaden my views and approach.

I applied only to LBS. I went in 100% and put all of my eggs in one basket.  That’s also something that characterizes me – I make decisions really fast.  I decided I wanted to go to LBS and I applied on the first round, so I was hoping to get in.  I told myself that if I don’t get in, then I’d start thinking about the second round and considering other schools. I guess if I hadn’t been accepted, I would have needed to explore other options. But very happily and luckily I did get in. For me, LBS was the perfect choice.