“It’s always important to speak up, no matter how challenging your idea might be. I’m a strong believer that diversity of opinion leads to better solutions, innovation, and customer value.”
Bartosz Ciepluch is a Vice President and the General Manager of Intel’s Data Platforms Group (DPG) in Poland. Before joining Intel, he spent 13 years at Nokia, where he grew the business in Poland and set up one of the company’s biggest R&D centers. He now leads a large R&D organization consisting of eight businesses, developing products and solutions due to market in the next 2-3 years. We asked Bartosz to share his perspectives on leadership, diversity, inclusion and his views on Intel’s cultural transformation.
Tell us about you and your team in Poland
My team is mainly involved in data-centric technologies engineering. And it’s large; we employ more than 1,200 people across eight different businesses, covering everything from firmware and software development through implementing technology in solution as AI or IoT workflows. My job is to connect them and provide them with a common base. Another part of my role is to make sure people are happy and engaged. When employees are satisfied with their jobs they go above and beyond what’s required of them.
What type of culture do you try to foster?
I encourage my employees to speak up and give their opinions. One of the most important moments of my career occurred during a workshop at Nokia with several senior VPs in attendance. At that time, I was in a much more junior position. We were having a debate about the quality of our products, and I stood up and respectfully challenged one of the VPs, backing up all my arguments with facts and data points. After the debate, my colleagues congratulated me and told me that they agreed with my opinion. It made me realize that it’s always important to speak up, no matter how challenging your idea might be. I’m a strong believer that diversity of opinion leads to better solutions, innovation, and customer value.
So how do you create a safety net for people to speak out?
I tend to work in small teams because when you go wider it gets more difficult. I start off by telling my team that I will share everything that’s in my head and that they have the right to challenge me. Admittedly, it can take a while for people to get the confidence to speak up, which is why I encourage a lot of brainstorming. I also use the process of brainstorming to probe and sense check projects. If I come up with a proposal and no one comments, I’ll conclude that people are too afraid to speak up and tell me what’s wrong. Usually, when that happens, I don’t go ahead with the project because it’s too risky.
Tell me about your management style
There are two elements to my management style. There’s Ken Blanchard’s situational approach to leadership, which I recommend to any manager. Put simply, it’s about teaching people to listen, which is often difficult because most people prefer to talk. The second element revolves around empowerment. When I ask someone to do something, I won’t micromanage them. I’ll give them my overall vision, I’ll challenge them to see different perspectives, but once a decision is made, it will be down to them to lead the project forward.
How do you handle meetings?
It’s very easy to have meetings where there’s lots of conversation but no firm conclusions. To stop that from happening, I try to put some structure around the discussion by asking questions like “What is the purpose of this meeting?” or “What do we want to solve by having this conversation?”. And I always make sure that we decide on actions at the end of the meeting.
There’s a preconception that tech is for a very specific kind of person. How do you go about breaking that down?
Diversity works on many levels. There’s diversity of age. For example, millennials have a different perspective to people who were born in previous decades. Then there’s cultural diversity, which is about bringing together people from different countries. And there’s also gender diversity. We take all of these things seriously at Intel.
Take gender diversity as an example. When I started studying electronics in the 2000s, there were two women out of 130 people in my class. Fast forward two decades, and 30% of the people we hire for entry level positions at Intel in Poland are women, compared with closer to 1% in the past.
But I think there’s a bigger issue that needs to be tackled. Many people don’t see why they should think about diversity and inclusion. That’s something I’m very passionate about correcting, because I believe that greater inclusion leads to better solutions, innovation, and customer value.
What would you say to someone thinking of joining your team?
IT development is quite a young profession in Poland. Our research shows that millennials are driven by a strong sense of purpose and a desire to make a difference to society. If those are your motivations, you’ll definitely find a way to express them at Intel. We are working on projects involving AI, Cloud and 5G that will have a huge impact on peoples’ lives. Plus, there’s an added bonus to working here; we’re an international company so there’s plenty of opportunity to work with people with different backgrounds and perspectives.
What kind of roles do you see emerging post COVID-19 at Intel?
In terms of engineering, I don’t think things will change that much. Of course, we’ll be looking for people with the right skills in AI, Cloud and 5G. But we’ll continue to put a strong emphasis on attitude. Post-pandemic, I’ll be looking for people who are innovative, able to challenge the status quo, want to work in a team, eager to learn, and are able to move from one role to another.
Are there things happening at Intel in Poland that might peak someone’s interest in joining?
If you want to work with the latest technologies, you should come and work here. We have many businesses in the data center group and all of them are busy developing products and solutions that are going to be on the market in two or three years. In addition, we have the second largest number of engineers in Intel EMEA, so if you’re looking for somewhere you can swap ideas and get inspiration, this is the perfect place for you.
Lastly, what are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my people. And I can see that if you give people a bit of space at Intel in Poland, they’ll do a great job and create technologies that enrich the lives of many people across the globe. I was also really impressed by the charity initiatives that employees got involved in when the pandemic started. One group set about printing spare parts for hospitals on 3D printers, whilst another gave spare server capacity to vaccine developers. So, to answer your question simply, it’s the people.
Interested in opportunities at Intel in Poland? Check out available openings here.