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Ishak at the Indeed offices in Dublin, where she relocated in 2013 in a last-minute career switch.
Ishak at the Indeed offices in Dublin, where she relocated in 2013 in a last-minute career switch.

Global Instinct

Talar Ishak advocates for seizing the opportunity, no matter the distance 


If you ask Talar Ishak how she, an Armenian from Lebanon, wound up planting roots in Ireland—home to over 5 million citizens but less than 200 Armenians—she’ll smile, chuckle, and then respond: “It’s a long story.”

Her trajectory is indeed an epic and uncommon tale that spans from Beirut to the University of Wisconsin Madison, the Google campus in Dublin, and lands in a senior manager position at Indeed—one of the highest-rated job websites worldwide. Ishak reflects on her ambitious adventures recounting the stepping stones that guided her through undergraduate studies at the American University of Beirut (AUB), a prestigious master’s degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and then ultimately relocating across the globe alone for an analyst position at Google. The common denominator throughout her career path, however, has always been her gumption. “The best part of this, for me, is that we all come from places you would never imagine somebody coming from. And you have to be willing to leave family and everything behind.”

Ishak was no stranger to moving around in search of better opportunities. Although she grew up in Lebanon, she was born in Baghdad, where her parents and grandparents lived following a line of Armenians who migrated to Iraq after surviving the Genocide. Her entire family was deeply involved with AGBU, from joining the dance groups to participating in the AGBU clubs.

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Ishak outside the famous Dublin watering hole, The Temple Bar.

Ishak outside the famous Dublin watering hole, The Temple Bar.
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Ishak outside the famous Dublin watering hole, The Temple Bar.

Around the time Ishak was born, the Iran-Iraq War was still in effect. Her parents tried everything, moving to Greece, Jordan and applying to all the Western countries, all with no luck. “My mother moved the family to Beirut which was just emerging from its own civil war,” says Ishak. “With fond memories ingrained in our minds, we were enrolled in the AGBU Nazarian School, where my love of biology was first ignited.” She was also a member of the AGBU Scouts group, in addition to their basketball team for nearly seven years. Moreover, with her admiration for her electrical engineer father, Ishak knew she wanted a career in the sciences.

Ishak thrived in her studies, rising to the top of her class and earning the best grades in Lebanon for the government exams. “My parents, my family, really pushed for me to be a part of AGBU and made sure I had that community, which was more work as immigrants from Iraq,” she notes. By the time Ishak was old enough to apply for university programs, she had her heart set on biomedical engineering—“which wasn’t a thing in Lebanon, meaning I had to extensively research similar programs in the United States.” Carving out her own path would become a common theme throughout her career.

She decided to enroll in electrical and computer engineering with a minor in biomedical engineering at the American University of Beirut, where she landed a three-month internship at the University of Wisconsin working at a lab creating biomedical devices for dogs in her third year of studies. “It could help you detect if the dogs had a tear in their knee ligaments just by pushing through a sensor and detecting the distance,” she explains. “I got the experience of working in biomedicine when my major was more on the electrical side.”

The next summer, Ishak had been admitted to a coveted and highly selective internship program in Silicon Valley designed for women in the Middle East, one of ten Arab women to have been accepted, which even came with a memorable letter from then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. Her professional pursuits seemed to be on track with this golden ticket until she had an epiphany right before graduation.

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Ishak has worked for Indeed for almost two years. Previously she worked at Stripe, a FinTech and software company.

Ishak has worked for Indeed for almost two years. Previously she worked at Stripe, a FinTech and software company.
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Ishak has worked for Indeed for almost two years. Previously she worked at Stripe, a FinTech and software company.

She decided to take the plunge and move to London for a year to study management and strategy at LSE. “That degree was life-changing for me,” she reflects. After graduating, Ishak was set to start as a consultant at PwC for the oil and gas industry, where she would have to relocate to northern Iraq, returning to her homeland she once fled. “They were going to give me housing and everything, I figured it was my first job at a big four so I decided to go for it.” Before starting at PwC, Ishak was sent to Jordan for training. “At the end of the first week there, I packed up my stuff, went back home, and said ‘This is not for me.’”

