International Business Developer Gains Leadership Skills, Forges Global Connections
The Stanford LEAD online business program gave Piotr Jan Pietrzak, international development director at BLIK, the tools to lead and the connections to build his global network.
Growing up in Poland in the 1990s, Piotr Jan Pietrzak enjoyed playing video games, tinkering with computers, and coding. At age 12, he created a website for his first paying customer — a family-owned travel agency. “I think I made the equivalent of $20,” he recalls. “It was a fantastic experience, making something from nothing. It showed me it’s not really about money, but the path and the process.”
Piotr turned his love for technology into a global career, living and working in multiple countries, building web- and app-based products from concept to launch. Piotr then merged his expertise in technology with his interest in business and finance, moving into digital services for insurance and banking. Today, he is international development director for BLIK, a Warsaw-based financial technology company that creates mobile payment solutions. “The integration of finance and technology is a key global development, and I want to be part of it,” he says.
In 2020, Piotr was accepted into an on-campus MBA program. But when COVID-19 disrupted in-person learning, that plan was abruptly canceled.
“I was working from home and looking for extra activities,” he says. “Executive education was on my mind, and I didn’t like being stuck in limbo. That’s when I found the Stanford LEAD [Online Business] Program. From the beginning, it was designed to be online. So I knew it would be well prepared and well managed.”
Leadership Skills for International Business
Piotr enrolled in the one-year program in 2021 with over 500 other executives from around the world. “I knew that the materials would be great, that the professors would be top-notch, and I wasn’t disappointed,” Piotr says. “The fact that Stanford created this [online learning] environment where I would really feel like I am back in school — that I didn’t expect.”
Inspired by his professors and his peers, Piotr learned leadership skills he could apply to his international business development work immediately.
“Financing Innovation taught me that even if you are in product or IT, you can still understand the finances of your company and your partners. Critical Analytical Thinking has an impact on almost every meeting and decision in your company. And thanks to Professor Pfeffer and Building Power to Lead, I learned to build my personal brand and not wait for others to open doors. You show others that the doors are open and [invite them in to do] business together.”
Piotr’s enthusiasm and strong work ethic inspired others in his cohort. He forged connections with other business leaders like himself striving to take their careers — and their personal development — to the next level.
“Stanford does a tremendous job selecting people who are highly motivated,” he says. “Online, people can feel like they’re sitting in the last row [of the class]. At LEAD, everyone sits in the first row. It was amazing!” Piotr’s cohort thought he was pretty amazing, too. He was chosen by his peers for the Intellectual Contribution Award for Financing Innovation for his willingness to help others understand key concepts. “It was wonderful to help others succeed,” he says. Piotr’s commitment to help others extends to his volunteer work as a student mentor.
New Global Connections… and Friendships
On his LinkedIn profile, Piotr lists 10 reasons why executive learners should consider Stanford LEAD. Tops for him were the unexpectedly strong bonds he formed with his fellow learners — friendships that have flourished since the program concluded.
Piotr looks forward to one day visiting the Stanford campus and meeting his cohort members in person. (Since its inception in 2015, LEAD participants have arranged an annual, self-organized gathering called Me2We featuring networking, events, and speakers on campus.)
“I learned that your classmates can become your friends,” Piotr says. “They can eventually become your employees or employers, your advisors or maybe your investors. For an online program, this was a big achievement. Now I connect with people from all over the world.”