Lamerhav Graduate Shares His Path from Boarding School to Starting an Internet Website-Building Company

“My name is Kobi Rotenberg.  I’m 25 years old and work at designing and building websites.  About two years ago, I established a company that provides a variety of advanced Internet solutions, such as company branding, graphic print design, developing and building Internet sites and more.

One of my recent projects is the Lamerhav website which I’m very proud of.  I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.  The previous Lamerhav website was not well designed and didn’t completely reflect the organization’s work or the information presented.  The website was also not adapted for smartphones.  Therefore, at their request, I built them a completely new website that has a convenient, easy-to-use management system.  It’s a responsive site that can be viewed with a smartphone and on screens of all sizes. The news frame on the website is updated regularly with new posts.

In addition, since the organization already had a well-established website containing a lot of information, we made sure to keep the old links that navigate to the new website.  The end result is impressive and high-quality and draws many positive responses.

How did I end up building websites?

As long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to the world of the Internet.  I always dreamed of learning about it and working in it.  I was 16 when I built my first website – by trial and error.  I went from one job to another until I decided to do something about my future. With the help of Lamerhav, I enrolled in a programming course at Top Audio College, which I completed with honors.  In 2017, I completed another course in graphic design and website building at John Bryce College in Tel Aviv.

One month after I opened my company and decided to be self-employed I was asked to come to work part-time at the Tech Jump Company.  For about a year, I combined my work there with work in my own company.  I gained a lot from the work, whether in practical experience or learning a lot about topics in which I wanted to develop and gain experience.   At work I learned about sales talk with clients, organic and paid promotion, high-level website design, user experience and more.

The first steps, which seemed difficult and remote at the initial stages of starting my business, became easier and I began feeling more confident.  I accumulated a lot of work experience in the field, thanks to the hard work I was doing.  Now I get up for work every day with renewed energy to learn and to give more of myself.

My ‘Lamerhav experience’

I spent most of my childhood in the “Alumim” Boarding School in Kfar Saba.   Shortly before I graduated, I heard about Lamerhav organization which accompanies at-risk young adults for eight years from the time they finish school.  I always rejected any help people wanted to give me, but this sounded like a great program and I went for it.   I reached the selection stage and was accepted.  As time went by I had a slightly unfamiliar feeling: suddenly I had a home with people who cared about me and I felt like they were my family.  This was especially true when I left boarding school and was suddenly all alone with no one to confide in.  That was precisely what Lamerhav gave me.  In talks with my mentor, I suddenly began to look at my future and to plan it, instead of remaining under pressure just to survive in the present.

At that time, I also worked non-stop in restaurants to earn a living and simply survive. I never thought for a moment about studying or about my future.  I thought that I would work my whole life at odd jobs, unless if I somehow got a large sum of money and then I could stop working and study something I’m passionate about.

When Lamerhav offered to help me financially so I can fund my studies, I seized the opportunity and devoted myself entirely to my studies.  Within two years I completed a programming course with excellence and a second course in building and designing websites.  Immediately after I finished studying I acquired a lot of experience working in a leading website-building company, during which time I opened my own company and began working independently.  Today, I’m completely devoted to the growth of my company, and I provide services to a company where I worked previously and to private clients.  I feel ready, more than ever, to go out into the world with a lot of self-confidence and a sense of independence, with a lot of knowledge that I’ve accumulated during my years of being guided and supported in Lamerhav.  I have a different perception of life than I had when I arrived as a “kid”.

Who inspires me?

During the first course that I studied in the “Derech Hamelech” program of the Elem Organization, Dror Mendelbaum accompanied and advised us on a completely voluntary basis. After I completed, the course, I consulted with Dror about opening my own company and he helped me a lot with professional and practical advice.  He always made me feel comfortable if I needed to ask questions and to consult with him about any topic.   He was the person who gave me the confidence to start my own business, and I will always be grateful to him for that.

I remember that I always looked at him and asked myself: Why would someone volunteer to come in nearly every day to give of himself without receiving any payment?  During the years I was in boarding schools, I met many volunteers and I never understood them.  I always thought: ‘Go out and work!  What are you doing here?’  And precisely being in that position, I always wanted to be on the other side – the side of the volunteer – and to give something back.

Looking ahead

In five or ten years from now, I see myself continuing to invest all my time and efforts in expanding my company.  I hope I will be completely independent and with both emotional and financial security.  I’ll always continue doing what I love best in the best way I can.  I’ll always continue learning, especially in the world of websites – a world that is constantly and rapidly changing.  I learn more with every new project.  That is precisely my ambition – to always learn and grow.

This is a good opportunity to say “thank you” to the staff at Lamerhav for helping me to achieve a different kind of life that I could have had, and for the change in my outlook and thinking.  Without that I don’t know where I would be today”.

We wish to congratulate Kobi, who was selected by Shula Mozes, recipient of the 2018 Presidential Volunteer of the Year Award, to receive the President’s Volunteer of the Year - The Next Generation Award. Kobi demonstrates true giving and doing through his five years of volunteering in the “Big Brother Big Sister” Association.