Technology Leader Prepares for the Future of AI

Justyna Bak was asked to create messaging for emerging technologies at Google. The Innovative Technology Leader program gave her the tools to rise to the challenge.

January 16, 2024

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Justyna Bak

The technology behind artificial intelligence (AI) is evolving at warp speed, along with its applications — from customer service chatbots and content creation to answering medical questions and guiding students through solving physics problems. Justyna Bak, Head of Product Marketing for Data and AI Cloud at Google, is focused on generative AI, which can understand, reason, and create output across different types of inputs such as text, images, audio, and video. “I’m excited about the potential for AI to accelerate innovation,” Justyna says.

Justyna, who was born in Poland, earned master’s degrees in telecommunications and electronics in Denmark before moving to the Bay Area to pursue a technology career. She joined Google in 2018 to serve as a digital transformation leader. In 2022, she started leading portfolio marketing for Google Cloud’s Data and AI products to accelerate their customer adoption, which includes generative AI.

As a technology professional who “loves solving big problems,” Justyna is prepared to handle questions about AI and its uses and benefits. “I’m looking at AI through the lens of its impact on business and society,” Justyna explains.

A self-described “spark plug for innovation,” Justyna bridges the worlds of engineering, marketing, sales, and product. She says today’s technology leaders need to not only be product experts, but skilled communicators who can distill complex concepts without watering them down — inspiring teams and moving innovation forward.

In 2023, Google asked her to develop a product marketing portfolio to help account reps inspire their customers with the benefits of generative AI. “I stepped into a new role at Google with a much larger scope,” she says. “I was looking for proven tools to become an effective change agent in my organization during the explosive growth and interest around generative AI.”

This need led Justyna to The Innovative Technology Leader program at Stanford.

Tools for Today’s Technology Innovators

Over the years, Justyna participated in three Executive Education programs at Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB), including the Executive Program for Women Leaders. “It was love at first sight,” she recalls. “The moment I arrived at the Stanford campus, I felt at home.” So when it came time for her to accelerate her growth as a technology leader, she knew where to turn.

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The program gave me clarity about what it takes to be an innovator and a successful change agent.
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Justyna Bak

Justyna says the one-week, on-campus program, The Innovative Technology Leader, offered the frameworks and tools she needed to “foster creativity and innovation within the marketing team to get the best ideas for messaging, visuals, and product demos out fast.”

The curriculum — including sessions on design thinking, rapid prototyping, and storytelling — helped Justyna prepare for the challenges of marketing generative AI and scaling innovation. “The program was phenomenal,” she says. “It was above my expectations, and I already had a high bar because of other Stanford programs. I really loved how well the program was structured.”

Justyna says the program has helped her better connect with audiences, embrace a culture of experimentation, and bring others along on the journey. “The best practices of innovation that I learned from the program are not only allowing me to be a more confident and effective leader,” she says, “but also to have more fun at work.”

She sums up her program takeaways: “In order to be a successful innovator, you need to be both an engineer and an actor. You need to combine the science and the arts.” The experience inspired her to publish a blog post and share the lessons she learned. “After completing the program, I distilled six tools of innovation that I use regularly, from leading strategic initiatives with many senior stakeholders to preparing for high-stakes meetings.”

Learning with Other Technology Leaders

Justyna’s cohort included technology leaders from different industries and countries. After many expressed interest in learning more about generative AI, she was happy to make a presentation to them during the program. That spirit of sharing knowledge, insights, and support continued throughout the program and beyond.

“It was wonderful to meet every single member of my cohort,” Justyna says. “We came from so many different backgrounds, and yet we immediately bonded.” The cohort remains in contact through video calls and a WhatsApp group. “It’s an invaluable resource.”

Learning with other technology leaders also helped her realize the value of diversity in the process of innovation.

“Google creates products for billions of users so I already knew how vital team diversity is to understanding the needs of people with varying abilities and cultural backgrounds.” she says. “What surprised me during the program was the discovery of the three key innovator archetypes: first, the experimenters who turn ideas into prototypes; second, the outsiders who offer unique perspectives on how well these prototypes solve the original problem; and third, trend-watchers who introduce fresh concepts and best practices.”

Justyna says, “Working alongside other technology leaders really shed light on the intricate dynamics of a successful innovation team.”

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