The First Year Out: David Wilczynski’s Start At Visa And His Experience Joining A Large Corporation

This time last year, David Wilczynski was wrapping up his Tennis career at Stanford. Looking toward how he would start his career, David just wanted to work for a company that would allow him to marry his two interests: technology and business. The Science, Technology, and Society major is now 10 months into his career at Visa, where he works as an associate marketing analyst on a strategy and planning team. As the graduation season approaches, we talked to David about his transition, his most challenging experience at Visa to date, and advice he would give himself a year ago before graduating.

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Can you take us back to your mindset this time last year? How were you approaching your career?

I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do but I did have some passions that helped navigate me. I have always been fascinated by advanced technology and in school, I developed a passion behind how the technology and business worlds come together. I also had a passion for working cross-functionally with many different people/parts of a company. I was intrigued by how different groups came together to make the “machine” (company) run. These are some of the aspects that I targeted in choosing my company and role.

Visa has about 15,000 employees. What made you choose a large corporation rather than a startup?

I chose a bigger company for a few reasons. One, I was really drawn to the apprenticeship culture that I saw in many big companies, especially Visa. Through this type of culture, I felt that I would quickly develop my professional skills and learn from those with more experience. 

Can you expound more on Visa’s apprenticeship culture? What does that look like specifically within the company? 

First off, Visa places a big importance on fostering young talent. And secondly, there are many individuals within my team at Visa that have much more experience than I do. With this combination, I feel that I am being taken under the wing by many of these remarkable people. As a result, I'm fortunate to be taking on more and more responsibility and constantly learning because of it.

What’s Your Day to Day Like?

Every day is different. My team and I work on both long-term strategy and day-to-day operations. So, one day we're strategizing on future initiatives and the next day we're working on improving efficiencies that will help drive better outcomes for Visa's business. I love coming into work everyday knowing that each day will be unique; it's similar to tennis in that every match I played was a new adventure, a new puzzle I had to solve.

What do you like about your role at Visa?

Working at Visa has been amazing. I’ve been lucky to step into a role that gives me a lot of responsibility and I’m surrounded by inspiring individuals that constantly push me to the next level. As a company overall, it’s been amazing learning about all of the different parts of the business and how they all come together to form an amazing company like Visa.

Also, I love that I get to work on some of Visa’s largest initiatives and have an impact at such a highly regarded company. Part of this is because I get the chance to sit in a cross-functional, global role within the company and work with different functions within Visa to execute these projects. I also love being in the payments industry because it’s such a fundamental, global consumer habit. Paying for things that we want is deeply ingrained in our society and it’s amazing to come to work everyday strategizing on such a long-standing human routine. 

In starting your career at Visa, what were some of the challenges you faced in moving away from tennis? 

The toughest parts were the lead up before I started and getting my footing once I did start. Prior to when I had started, I didn’t know what to expect. Without tennis in my life, I felt as if I had to change my identity. I quickly learned once I started, though, that my tennis identity lives on through my professional life. I constantly find myself applying the same lessons that I learned through sport to my work.

Is there a time at Visa that challenged you the most since joining?

One of the most challenging experiences I’ve had was leading a fireside chat with Visa’s Chief Marketing Officer, Lynne Biggar. This was five months into the first role of my career. I was in front of my entire Visa team - around 70 individuals. This was so challenging because I was given such an amazing opportunity that I had to execute on. Because I had so many different questions I wanted to ask for my team to gain insight from Lynne, I held a lot of responsibility in ensuring the chat was informative and engaging. Having that experience early on was extremely challenging, but I learned a lot from it.

You’re almost a year removed from graduating from Stanford. What is it about being a student-athlete that you feel helped prepare you to handle the transition into the Visa?

Tennis (and being a student-athlete) has helped me in many different areas, with three big buckets standing out: hard work, empathy/teamwork, and leadership. I learned what working harder and smarter truly looks like. I learned how everyone has a different approach in things they do and how those different approaches come together to form a team. And I also learned about the limitless forms that leadership comes in. I am extremely excited to bring these foundations to Visa and constantly work on building them.

Given your background, why might Visa and your role be the perfect environment for an athlete to consider?

My role is very fast paced, while requiring lots of strategic and “on the ball” thinking. My athletic background prepared me very well for this environment because, with tennis, I had to create strategies that put me in the best position to take down my opponents while making split-second decisions during points on how to best construct each rally. Working on this tirelessly since I was five years old (when I started tennis) has helped me transfer these skill sets to Visa and my current role.

If you could go back one year and give yourself a piece of advice before graduating, what would it be?

I would tell myself not to stress so much. An individual’s career is very long. Coming out of college, you have 40 years or so to have a fulfilling and happy career. Once you get into the workplace, you quickly start learning about what you like and don’t like working on, so it becomes easier and easier to narrow down your desired route.