From the First Female Pilot Cadets to Founded Impactful Travel Company

Michal Alter CEO Visit.org | Slow Travel Story

Meet Michal! She’s one of the first female pilot cadets in the Israeli Air Force. Her passion for social development began as the Director of Refugee Affairs at the City Government in Tel Aviv, where she led social service delivery and programming to serve 20,000 refugees from Darfur, South Sudan, and Eritrea. After moving to New York, she consulted at various leading nonprofit organizations. In 2015 she founded Visit.org, the world’s leading platform for social impact travel experiences both for organization and travelers. Combining her love for technology with her dedication to social development. See her inspiring story behind Visit.org’s founding at the UN Commission.

Can you elaborate your experiences as the first female pilot cadets in the Israeli Air Force?

When I was 19 years old, I was one of the first women to join the Israeli Air Force flight academy. I was already serving in the Israeli Air Force as an Operations Course Commander when the supreme court opened the Academy to women. Me and five of my peer female commanders decided to go for it and applied to the Academy. Eventually, I was the only one among the five who was accepted to join the Academy. However, about a year after that, I had a leg problem that forced me to discontinue my training at that time.  At the beginning of the Academy course we were ten women and 400 men. When I left, there were two women and 100 men left in the course.

What are the challenges you were facing as a female pilot cadet?

Beyond the demanding and extreme situation, both physically and mentally, the program had to figured out how to work with women candidates. For example, there was not any bathroom for females and they had to figure out how much time to allow women for peeing 🙂  (you know man can do it pretty fast, while we [women] need some time). Eventually men got 2 min and we got 3 min. It is a funny example but of course there were much harder dilemmas and conflicts to solve. The program directors generally listened to our feedback. As a women I believe we always have our advantages. Whenever I see improvements need to be done I took it as advantage and shared that with the program.

What motivated you to change careers and move to the USA?

After my stint in the Air Force, I went back to school majoring in computer science. I was involved in the high tech industry, mostly working as software engineer for startups. Then I moved to the US with my family. I made a career decision to go back to graduate school. After working in NYC for various organizations such as UNESCO, Women’s World Banking, and New York Cares,  I believe now it’s the time to start my company.

Did you always know you wanted to go into entrepreneurship? And in the intersection of travel and technology industry?

No. Travel and technology industry always looks appealing to me, but it turns out this intersection between travel and tech is worth pursuing.

Do you have any recommendations for other women who want to start their careers? Any interview suggestions?

Entrepreneurship comes from what you’re passionate about. First, when you decide to go on that path, have a clear focus because it will be what you do for the next ten years. Surround yourself with your family and friends, mainly your support system. Secondly, it is crucial to always believe in yourself. It can be hard, especially when society taught us to listen to others. Invest your energy in becoming the best version of yourself. Find a place in your life and bring positive energy during good and more importantly, bad times. There will always be a moment that it’s not about your approach but how you’d take it in, process, and share it with the team.

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