Noa Torok, MBA 2019, came to HBS with a blank slate. “I arrived with zero expectations,” she says. “I had no idea what I wanted to do.”

Her prior experience had shown her the opposite – what she did not want to do. After studying both law and business management in her home country, Israel, Noa became a successful lawyer working for the Israeli Supreme Court. She had hoped she could combine law and business together, but, “I realized that being a lawyer meant working from the sidelines. And I want to call the shots myself.” After pivoting into technology, and serving almost four years as a Product Manager managing Hewlett-Packard's future platforms, Noa knew she loved technology but felt as she was still not pursuing her passion from an industry perspective.

Yet for Noa, HBS wasn’t a place for taking aim at her next position, but for opening her mind. “My goal,” she says, “was to take two years to think about what I want to do. To know what’s possible, to know what I didn’t know. I wanted to make my next career decision based on knowledge and experience.”

Noa’s explorations were compounded by another important consideration: place. “I was torn between going back to Israel or staying in the United States,” she says. “Israel is home. I’m extremely attached to my home and language. But my options are much more limited there.”

Discovering her “I” in the iLab

In her second, Elective Curriculum, year, Noa expanded her horizons by investigating entrepreneurship. As part of her research, she spoke with various Entrepreneurs in Residence at the iLab. One of them, a venture capital investor, helped her get a handle on her ambitions by asking her a key question: “What are you most passionate about? When you wake up in the morning, what are you most excited about doing?”

“For me,” Noa says, “it was electronic music – techno is my passion!”

But how would she connect the dots between her enthusiasm for music and her business ambitions? Noa’s advisor suggested she review the websites of large VC firms to see if they have invested in companies related to her area of interest. “If they have invested in it,” Noa understood, “it would mean that it’s a good company with a strong foundation – otherwise they wouldn’t have put money into it. It would allow me to make the connection between my passion and a company worth working for.”

Noa found the right company in SoundCloud, the sponsors of the music app she used every day. Subsequent research in the HBS alumni database gave her two possible contacts, the CEO and Lisa Elis, a graduate of the HBS Executive Education program.

Via LinkedIn, Noa wrote Elis a “long and emotional email about why I believed in SoundCloud and why I thought I was a great fit.” A half-hour later, Noa got a response; a week later, the two met in New York.

“It just rolled from there,” says Noa. Over the next two-and-a-half months, Noa went through eight to ten interviews with everyone from the ground team to the CEO. “It’s stressful,” Noa notes, “when you’re a foreigner and English is your second language.”

But she got an offer. And in June, Noa began her new role as Director of Music, Artist Relations and Label Services Operations at SoundCloud where she is responsible for "the different stakeholder groups on the artists’ side.”

Noa acknowledges that her international status made the process more challenging. In addition to potential language/cultural barriers, there is the hard wall of visa status. “A lot of companies will help you through the process,” Noa says. “Look for companies who need people from different backgrounds.”

Noa herself had turned a potential obstacle into an authentic merit. “I embraced my international status when I talked with SoundCloud. I stressed my ability to communicate with and to different cultures.”

Her advice to other international career seekers? “Embrace your identity!”