Eastern Europe’s technology startup scene has experienced astronomic growth in recent years. 10 Eastern European cities – including Warsaw, Tallinn, Sofia, Prague, and Budapest – feature in the European Digital City Index’s top 60 cities in Europe for digital entrepreneurs.
Success stories like Polish edtech platform Brainly and Estonian fintech firm TransferWise are making a global impact. Western companies are outsourcing to affordable software developers in the East. And Silicon Valley-based giants like Google are looking to invest in local talent.
Aleksandra (Ola) Krainski is an MBA alumna from China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) leading the charge. For almost a decade, she’s worked to build Google’s ecosystem in emerging markets in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) – establishing communities of tech startups and developers.
She’s the mastermind behind Google Business Groups – where entrepreneurs can learn how to use Google web technologies for business success – and Google Developer Experts – a global network of top developers, designers, and product innovators. Now, she’s leading a team of program managers helping to bring the best of CEE tech startups and apps to the world.
A self-confessed Sinophile, Ola studied Chinese for four years before moving to Shanghai for an MBA at CEIBS. Her goal was to lead a Chinese company’s expansion into Europe – and through the school, she landed a role to do just that.
But when she was headhunted by Google for a position at the tech giant’s Innovation Center in Wroclaw, Poland, the opportunity was too good to turn down.
What does Google look for in its MBA job applicants?
Google has always been interested in individuals who don’t always follow the ‘traditional’ path. I think having an experience, interest, or skillset which stands out can certainly help to differentiate one’s resume from hundreds of others.
Having a good school on your resume definitely helps. But what’s more important is what you have done in your career, and how you approach it. Being entrepreneurial, innovative, collaborative, supportive and a real team player, can help you to get further in the company. This is the culture which I noticed in my first interview and which hasn’t changed in the last eight years I’ve been with Google.
Can you tell us something about working at Google that most people wouldn’t know?
At Google, you can be an entrepreneur, even within a large company. Most of my roles at Google I’ve created myself. It’s very inspiring when you can work on something you strongly believe in. That’s why Google has no fixed working hours – at least in my department! People at Google are driven by a passion for what they do.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at CEIBS?
I’ve always been very interested in China. I thought that in order to do business in China, I needed to spend some time in the country to better understand the culture, and build my network.
CEIBS was then the natural choice as one of the best business schools in the region where I would be able to pursue my studies in English but still study with top Chinese students and others from all over the world. The school’s strong connection to business schools in Europe, such as London Business School and INSEAD, spoke strongly for my choice.
How have you profited from the CEIBS MBA?
One of the biggest lessons I took from CEIBS was how to work with diverse teams. In my current role, I work with colleagues from across the world and without the life experience I got at CEIBS and the lessons I took – about doing business with China and international negotiations – it would have taken me much more time to find myself in this international environment. The CEIBS MBA has helped me become a much more rounded person with a fantastic network across all continents.
What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?
Think about the reason why you want to pursue an MBA program. Each school offers something different. For me, the high international ranking and the diverse high profile students at CEIBS were deciding criteria.
You are building your networks and friendships for life and the program you choose will influence what sort of people you meet. The network is the most important thing which will stay with you, even after 10 years after graduation.