The new Secretary of State for Poland, and former Oxford student, says what he learnt at Saïd Business School has helped him navigate his country through crisis
Finance, starts-up, consultancy. If you were to ask most students leaving Saïd Business School, University of Oxford what they were going to do next, these are some of the answers you would expect to receive. But, if you were to ask Jacek Siewiera, you’d be way off the mark.
After completing the Oxford Executive Diploma in Strategy and Innovation in 2021, Jacek has gone on to play a critical role in responding to the world’s most recent and pressing crises, the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
He was recently appointed Secretary of State for Poland.
‘My new position is a direct effect of Russian aggression on Ukraine and my commitment in the area of civil protection and humanitarian relief as a part of Polish Foreign Policy. It’s a critical role and I am sad that there is a need for it. Nevertheless, I’m trying to do my job as best as I can to help, using new technologies to effect positive change, which is in keeping with all I learned at Oxford Saïd during my diploma.’
At the start of the pandemic, and throughout his Oxford studies, Jacek oversaw much of Poland’s response to the pandemic.
As a medical doctor and military commander, specialising in anesthesiology and intensive care, the then head of the Hyperbaric Medicine department at the Military Institute of Medicine was brought to Italy to manage the Polish Military-Civil Medical Mission in Lombardy. For this, he was awarded the Cross of Merit for Bravery, for the second time in his life.
Jacek took command of the first temporary hospitals in Poland to fight the disease, implementing several innovative technical solutions to the field of medicine and safety. To Jacek, innovation holds a lot of potential in this space:
‘There was no option but to innovate during the early days of the pandemic. Nobody saw Covid coming which meant that we had to respond to it rapidly, leveraging our existing systems in the best way we could to help contain the virus. The pandemic demonstrated just how effective implementing new technologies can be in any critical situation.’
His role in coordinating Poland’s response to the virus, led him to visit the White House where, as Commander of the Polish Military Medical Mission to the USA in 2020, he received personal thanks from the then President.
Having left the acute phase of the pandemic, Jacek turned his attention to the second biggest challenge of his career; navigating the Polish response to the Ukraine crisis.
Jacek’s specific role looked at how technology could help leverage the country’s response to the three million refugees who left Ukraine and headed to Poland at the start of the crisis.
‘The Russian invasion created a huge challenge for us. The humanitarian fallout from the conflict meant that rapid action needed to be taken to accommodate the millions of Ukrainian refugees crossing the border into Poland. Leveraging digital technologies was essential to working through such a fast-moving situation, on such an enormous scale. It was here where the Oxford Diploma in Strategy and Innovation really came to help in advancing our operations and adapting quickly. Through using technology, Ukrainians could access crucial information and find out about services they needed in Poland. As we enter the prolonged stage of the crisis, we must turn our attention to how we can settle over one million Ukrainians into Poland for the foreseeable future. Technology is key to pulling that off.’
His job has also included implementing new technologies in civil protection and rescue operations.
Jacek was due to be starting an MBA at Oxford Saïd in September but had to put his plans on hold owing to the current geopolitical situation.
Reflecting on his Oxford experience, he said:
‘The diploma in strategy and innovation I did at Oxford has been incredibly useful, and it has informed so much of my decision-making throughout my career. I can’t wait to return to the business school and learn more.’