Dina Orenbach of the Israel Ministry of Tourism: “Prioritize tasks and complete them”

Prioritize tasks and complete them — This one even I struggle with- but just don’t procrastinate. The things that I don’t get done at the right time later occupy me when I’m supposed to be spending time with my family. It just takes away energy and it’s, quite frankly, a waste. Understand what is and isn’t vital […]

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Prioritize tasks and complete them — This one even I struggle with- but just don’t procrastinate. The things that I don’t get done at the right time later occupy me when I’m supposed to be spending time with my family. It just takes away energy and it’s, quite frankly, a waste. Understand what is and isn’t vital to do and set about your tasks accordingly. Be aware of the balance between how much peace of mind and clarity you will receive from getting a task done versus how much work it will take to do it. Try to eliminate the small, time-consuming things. That gives us better control over our task list.

As a part of my series about the strategies that extremely busy and successful leaders use to juggle, balance and integrate their personal lives and business lives, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dina Orenbach, Consul and Director of the Western Region of the United States for the Israel Ministry of Tourism, which is based in Los Angeles. In 2020, despite the challenging world circumstances, she accepted the position of Consul-Director to the Western Region and moved her family across the globe to be on the ground in the effort to help tourism recover in the post-Covid world in this important market for Israel. Having immigrated to Israel as a child, Orenbach has always been passionate about sharing the wonders of her country with the world at large — particularly through tourism.

Israel: Land of Creation

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share with us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career?

After finishing my BA in Management and Communication, all my closest friends started to work in marketing departments at various organizations. I felt that I needed to work with people in a more “down to earth” environment, so I joined a human resources company as a recruiter. I liked the work and atmosphere but kept feeling that it was not actually the path for me. I then set out to land a job in marketing, but it was very important to me that it has some sort of added value to society. It was during this time my husband told me he had seen an online ad from The Israel Ministry of Tourism; they were opening a cadets’ course that would train individuals to work in the marketing administration which promotes tourism to Israel from around the world. I applied and fortunately, I got in! I had never considered the public sector before- but this opportunity felt too good to be true! I’d be working in marketing like I wanted, but my focus would be on selling the wonderful product of Israel. I always believed being a tourist in Israel to be a unique experience, and I find helping to bring the wonder of my country to the outside world to be beyond meaningful. Now, 5 years after I started at the Ministry, I find that all my hard work has led me to the role of Consul-Director of our West Coast office in Los Angeles.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started? What lessons or takeaways did you take out of that story?

I started my position in September, and I have 3 wonderful people on my team. They have all been working from home since the pandemic started seeing as the office is in Los Angeles. One day, I was having a Zoom call with Megan, our PR Director, as we do every week when a thought struck me. We have gotten to know each other fairly well since I arrived, but suddenly I realized that I have never met her in person which is slightly ridiculous since I feel like we have known each other for so long! These are certainly strange times we are living in when one doesn’t even know the height of one’s co-workers…

What does leadership mean to you? As a leader, how do you best inspire others?

For me, it means to make a positive difference in the lives of the people you are trying to lead. At work, for me this translates into seeing how I can make my employees grow and improve both as individuals and as a team. Leader is a big word, but I think that its power comes not from the number of people that you are leading but more the effect that you have on them. I try to give my team as much support and freedom to promote projects and tasks as I can. I strive to give them a sense that I trust them and count on them- which I absolutely do! I think if a person is growing and has positive feelings at work this leads to them wanting to achieve the shared goals of the organization as well as possess a greater sense of accountability regarding their part in that process. Furthermore, it helps people care more about their colleges and their work environment.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Wow — I’m sorry to be so cheesy, but the answer is my husband. Since starting at the Ministry, I knew at some point I wanted to get positioned at a foreign office in order to be on the ground working to bring more tourists to beautiful Israel. When this opportunity to come to LA arose, he told me without hesitation that I should apply! Even though he had a full-time job in Israel, he left it so we could come out here to fulfill my dream. Even when the pandemic started, and a lot of things were unclear, he was 100 percent invested in the process and I could not have done this without him. We are completely 50/50 in parenting and I feel that it gives both of us the room to develop both professionally and personally.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main core of our discussion. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your life into your business and career? Can you articulate what the struggle was?

When I started out working for the Ministry of Tourism, I was already married, but we still didn’t have kids. As I worked my way up in the Ministry, my family grew as well. When I started out, I would finish work very late; however, when I became a mom, it was important for me to be there for my kids. When I got back from my first maternity leave, it was so strange that no matter what I was working on, at a certain time I set it all aside and went home to spend time with my family. It took me a long time to navigate how to get everything done while committing to working fewer hours. After I had my second child, it was already my default setting, so it was less of a change and more of perfecting my preexisting methods.

In order to give greater context to this discussion, can you share with our readers what your daily schedule looks like?

Ever since we relocated, I’ve been waiting for the time to come when we would have some sort of routine, because apparently being at home most of the time does not organically create one as we’ve all come to learn. For now, I drop off the little one at day care, I go to my desk (in my house) and start by going over emails and writing down what I want to get done today. I find the ‘working from home’ routine very strange, and I miss the routine of an office with its face-to-face contact with people. Even though the entire team is working remotely, I do strive to talk to them every day either by phone or on Zoom.

For the majority of my day, I focus on my work helping to promote travel to Israel. Currently, since unfortunately, travel has not resumed yet, a lot of the work is talking to the local travel industry, tour operators, and agents just to stay in touch for “the day after”. I also update them on what the current situation in Israel is and inquire as to how we can best support their activities and stay top of mind for the time when tourism resumes.

