When going global means thinking unconventionally

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After more than 20 years living and working in China, Polish-born Stan Zurkiewicz now finds himself back in Europe, leading DEKRA Group – one of the largest TIC (Testing, Inspection, Certification) companies in the world. By his own admission, he was an unconventional choice for the role; but, what plans does this CEIBS alum have for DEKRA as it stands at the threshold of a new dawn of digitalisation?

A career made in China

“I’ve been in China since 2002. My wife is from here, my children were born here, and I’ve spent an overwhelming majority of my working life here. So, when I was offered a chance to join DEKRA’s management board in Germany, I admit that I hesitated briefly. Returning to Europe had never been part of my plan. However, I quickly realised that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – to be part of something unique and lead a great company at a pivotal moment in its history,” Stan explains.

Almost immediately after graduating from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, Stan was on a plane to China. During the past two decades, he has worked across various roles and industries, settling into the TIC space and joining DEKRA in 2009.

Starting out managing the Guangzhou branch of the company, Stan climbed the leadership ladder to become Chief Regional Officer for East Asia, then Group COO, before finally moving to the CEO position in mid-April this year. Through this journey, Stan has gone from managing a team of a few dozen people to leading the world’s fourth largest TIC company. Today, he’s responsible for an organisation with over 47,000 employees across 50 different countries, with an annual turnover of over €3.5 billion.

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Boosted confidence breeds bolder decisions – Joining CEIBS

In Stan’s mind, his career has not been a steady, predetermined march to the top. He is always ready to embrace various opportunities to push himself and broaden his business mindset, enabling him to learn and gain the necessary capabilities to move beyond his comfort zone.

“In 2009, when I was working for a smaller TIC company, I knew instinctively that it was time to push myself with an entirely new set of challenges. I wanted to broaden my understanding of business in ways that meant looking outside my own industry. That’s what led me to CEIBS. Even back then, it had the reputation of being one of the best business schools in China, one that brought together the best and brightest people from all over the world. I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of, and the actual experience exceeded my already high expectations,” he says.

Upon joining the CEIBS Global EMBA programme, Stan quickly fell into the rhythm of learning all he could from the exceptional talent that made up his classmates and professors. From the intellectual rigours of the classroom to the gruelling physical demands of preparing for the annual Gobi Desert trek (Stan participated in the school’s seventh edition of the event), he was put through his paces in every sense.

“The experience was truly transformational. It’s been over a decade since I graduated, but I remember the lessons keenly and I know it was a pivotal time in my life and career. I was blown away by the quality of the professors and my peers. Everything they brought into the learning journey helped elevate my thinking and my long-term capabilities as a leader. Two years in this kind of learning environment, surrounded by such exceptional people, gave me a huge confidence boost. I left the programme with not only the necessary knowledge but also the right mindset to make a difference in my industry. That’s the most invaluable thing that CEIBS has given me,” Stan recalls.