Meet Carnegie Mellon’s MBA Class Of 2019

Mark Haakenstad 

Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: A teammate who strives to be a positive influence on everyone that I interact with.

Hometown: Minnetonka, Minnesota

Fun Fact About Yourself: I flew 383,612 miles on standby travel in 3 years working for American Airlines & Qantas Airways. That’s 266 flights, 56 of which were international.

Undergraduate School and Major: 

  • Carlson School of Management at University of Minnesota
  • Finance and Supply Chain Management

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: 

  • American Airlines: Revenue Management Analyst, Domestic Pricing
  • Qantas Airways: Qantas-American Airlines Joint Business Market Analyst
  • American Airlines Cargo: Sr. Analyst Sales Planning & Performance

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: While working for Qantas as the market analyst managing the young joint business with American Airlines, American began new service from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand. For a new route to survive long term, there must be reliable business class traffic to create a consistently profitable route. I realized after analyzing performance that we needed to re-think how both airlines priced and managed those business class seats. After working with both Qantas and American and across the revenue management department to create buy-in and support, we were able to implement a substantial change to how we priced and sold the business class seats. This alteration resulted in a marked increase in bookings, still at a desirable price for the airline. This change allowed the flight to become one of the better performing routes.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? Although all components of the application are important, I would emphasize the value of writing essays that are frankly compelling to read. When I was going through the application process, I felt that the essays really are where one can tell their story and highlight their own personality and unique experiences. Yes, the GMAT score and undergrad GPA mark are crucial, but everyone will submit applications with three numbers for their GMAT and two for their GPA. In the essay section, you can approach the given prompt in a way that clearly communicates to the reader why you are different and why your own personal narrative has shaped you in a way that gives you a skillset that would complement the school. Quite simply, have some fun with the essays. Don’t overthink them, be yourself and share how you have learned from your experiences. You will craft a much more interesting response than if you try to answer the prompt how you think the admissions committee wants the essays to read.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon stood out to me for many reasons, but I’ll highlight one. When making the decision on where to enroll, one aspect that really swayed me to Tepper was when I thought about where the school is going to be 5, 10, 20 years down the road. It is so easy to evaluate programs on where they are now: companies recruiting at the school this year, internships students had last summer and what roles graduates are entering next year. And if you look at it like that, a lot of schools are going to look pretty convincing.

Yes, where the school is now is indeed a major aspect of your decision. You don’t want to go to a school full of empty promises. But, I needed to also more strongly consider where the school is headed. Are the alumni engaged? Is the school investing in new facilities? Is the program committed to fully leveraging its resources in the future? Essentially, is the school content with where it is at — or are they proud of what they stand for but driven to become an even better program down the road? And when I asked myself that series of questions, it was a simple choice for me because the direction Tepper is headed allowed me to answer a robust yes to each one.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? In my previous roles, often colleagues either had similar backgrounds to me or had a way of thinking that was comparable to mine. In school, this is not the case. And this is a wonderful aspect of returning from work to school. There will be students from across the globe and from too many different functions and industries to count at Tepper. There will be many opportunities to converse that may expose a new way of thinking. My own perceptions will be challenged. I will have the chance to take advantage of other student’s experiences and learnings and incorporate that into my skillset. I think that this dialogue with other students is crucial to success in your first year of business school. Put down any barriers you have formed over the years and get to know your classmates. Leverage what they know, and use that to shape yourself to become an even more diverse, knowledgeable candidate for recruiters. If I am able to do this, I will consider my first year at Tepper to be a true success.