Tell us about your role as Coordinator of the Innovation Lab in Warsaw.
To put it simply, here at the Innovation Lab, we support the digital transformation of BNP Paribas Poland. Our goal is to join forces with some of the newest and most innovative startups in the country, in order to develop technological solutions that will enable the bank and our customers to grow. My role is to coordinate the Lab’s team and ensure collaborations between the bank and startups are successful and beneficial to both parties.
You have been working in the startup world for many years. Can you take us through your professional journey?I began my career working as a journalist for “Wheel of Fortune”—the first-ever Polish radio show dedicated to startups. I had a great experience while I was there. I got to meet many inspiring business leaders and learnt a lot about the startup culture. Two years later, I joined the Poznan Science and Technology Park—the first science-based technology park in the country. While I was there, I worked on several entrepreneurship programs sponsored by the European Union, which helped students and academics commercialize their scientific projects and launch a business. Then, after working as a PR Manager in a venture capital group, I decided to move on to my next challenge, which was to continue working with startups, but on the corporate side. In fact, I wanted to better understand, from an internal perspective, why and how corporations collaborate with startups. So, I joined BNP Paribas’ transformation team in 2017. All in all, I’ve been working for over 12 years in the startup sector, exploring it from different viewpoints—the media, incubators, venture capitalists and corporations. This well-rounded experience has helped me become savvier and an expert in my field.
Photo : Paulina Skrzypinska
Why is BNP Paribas a great place to work alongside startups?
In 2016, the Group launched a global approach to facilitate partnerships with startups all over the world called the “Startup Engagement Kit”, which provides BNP Paribas project managers and startups with tools such as standard confidentiality agreements, simplified contract forms and recommendations on how best to launch a project. Each country was also encouraged to create its own specific set of tools. Here in Poland, for example, we developed a unique, simplified and streamlined process called the “Startup Cooperation Code” to help our clients implement the technologies developed by startups. The code contains a heavily simplified procurement process and a safe “sandbox” testing environment for startups. This code aims to simplify the collaboration process between the bank and the startup, from the moment BNP Paribas identifies a business need to the development of a proof of concept. So far, it has proved very effective and has allowed us to implement collaborative projects at a faster pace. While it could previously take years for these types of projects to take off, we are now able to complete the process in a couple of months. Numbers speak for themselves—since the launch of the Code in May 2018, we’ve supported more than 14 implementations and four framework agreements.
What makes your current job your dream job?
Quite simply, I love change. When you’re working on digital transformation for a big organization such as BNP Paribas, your job brings exciting new challenges every day. No two days are the same! It’s very rewarding to know that we have an impact on the bank’s activities and that we are able to change mindsets. People can sometimes be reluctant to change, but it’s a great feeling when they realize that what we’re proposing can bring value to the business. Finally, what I find truly amazing is having the freedom to innovate, as it encourages us all to go the extra mile in search of better solutions for the bank.
what I find truly amazing is having the freedom to innovate, as it encourages us all to go the extra mile in search of better solutions for the bank
It’s very rewarding to know that we have an impact on the bank’s activities and that we are able to change mindsets.
Could you give us an example of an achievement you’re particularly proud of?
I am most proud of the Startup Cooperation Code we developed. Last month, my team and I went to a tech economics conference here in Poland, and colleagues from different banks came to us and told us that the Code had become a benchmark for them. It’s such a nice feeling to know that our Code has had an impact, not only within the Group, but across the industry. This is a source of great pride.
What is the next big challenge for the Innovation Lab?
Our next big challenge is to encourage our colleagues to look at startups as prospective clients for the bank. This would be a game-changer—a first step towards developing a dedicated financial offer for startups here in Poland. Our job at the Innovation Lab is not only about testing and implementing technology for our customers; it is also about trying to make a difference in the startup market. As the bank for a changing world, we have to embrace market changes and shape future ones, and one way of leading the path is, in my opinion, by developing a dedicated financial offer for Polish startups.
What advice would you give to a new graduate who wants to join your Innovation Lab?
you need to enjoy working in a fast-changing environment. You also need to be curious and not be afraid of asking questions—because that’s the fastest way to learn.
Firstly, you need to enjoy working in a fast-changing environment. The startup landscape changes every day and it’s important to always be aware of the latest trends, regulations, players, and so on. You also need to be curious and not be afraid of asking questions—because that’s the fastest way to learn.
Finally, you’ll need to be resilient enough to be able to push for change even when people in front of you seem to be reluctant to it, because, after all, we are all change-makers here at the Lab. So, if you will, I’d say that it’s a job for survivors.
How would you explain your job to a five-year-old?
I actually asked my three-year-old daughter to describe my job, and her response was, “you help people, like you help me”. In a way it’s true, because my job is a lot about encouraging people, whether they are in my team or are working for startups, to eventually succeed by trying hard and learning from your mistakes. I would say that I always try to bring out the best in others.
What’s your routine to start the day on the right foot?
A morning coffee with my team is a good way to start the day. I like to catch up, first thing in the morning, on what our goals and challenges are for the day and for the rest of the week. Sometimes the simplest morning routines are also the best.
Crédit photo : header ©Dominik Tryba