Piotr Sulikowski, Ph.D.:
Follow your passion, go global
Polish Top 500 Innovators Program, Certificate in Science Management Commercialization, Stanford University
"To always think out of the box is an important lesson learned thanks to interactions with open and brilliant people: Stanford professors, students, alumni, and Silicon Valley business leaders."
Like so many new students arriving at Stanford for the first time, Piotr Sulikowski was awestruck by the beauty and radiance of the university. A winner of Poland's Top 500 Innovators program by the Polish government, he arrived on campus on a warm fall day, eager to begin an executive program on innovation and entrepreneurship. A dynamic professional with international leadership experience, he was looking forward to learning how things are done in the States. He and his peers, 40 Polish academics and technology transfer executives, were immediately welcomed and engaged.
Sulikowski was offered to study at Stanford by the Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The Minister, Professor Barbara Kudrycka, established the program to encourage innovation in Poland. "The Top 500 Innovators is a renowned program for leading young business-oriented scientists, creative thinkers and technology transfer executives in Poland," Sulikowski says. "I was particularly happy to be recruited to Stanford University since it is number one in the world in the field of computer science, which is part of my educational background."
Stanford participants took classes in business creation and management, design thinking, commercialization, innovative entrepreneurship, strategic foresight, prototyping, team building and leadership. The program consisted of lectures and seminars taught by world experts as well as interactive workshops, team projects, meetings with venture capitalists and angel investors, and networking events. The group spent their days on the Stanford campus and soaked up all the knowledge. "The program was well-composed and wonderfully intensive," Sulikowski says, "and I really feel we used our time at Stanford to the fullest."
There were many courses that stood out: the course on rapid transformation taught by a former advisor to US President Barack Obama, Professor Behnam Tabrizi; Consulting Professor Donna Novitsky's "Idea 2 Company" lecture series; and Consulting Professor Mike Lyons' valuable advice on business projects. Professor Chris Gerdes class on radical collaboration was "illuminating", as was Professor Tina Seelig's class on creativity. Ultimately, he says, "the Stanford program has deeply affected the way I think."
Sulikowski was singled out by his peers to be a leader of his group - an honor he says was a great lesson in leadership as well as diplomacy. He represented his fellows at meetings with diplomats, industry executives, and Stanford officials, including Professor John Hennessy, Stanford President, and Howard Wolf, President of Stanford Alumni Association, and he also gave the commencement speech. Visits to leading companies in Silicon Valley provided an opportunity to see innovation in practice, and Sulikowski was even offered a job at a Silicon Valley company.
But he also won in a competition back home called the President's Expert Program, based on his interdisciplinary project on citizen relationship management. As a result, despite the draw of Silicon Valley, he chose to fill the temporary post of Expert to the President of the Republic of Poland. "I knew it would be an incredible challenge, to be in the center of modernization of the country and implement my project," he says, "and I decided to go for that."
His group remains in touch now that they are back in Poland, and they have connected with a newly formed Stanford Club of Poland. He feels that they are all more creative and more open to change as a result of their participation in the Stanford program. "I am sure that among the participants, there are many future world business and science leaders, now even more creative and open to changing the world for better."