8 Questions with Zohar Rotem
In “8 Questions With…,” we share a brief Q&A with a staff member. In this edition, we hear from Zohar Rotem, who joined Rosov Consulting in 2015, bringing expertise in instrument design, data collection and analysis in quantitative and qualitative research, and a keen familiarity with the Jewish nonprofit world.
1. What’s your area(s) of expertise and how has it been beneficial and led to success in your work?
I came to Rosov three years ago with a rather eclectic background, in terms of research experience. My doctorate is in anthropology, so that means I really like listening to people, hearing their perspective, and learning from what they have to say. Over the years, though, I’ve also developed a liking for numbers, statistics, and quantitative research. This background and these interests make for a very helpful mix.
Also, more recently I’ve become fascinated with organizational development and helping organizations become the best version of themselves that they can be. I look forward to doing more of that in the future.
2. What experiences have led you into your current career path?
My path has been a bit windy and serendipitous — a career trail more than a career path. Over a decade ago, as a graduate student and an immigrant from Israel, I was happy to find a part-time gig as a research assistant in what was then Jewish Education Service of North America, or JESNA. It was at JESNA that I first learned about the whole field of program evaluation and saw that this was something I enjoyed doing and could really be great at. It was at JESNA, too, that I first met Wendy, who was Assistant Director and later Director of the Berman Center for Research and Evaluation.
Fast forward about six years… I’m finishing my Ph.D. and working at a Jewish nonprofit in New York. And one day I find a LinkedIn message from Wendy, asking me how I’ve been. One thing led to another, and a few months later I found myself happily working with Wendy again, now at Rosov Consulting.
3. What do you like learning about most through your work?
I like learning about people, and specifically how they can shape their world through their actions, and how they are changed by their experiences. It’s kind of abstract, but that is really the essence of the work we do every day.
I also like engaging in analytic thinking and writing, which I often feel is a genre of fictional writing. By fictional I don’t mean that we make things up, but that it’s a creative process. Finding meaning in large arrays of data — seeing the forest for the trees — always calls for a kind of creative thinking and writing that I find very satisfying. At the same time, it is not an easy thing to do. I have had the pleasure of helping some of my colleagues hone their skills in this area, which I also enjoyed.
4. What do you like most about working at Rosov Consulting?
I think we do community really well. This may sound ironic, given the fact that most days I work out of my basement home office. But it’s true; I literally never work alone. Our work is always team-based, with each client and project assigned a team of two to four staff members, who may be spread across several time zones and two continents. Some days I might work on three different projects with the same colleague, and other days I may focus on a single task but bounce ideas and request input from three or four different colleagues. We’re also very good at tossing the virtual ball to each other around the globe, really making the best of the time difference. This is something that really makes Rosov Consulting special, and that I always find inspiring. So, I might go to sleep here in New Jersey, and pass a piece of work to someone in Berkeley to carry on, and they then pass it on to someone in Israel, and when I’m back at my desk the next day, so much has been accomplished and it’s my turn to move things forward. I really like to work in teams like that.
5. What are some challenges of your work?
As much as I like working in teams, it’s something I had to learn how to do well. All too often, there’s a desire to go it alone and just get things done. But this is simply not our company’s style. We really value each other’s professional development, which could sometimes mean having to let a junior colleague take a first crack at something, even if they struggle, so that they can learn and stretch. Other times, it could mean soliciting my senior colleagues’ feedback to make sure quality is not compromised, even when it means waiting a couple more days before handing a deliverable to a client. Being a good team player is something that I continue to work on. Overall, though, the experience has been rewarding.
6. What have been the biggest changes in the field and/or your work specifically since you started?
Increasingly, I think, Jewish organizations big and small are recognizing the value of program evaluation, not just as something to satisfy funders, but as a genuine tool for growth. More recently, I’ve been very happy to see more Israel-based organizations reach out to us for help. The Israeli nonprofit sector is quickly catching up to the trends set here in the U.S.
7. How do you think your job and/or the field might change in the next 10 years?
I really couldn’t say, but I wonder what role Artificial Intelligence and bots would play in all sorts of data collection and research more generally. I think the balance of automatization versus the human touch will probably change.
8. The professional question that keeps me up at night is:
How can I tell my clients stories that will teach them something new about themselves and that will move them to a better place?