Once again, Ishak’s gut instinct kicked in and the morning of her graduation, she checked her email to find an invitation from Google for an interview. Initially, she thought it was a scam—but in April 2013, she landed the role and moved to Dublin. According to Euronews, Ireland has become one of Europe’s leading tech hubs, housing headquarters for major players like Hubspot, Indeed, Paypal, eBay, Microsoft, and more, now referred to as “Silicon Docks” by those interested in tech. Ironically, her role would specialize in identifying spam and phishing, almost foreshadowing her new path at Google. “Sometimes an opportunity comes and you just have to grab it, even when you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Initially, it was hard for Ishak to adapt to an entirely new culture, without an Armenian community to turn to. “Now there are more people here from the Middle East but there are no Lebanese Armenians.” Later in her career, Ishak would find her community in Her+ Data, a group of women in data, where she would eventually become a panelist.

Sometimes an opportunity comes and you just have to grab it, even when you don’t know what’s going to happen.

Ishak started as an analyst for trust and safety for Google Search, one of its biggest products. “The easiest way to describe my job was that I had to identify bad behavior on search, which is spam, phishing on the pages or the URLs, so that Google Search keeps giving you the best organic results.” During her interviews for the position, Ishak remembers worrying that she had no experience in a position like this. “I spent three days locked up in my room learning everything in the industry about spam and hacking,” she says.

This imposter syndrome faded after learning, and excelling, at this position, where her engineering background and business acumen quickly paid off. “These were some of my favorite years of work if I could describe my ten-year journey,” she admits, after recounting how fascinated she was by the Support Operations of Google Cloud (G-Suite at the time) had with vendors in Asia, South America, Barcelona, Bulgaria, and beyond. After internally transferring to a program manager position, Ishak traveled worldwide to Google’s wide-ranging vendor locations to research and understand customer behavior and improve support quality by analyzing various data sources. “This gave me a whole new set of skills of managing and scaling operations, especially in the world of customer support and user satisfaction,” she says.

After over five years at Google, Ishak realized she had learned everything possible rising the ranks at such a large corporation. By this point, she had been a program manager for the G-Suite team and a senior program manager for Google Cloud. This time, though, her gut was telling her to try her hand at a small but scrappy tech start-up, which brought her to Stripe, a FinTech and software company—also the building right across the street from Google.

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Ishak spent five years working at the Google Campus in Dublin.

Ishak spent five years working at the Google Campus in Dublin.
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Ishak spent five years working at the Google Campus in Dublin.

“It was my superpower to combine soft skills and to show what data can do with the actual technical aspect,” she says. “It was good timing now that I reflect on it because they grew fast over Covid.” In this role, Ishak also became a people manager for the first time, which she describes as a major life calling. “One of my skills is connecting with people, I have always loved the people element.”

Ishak is now at Indeed, securing her spot in a top leadership position managing a team of data analytics storytellers in the go-to-market operations, describing it as the “most different” position she’s had, even though it’s still in the realm of data and leadership. To sum it up, she’s a senior manager in enterprise premier, client strategy, and insights. “Sales personalities are very, very different from engineers. At Indeed, we use colors to describe communication styles (Insights Discovery Profiles), and they call them reds and yellows because they’re both direct and bubbly, whereas engineers and most data analysts are blues—very analytical and focused.” Although on paper Ishak is the perfect balance of three fitting colors, to the untrained eyes it seems she would possess a combination of all of these colors, proving her personable leadership skills with her technical background made her the ideal person for the job.

Her advice to anyone looking to take a leap? “Enjoy the journey and keep an eye on the destination—even if it’s not always defined,” she says, reflecting on overcoming her bouts of imposter syndrome and embracing the differences in her background that have made her an asset. “We often think we can’t apply for opportunities. But what’s the worst that can happen?” she advises. “My mom used to tell me to knock on every door even if you don’t know which one opens.” Ishak is living proof that this strategy not only works but could take you places in life you never imagined possible. 

Originally published in the June 2024 ​issue of AGBU Insider. end character

About the AGBU Insider

AGBU Insider profiles extraordinary AGBU program alumni across a diverse set of industries and passions. With exclusive interviews and photography, each issue reveals the Armenian impact on society, community, and industry.