Meet The Berkeley Haas MBA Class Of 2020

Marnus Breytenbach

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

An avid learner and critical thinker, excited to explore new ideas and make a meaningful impact.”

Hometown: Pretoria, South Africa

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am self-taught at playing the piano. Nothing fancy, but I can play a few fun pieces. However, my learning to play coincided with frequent power cuts back home, so many of the pieces I know I can literally play with my eyes closed.

Undergraduate School and Major:
North-West University (South Africa)
B.Sc. Hons. in Information Technology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:
Consultant, Quantium South Africa

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I led a team to deliver South Africa’s first real-world evidence health outcomes research projects based on big data.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I can see in my classmates, like myself, a great hunger to learn and contribute – not only academically, but through building personal and truly meaningful relationships.

Aside from your classmates, 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? All the top business schools offer opportunities to build strong networks and career paths, expose you to inspiring leaders in each industry, and help you build the academic foundations to reach your professional goals. However, the students, faculty, and alumni of Haas that I had the pleasure of interacting with in my MBA program search demonstrated a genuine belief in and commitment to a set of values that I have found myself to resonate with throughout my early career and personal life – Question the Status Quo, Students Always, Beyond Yourself, and Confidence without Attitude. As someone who is not just attending business school as a next step in my career, but as an opportunity for personal transformation and the chance to develop into a truly impactful professional, the thought of being part of a community that not only preaches, but wholly embodies such important principals was a vital part of my search. This helped me to find a home at Haas.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school?
I am looking most forward to joining the Entrepreneurship Club. Entrepreneurship is something I am very excited about exploring during (and after) my time at Haas, and the opportunity to meet, explore, and work with like-minded and equally excited classmates and entrepreneurs will form an important part of my business school experience.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have been planning to pursue an MBA for at least four years now. I have always had a desire to develop into a leader – someone who can take new and innovative ideas and turn them into something real, impactful, and (at least most of the time) profitable. With around five years of work experience under my belt, ranging from highly technical to client-facing roles, I feel that I have had a glimpse of what it is to be a professional. For me, the next step is to better understand the impact(s) that I want to make in my career and to identify the correct tools and environments in which to make those impacts.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Being an international student, I knew that the cost of doing an MBA would be more than just that of tuition fees and a cross-country road trip. I would have to make significant physical and personal sacrifices in order to have a seat at a top global business school. However, I knew that not taking the opportunity would have even greater costs. This investment was necessary for me to reach the professional and personal goals that I had set for myself.

What other MBA programs did you apply to?
Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Wharton School of Business

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I knew that all the best schools would do well at fulfilling the fundamental requirements, such as academics, networking, exposure, and job opportunities. Given that I was applying to the best-of-the-best, what was more important for me was to understand their culture; their commitment to making meaningful impact; proximity to and involvement in industries of interest to me, including technology, entrepreneurship, and venture capital; and their ability to build a community rather than just a network. These were issues I brought up consistently when engaging with staff, students, and alumni during my program search. I found that having personal conversations about these topics provided much more helpful information than the global MBA rankings in making my decision.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? The most defining time in my life was when I came to grips with my sexuality as a gay man. Going through this journey forced me to question my own beliefs and the norms we observe in everyday life. It helped me to learn introspection, self-care, and self-respect. It inspired me to reach out to others, to better understand and respect each person’s unique journey. Most importantly, it showed me what I could accomplish through having courage, taking risks and stepping out of my comfort zone.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I plan to work either in venture capital or technology in a role that allows me to take leadership and ownership to make an impact. I also plan to always be working on entrepreneurial ventures on the side.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I see myself as a budding, successful leader in one of my industries of interest, as well as the co-founder of a start-up or two.