Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Eric Leifland-Berntsson, Cornell University (Johnson)

Eric Leifland-Berntsson

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

“Easy-going and hardworking sports enthusiast.”

Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden

Fun Fact About Yourself: I once participated in a belly dancing workshop. I was awful.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Michigan – Ross School of Business, BBA

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Associate, HSBC (TMT investment banking division), London, UK

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The school spirit and close-knit community. Coming from an athletic background, teamwork and close collaboration are extremely important to me, which is also the way Cornell operates. I know that I can thrive in this type of open and friendly environment. The top-tier academics at Cornell swayed my decision. For me, it was more a question of which environment would provide the most dynamic setting to excel and positively impact the community.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Extraordinary and accomplished – yet unpretentious. We have a Slack group in which current and incoming students interact and I am deeply impressed and moved by the kindness and effort people make in order to help each other and stay connected during this pandemic.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? As a sports fan, I am very excited to try to join intramural teams for tennis, soccer and ice hockey. I would also love to learn more about the Big Red Venture Fund given my interest in Venture Capital. Generally, I am thrilled to explore the vast number of clubs that Cornell has to offer.

What was your initial impression of Cornell Johnson? How did it evolve as the recruiting process continued? Cornell has always been my top school for pursuing an MBA, given its stellar academics, strong community, and incredible alumni network. My desire to pursue my MBA at Cornell only grew once I got accepted and was introduced to the people and the Cornell community through Destination Johnson. What really convinced me that I had made the right decision was the overwhelming camaraderie and helpfulness among staff and current students. The community has been incredibly supportive during the pandemic to make sure we were supported and informed about the academic plan.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I hope I left a positive legacy at my team at HSBC by acting as a role model. I have always tried to lead by example and create a collaborative and optimistic atmosphere. I hope the attitude, dedication, and hard work I have put into various projects during my time at HSBC have been contagious and helped set a standard for how to approach work and life in general. Investment banking is incredibly competitive and, at times, very stressful. My aim has always been to create a friendly and supportive environment, especially for the junior analysts within my purview. I hope I left my team with a positive mark.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I came to a point in my career where I had to make a choice of what I really wanted to do for the long term. I realized that I wanted to pivot to a new industry and believe an MBA is an excellent opportunity to reinvent my professional self and discover new career opportunities. An MBA will give me inspiration and the necessary tools for gaining traction in pursuing a new path in my professional life.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Dartmouth

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “How will you make an impact on campus?” was a tough question, since this is something that I really aim to do. I wanted my answer to contain more than just empty phrases.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I wanted a program that would challenge me intellectually and lead to personal growth. Any top ranked school will have fantastic career centers, so it was more important for me to find a school that has a strong collaborative community in which I would be able to thrive and make a positive impact. A big priority was also that the school could provide a fulfilling setting for my wife and daughter. The vibrant campus life and beautiful setting of the Cornell campus in Ithaca really sealed the deal.

To find my perfect fit, I looked extensively at the schools’ websites to read interviews with previous students. I also explored the campus and various clubs and other activities online. Poets&Quants’ vast information bank has also been invaluable in making an informed decision.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? For me, it’s not so much a moment, but rather a period of time that has been the most defining. Being part of University of Michigan’s varsity soccer team as an undergrad is something that has had a tremendously positive impact on me and on my career. It taught me the value of teamwork, commitment, positive leadership and just plain grit. Regardless of whether I’ve been facing adversity or if it has been smooth sailing, the lessons I learned during my time in the Big Ten have helped me make the very best of the situation. Embarking on my MBA, I know that my experiences as a Wolverine will push me to constantly evolve and strive to be become my better self.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I am a big fan of Nike. Not only do they promote amazing sports and sell cutting-edge products and clothes, they embrace cultural diversity and strive to make the world better through the power of sports.


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