2017 MBAs To Watch: Dominik Altheimer, UC-Davis

Dominik Altheimer

University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management

“German Army veteran who is passionate about finding solutions for the mobility of the future.”

Age: 33

Hometown: Augsburg, Germany

Fun fact about yourself: During high school, I spent most of my free time rock climbing with my friends in Germany, Italy or France.

I was also part of my high school’s philharmonic orchestra and one time, we performed together with Munich’s philharmonic orchestra in Munich’s main concert hall, the Gasteig.

I miss driving the old Mercedes G-wagon off-road, which I had as platoon leader.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg, Germany, Industrial Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? German Armed Forces, in various roles. As a platoon leader, I was responsible for leading and training officer candidates. This has been one of the most rewarding positions I held so far, and working with over 40 highly motivated and goal driven individuals inspired me every single day.

On my last position as project manager in the Armed Forces Logistics Command, I made sure that our troops in missions and trainings abroad get the mobility they need to fulfil their tasks.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Tesla, at their “Gigafactory 1” close to Reno, NV.

Where will you be working after graduation? Still considering my options.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Director of the GSM MBA Ambassadors program
  • VP of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Association
  • Finalist of the Newberry Leadership Award (Final Decision Not Made)
  • Team lead for the capstone consulting project, working on developing an M&A playbook for a client in the energy sector
  • Director of Marketing and University Relations for the Net Impact club chapter at the GSM
  • First place AT&T business case competition

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As a team lead for our capstone consulting project, my team and I worked on developing an M&A playbook for a client in the energy business in the San Francisco Bay Area. This was a challenging task with a considerable amount of ambiguity. We all pushed really hard to come up with a strong and meaningful final product. At the end of the project, we presented our final deliverables in front of the company’s CEO and CMO and received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Just recently, I found out that our tools and the playbook are still being used by them.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Having been part of the very first group of interns at Tesla’s Gigafactory, I worked with the VP of Operations on developing and implementing a KPI framework on the factory level. Contributing to the success of this massive venture which will change the way we travel and use energy, was just mind blowing. It was also really challenging but at the same time unbelievably satisfying.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Andrew Hargadon. Learning about innovation was one of the main reasons for me to attend an MBA program in US and in particular in California. As he is one of the leading scholars focusing on technology management and innovation, I couldn’t wait for his class to start. His concept of the “long fuse” followed by the “big bang” (the actual breakthrough of the innovation) really opened my eyes and provided me with an entirely new perspective on innovations of the past and present.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Besides the course mentioned earlier, Negotiations in Organizations (taught by the Silicon Valley veteran and former CEO Jim Olson) was my favorite course. Learning concepts about how to negotiate, and especially how to deal with difficult parties, turned this daunting task into a fun exercise and great learning opportunity.

The biggest insight for me was that you always have a BATNA! Make sure to know your BATNA and walk away from the negotiation when the outcome is going to be worse than your BATNA. You may not like your it and it might be a terrible alternative, but you always have one.

Why did you choose this business school? At the GSM, you will receive world class education in a friendly, family-like setting. Our class size of just forty-something full time students, which allows you to get so much face time with our faculty, staff and career development team. For me, that is real value added to the program. In addition to that, Davis lies just on the sweet-spot between the Silicon Valley and California’s state capital, which gives you countless networking and job opportunities. Not the mention the short drive up to Tahoe which makes for great weekend adventures.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Attending business school really changed how I look at companies. Before school, I was really focused on a company’s product, whereas now I not only understand why this product has certain features and attributes, but also what the mechanics of the entire business look like.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? Most people told me that grades really don’t matter that much.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Get a clear understanding of who you are and what you want to achieve with your MBA education. Look into the great resources available on the entire UC Davis campus and our school’s new orientations in Agriculture and Energy, for example. Lastly, consider the personal fit between you and the school. A great way to learn more about our program is to schedule a class visit and talk to our ambassadors and class mates.

What is the biggest myth about your school? All UC Davis GSM students are really nice. While this is true, we also have sharp business skills.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I could have picked more one-unit courses to add to my curriculum and polish my business skills even more. We had a great offering on various topics such as Business Strategy Consulting, Monte Carlo Simulation or Story Telling for Leadership, just to mention a few.

 Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Rob Bohn. This former Marine Corps officer exemplifies the highest level of self-control and resilience I’ve ever seen in a human being. He is not only balancing school and job search with taking care of his family and his two young kids in such a great manner, but he is also a great leader and really good friend and class mate.

 I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I saw how Tesla evolved from a tinkering shop to the leader in electric cars (and possible sustainable energy as well). For me, this raised so many questions, like how to define a company’s strategy or how to finance such a huge venture that I needed to learn more about business.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working my way up on an engineering career track in a German corporation.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would start working on improving our program’s competitive edge, focusing on a well-defined, focused strategy. My goal was to become the #1 program for MBAs interested in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Even though we are not a “big-name school”, we have high caliber students and faculty. In addition to that, there are so many resources on the UC Davis campus, we can leverage (such as the Energy Efficiency Center, our engineering school, or the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In addition to that, we are in the perfect location to achieve this goal. Not only is California on the forefront when it comes to renewable energy, the vicinity to the state capital allows for easy access to legislation and lobbyists.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Become the VP of operations or COO in a tech company. I want to do good through my work, either by saving the planet or making our lives better in some other way.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I really want to thank my entire class. They are good friends, caring mentors, and sharp observers at the same time, and really helped me achieve my goals. Transitioning from the military into a corporate career while moving to the U.S. was quite a change for me. However, I always knew I could count on my classmates if I asked for feedback or help. They accepted me the way I am made me a better person.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Dominik is the guy who gets things done, he is a great leader and good friend.

Favorite book: The Intelligent Investor

Favorite movie or television show: Pulb Fiction, Chef’s Table

Favorite musical performer: Led Zeppelin

Favorite vacation spot: The Alps. All of it.

Hobbies: Skiing and snowboarding, playing tennis, hiking, and music (occasionally playing the guitar as well as sharing my vinyl collection with friends)

What made Dominik Altheimer such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“While being an exemplary student at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management (GSM), Dominik is also making a true impact here as an active member of numerous clubs, most notably, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Association and the UC Davis MBA Ambassadors.

Entrepreneurship is an integrated piece of the MBA curriculum here at the GSM. Through his work with the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Association, Dominik helps other students fulfill their dreams of launching their own businesses. Specifically, he is working on an event where both undergraduate and graduate students from all UC Davis Schools and Colleges present new product or service ideas. He consults with these students to help them develop the strong business plans they will need for entrepreneurial success. This event also provides a great service to the GSM, reinforcing established ties with other Schools on the UC Davis campus and helping to develop new connections to deepen cross-campus collaboration.

As the Director of the UC Davis MBA Ambassadors, Dominik is tasked with helping prospective students develop their own understanding of the UC Davis GSM experience. In this role, he represents our school to prospective students as they are engaged in the admissions process. As you know, having a great first experience is key in convincing students to admit into any MBA program. Through his leadership of this team, Dominik ensures all visiting prospects have a great experience, which greatly impacts our admissions process. He also strives to provide applicants with a realistic impression of our school, reflecting our true nature and ensuring good cultural fit for incoming students. While serving in this position, Dominik was also instrumental in getting the ambassador-led Instagram and Twitter accounts, as well as the summer internship blog, established. Our blog was ranked as one of the “Best MBA Blogs” by MetroMBA in June, 2016, where they specifically called out the quality of the “student-written intern experience” posts. We can also confirm that 2 students enrolled in the UC Davis MBA program after talking with Dominik, an impressive number for a School with a total enrolling full-time class of 45 students.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Dominik is our first international student, with no experience in the energy field prior to starting the program, to achieve a highly sought-after internship with Tesla. This makes for great content as we advertise the School and our MBA to domestic and international students alike. We say the UC Davis MBA program will guide you to fulfilling your dreams; Dominik’s story helps to show just how true that statement is.

Dominik’s actions and his conviction to represent our School in the best light whenever possible is clear. In this past year, he has engaged his fellow students to attend events like the Play Conference hosted by the Haas School of Business and the Connected Future event at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco, which not only enhances student learning, but also shows the public that we are a close-knit community where innovative and bright students want to engage and learn.”

Dr. Angela L.M. Stopper

Director of Program Innovations and Executive Education



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