In the afternoon, we pick up the kids from school and play with our 2-year-old and 8-month-old at home. We have our dinner after the little one goes to sleep with the older one being excited to sit at the table with Mom and Dad all on his own. After both kids are asleep and we feel like we managed to get through another day, we try to watch something interesting together and then we go to sleep. Of course, then we do everything all over again the next day.

Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life? Can you explain?

I think that it wasn’t more difficult, it was just different. I don’t feel that I worked less intensely in comparison to when I started out. However, I would say that as I became more successful, it became easier to manage, simply because I was more practiced at balancing and getting things done faster. It constantly becomes a more natural habit as time passes.

I also think I’m lucky to work in the public sector. It provides me with a good support system as they understand the importance of this balance and try to give you the tools to manage it. In Israel, I was working hours according to a parent position so no matter what I was able to go to pick my kids up from daycare. It’s the same now, it’s just American daycares work longer hours, so I find myself able to have a full uninterrupted workday.

The main focus in my life is on my family (both my 2 kids and my husband) and work. The other areas, like hobbies or home projects, it’s not that I don’t have aspirations in them, I just find myself happy to let those wait while I fully savor the things I have now. Your kids are only young once, right?

Funnily enough, I recently asked my husband- what did we do with the free time we had before the kids came into our lives???

What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal/family life?

If I’m being honest- it was when we relocated from Israel to Los Angeles. On the one hand, it was very difficult just because of all the technical and logistic arrangements. On the other, because we had the kids at home with us and I was working from home, it helped give me the time to deal with everything at once. I think that if these were normal times, I would already be going to conventions and meetings in different cities around the country, which would eat up a lot of my time. The current situation, although not ideal in many ways, gave me a good opportunity to start this new life focusing on the balance between working and being with my family. I had room to wiggle everything together.

Ok, so here is the main question of our interview. Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal/family life? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Plan ahead and communicate– My husband and I try to be present together but some days I do need to put in more time at work. As long as we communicate this to each other upfront then we are able to give each other support. Also, this way I don’t sit at work feeling guilty, since I know that the next day, I’ll make sure to put in more time with my family.
  2. Have a clear-cut daily schedule — I know I’m working until 5 pm, and I don’t want to go back to the laptop when we come home with the kids from school. Even if it’s not a 9–5 job, when you are not working, shift your attention to the relevant activity (be it family time or any other personal matters). I know it really depends on the organization you are working for, but it’s always best to check if you can have more flexible working hours and absolutely worth it to explain that allowing more flexibility in your schedule will help to improve your work.
  3. Try not to be too hard on yourself — Remember there is always a tradeoff, and that’s ok! I don’t believe that the balance can be perfect and surely not so 100% of the time. WLB (“Work-Life Balance”) has become a very widespread term people use and I think just the constant thought of it is stressful on its own. Sometimes it’s ok if you need to do something in the evening or you need to work later because it’s urgent. If I’m with the kids and worrying about work that’s not good for anyone. It’s imperative to either make yourself not worry (which for me is impossible) or you do what you need to in order to get it off your mind for that moment- even if it means you give your full attention to work during time that you originally planned for family. The thing is that in these digital times I have everything on my phone, so the balance is trickier. Sometimes I find myself sitting with the baby on his mat and trying to answer an email at the same time. It is a process not a test or code to judge yourself by.
  4. Prioritize tasks and complete them — This one even I struggle with- but just don’t procrastinate. The things that I don’t get done at the right time later occupy me when I’m supposed to be spending time with my family. It just takes away energy and it’s, quite frankly, a waste. Understand what is and isn’t vital to do and set about your tasks accordingly. Be aware of the balance between how much peace of mind and clarity you will receive from getting a task done versus how much work it will take to do it. Try to eliminate the small, time-consuming things. That gives us better control over our task list.
  5. Advance prep– Prepare everything you can in advance, preferably in the evening — food for the kids, clothes, make more food ahead of time and freeze it. Those minutes really add up quickly.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Marshall McLuhan was one of the first professors and philosophers we studied in my communications courses. In my opinion, a standout quote from him is, “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” The original intent of this message was to focus on how technology is oriented and how it changes our behavior as a result. I love it and I think that it’s very relevant for humanity, particularly in the past few decades. It is amazing that we live in times where we can see change happening right in front of us and its immediate effect on the world and society. Regardless of it is for better or worse, the key is to have an awareness of these processes that are constantly evolving and adapting.

Of course, technology’s ubiquitous impact our lives makes it very relevant to the world of travel! Travel and the way we experience it is just one of the many things that has changed drastically as a result of technological progress and the many tools we shaped for it. It is always interesting and challenging to see how we can further adapt to make travel better in the everchanging technological sphere.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would focus on a movement in education, specifically education that is centered on learning about other cultures and places in the world. Not only studying world history and cultures from the past, but also exploring other cultures that exist now around the globe. Although the world is getting ‘smaller’ in the age of the internet and supposedly people can get all the information they want about other places, cultures, and countries easily, I think that it needs to be a bigger part of early education, so people grow up understanding the great diversity of this planet. It is something that can only serve to further connect us all, making us simultaneously more curious and tolerant of others. Furthermore, in our increasingly globalized workplaces, an international perspective is essential for understanding both one’s coworkers and clientele.

This type of education would also naturally serve as an excellent motivator for travel. It is one thing to read about something but getting to go explore it firsthand is quite another. Israel and so many other destinations are filled with wonderful places, cities, food, history, and nature just waiting to be experienced. If we can instill in people from an early age the courage and interest it takes to go out and be a part of it, ignorance to others will consequently become a notion of the past. It is infinitely harder to hate someone or make someone an “other” if you have met them and seen their unique way of life, which is the grandest goal of those in the travel industry in my opinion.

What is the best way for people to follow you online?

Follow me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/dina-orenbach-47190142/. Check out our website at www.israel.travel, or follow us on social media (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube).

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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