Europe, Interviews

Sylwia Bilska – General Manager at Edenred Poland

In tech, women are 15 percent less likely than men to be managers and professionals. The underrepresentation in STEM makes their potential even higher.

Sylwia Bilska is a dynamic business leader – successful in technology, eCommerce and Payments. For over 15 years, she has been commercializing digital and digitizing businesses in developed and developing markets. She gained experience in marketing, sales and strategy departments; lawyer by education, graduate of the European Executive MBA.

Sylwia Bilska worked at the C-level for companies such as Tesco Central Europe, PayU Poland and Central Europe, Avon, Philip Morris and Oriflame. The member of supervisory boards of technology and fintech companies and member of the management board of the Polish Chamber of Information Technology and Telecommunications. She has been supporting women and start-ups with mentoring since 2012; awarded the Digital Champion Award by the Forum of Digital Business Leaders in 2016 and the Charismatic Leader award of WhyStory in 2017.

She joined the Edenred Polska team in May 2019 as General Manager.

Motto: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. ” – Albert Einstein

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

I’m a General Manager of Edenred Poland which helps companies and the government to fulfill the needs of employees by offering digital payment solutions in the area of food (meal cards), fleet and mobility (fuel cards), rewards (gift cards, employee motivation platforms) and corporate payments (virtual cards).

Edenred is a leading service and payment platform and an everyday companion for people at work, connecting 50 million employee users and 2 million partner merchants in 46 countries via more than 850,000 corporate clients.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

I believe that your career is yours to drive and the choices you make are yours alone. I am a learner and a curious person by nature. Many years ago when the Internet, ecommerce and drive for digitalization emerged I wanted to be part of that. Due to its myriads of opportunities, easiness to track effectively and quickly the results and logic in thinking it was the place I wanted to be part of. I started to experience it as a hobby, projects, businesses, start-ups experience and mentoring. And after many years I am still excited about it.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

I have spent several years in e-payments, process automation and business digitalization where I witnessed an absolutely tremendous jump in transformation in technology. A few examples.

  1. Block chain – an absolutely great idea yet too complicated to be massively used and to be used beyond cryptocurrency. Probably the plug-and-play solution of it is needed to get mass adaptation. Tech giants and financial industry are working on it. Lets stay tuned.
  2. Data to analytics to machine learning to AI – as recent data has shown we have created 90% of the world’s data in the past year, research is also showing that we are only using 1% of the data effectively. 1% figure will grow probably to 4% within a year; which may seem small but is a massive increase in data utilization. Awesome to watch and be part of it.
  3. Digitalization and ecommerce jump – digitalization and ecommerce have been growing strongly double digit throughout the years. COVID-19 accelerated the growth and sadly, eliminated those players, who didn’t bet on ecommerce or digitalization. COVID, to certain extend, is one of the biggest triggers of digitalization and ecommerce adaptation.       

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

The best match and a natural choice.

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that, what steps should be taken to achieve gender equality in tech?

Fighting against the myths; showing women that developer jobs are not the only way to get there, there are plenty of options in technology; re-skilling and up-skilling programs for women in business; mentoring programs.   

How different would our world be if more women worked in STEM?

The gender imbalance in technology doesn’t just represent a missed opportunity for women and society, but also for businesses. There’s a growing body of evidence that having a more diverse workforce, including an equitable gender balance, makes for a better business. Women make up almost half of the world’s working-age population of nearly 5 billion people. But only about 50 percent of those women participate in the labor force, compared with 80 percent of men and women earn less than men (-16% in OECD countries). McKinsey study found that we could add $2.1 trillion to only US economy if we close the wage gap. Women make 85% of the purchasing decisions. Imagine how much more money would get funneled back into the economy if we closed the wage gap. It’s good for business because gender-diverse leadership teams outperform those that are not. Companies with the highest representation of women on their senior teams reap 34% more profits than companies with the lowest female representation, according to Catalyst. Women are currently underrepresented in fields experiencing job growth, such as engineering and information and communications technology. In tech, women are 15 percent less likely than men to be managers and professionals. The underrepresentation in STEM makes their potential even higher.

Which was the best decision in your career?

The decision to turn from a legal career towards business, digitalization and tech in particular. The legal field was my first choice as I am a law graduate but business seemed more vibrant and highly developing in some sectors for me thus the decision. Nevertheless, I do not regret my educational background as it developed some skills in me such as prioritization, logical thinking and clarity in communication.  

What advice would you give to women who want a tech career?

Try it, you will love it.

Sylwia Bilska is a dynamic business leader –  successful in technology, eCommerce and Payments. For over 15 years, she has been commercializing digital and digitizing businesses in developed and developing markets. She gained experience in marketing, sales and strategy departments; lawyer by education, graduate of the European Executive MBA.

Sylwia Bilska worked at the C-level for companies such as Tesco Central Europe, PayU Poland and Central Europe, Avon, Philip Morris and Oriflame. The member of supervisory boards of technology and fintech companies and member of the management board of the Polish Chamber of Information Technology and Telecommunications. She has been supporting women and start-ups with mentoring since 2012; awarded the Digital Champion Award by the Forum of Digital Business Leaders in 2016 and the Charismatic Leader award of WhyStory in 2017.

She joined the Edenred Polska team in May 2019 as General Manager.

Motto: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. ” – Albert Einstein

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