Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Niklas Bretschneider, U.C. Berkeley (Haas)

Niklas Bretschneider

University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Passionate about digital technologies, positivity, soccer, burritos, podcasts, and traveling (not necessarily in this order).”

Hometown: Lohmar, Germany

Fun Fact About Yourself: Even though I had the opportunity to travel to over 40 countries in the last five years, I have never been to France, which is only a two-hour drive away from my hometown. But it’s on my list!

Undergraduate School and Major: WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management (Vallendar, Germany), B.Sc. in International Business

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: McKinsey and Company, Senior Consultant

Berkeley Haas is founded on four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Which pillar resonates most with you and why? When I think about the people who’ve impressed me most in my career so far, they were my colleagues and clients who were incredibly smart, engaged and knowledgeable, but still always showed a spirit of humbleness and respect. Confidence without Attitude summarizes this really well for me, and I aim to live up to this value throughout my career.

Aside from the four pillars and your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose Haas and why was it so important to you? I had three main criteria on which I based my school selection:

1) Culture – the Haas community seemed incredibly well-knit and supportive to me, driven by its small class size and focus on values.

2) Career – Haas’ focus on innovation and the broad opportunities to network with tech companies and startups convinced me that this is the perfect place to build a career in technology.

3) Location – I always wanted to live in the Bay Area, both for personal (amazing nature, diverse group of people) and professional (pool of incredible talent, home to globally-leading companies) reasons.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Even though I expected my classmates to be very friendly and helpful, I have been impressed by the kindness I found in everyone I talked to so far. The positivity, mutual support, and helpfulness across the class made it a lot easier to endure the uncertainty and complexity of preparing for business school during a pandemic.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I feel like I successfully adapted to local norms and working cultures, wherever I went for work. I love being “thrown into the water”— from missing CEO meetings due to three-hour taxi commutes in Indonesia to not having business cards with me for introductions with clients in Tokyo. I’ve had to learn how to “swim again” and figure out how things work in each country.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After three years at McKinsey and three years of studying business, I feel like I have understood the “fundamentals of doing business”. An MBA represented the perfect opportunity for me to explore different career paths, strengthen my skillset in advanced areas I care about, and be exposed to a variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to Stanford GSB, Harvard Business School, Wharton, Columbia, NYU Stern, and UCLA Anderson.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging question was, “Are you sure you want to submit this application?” After about a year of selecting schools, writing essays, and studying for the GMAT, it was incredibly hard to stop making final, incremental edits to my applications. For anyone who’s interested in applying to business school, I recommend that you not overthink every single word and instead make sure that your authentic self is reflected across your application.

What was the biggest factor in choosing a particular business school and why was it so important to you? At the end of the application process, I had offers from multiple schools and I had a really hard time deciding on one. What was really helpful for me in that situation was to talk to current students and alumni of each school to get a better sense of the day-to-day life and culture at each school. At the end of this process, my overall sense of belonging was by far the highest at Haas. Even though other schools might have had better ranking places or larger scholarships, culture was the most important thing for me. Berkeley and the entire Haas community already felt like home, even before arriving there.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? After my first year in college, I interned at a startup in Karachi, Pakistan for a summer. Being exposed to an environment completely different from what I was used to sparked my interest in getting to know different countries and cultures. Since then, I’ve tried to travel as much as possible, which has helped me build an ability to empathize with people from various backgrounds. This experience will help me connect with my international classmates and lead in a world that gets more and more diverse.

What is your favorite company and why? Spotify! I often think back to when I was reluctant to switch from my beloved library of mp3-files downloaded from YouTube to a new “music subscription service” from Sweden. I find it amazing how Spotify has managed to disrupt an industry that has been disrupted before. I love Spotify’s intuitive app design, technology-driven approach to music discovery, and European, value-driven company culture.

Look ahead two years and picture graduation. How will you know that your business school experience has been successful? I hope that the MBA will help me with three things. First, I want to find and build a career in an industry, function, and company that I truly care about. Second, I hope to develop a network of close friends and professional contacts who will accompany me for the rest of my life. Third, I plan to have a great time with amazing classmates whom I will hopefully always keep in good memory!


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