Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Michael Dantas, Harvard Business School

Michael Dantas

Harvard Business School

“I am a hard-working, community-driven, outgoing proud Brazilian who’s working to build a better country.”

Hometown: Brasilia, Federal District – Brazil

Fun Fact About Yourself: I almost took a selfie with Prince Harry in Angola. Missed it by a second. I hope to make HBS friends with the connections to make it happen next time.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Brasilia – International Relations

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Brazilian Ministry of Economy – Undersecretary for Micro and Small Enterprises, Entrepreneurship and Artisanry

What word best describes the Harvard Business School students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Hard-working. People at Harvard Business School are extremely committed to whatever they do and walk their talk. Accomplished would be another great word because that hard-working mentality usually translates into amazing things people do throughout their lives.

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? It puts you in the mindset of leaders facing difficult, complex, and uncertain situations.  When combined with the variety of perspectives that classmates bring to the classroom, it provides us with a powerful learning tool. I truly believe in having “skin in the game” as the best way to learn in the business world. Given that we can’t work in all industries and functions and face all of their most relevant challenges, the business case gives us a good sense of what it is like to be in the protagonist’s shoes, and learn from their own experience, successes and mistakes.

Aside from your classmates and cases, what was the key part of Harvard Business School’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The section experience. I have heard from many alumni that it gives you an extended family and unbreakable community. I wanted to a part of it the moment I learned about it.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Harvard Business School Football aka Soccer Club. While at McKinsey, the Football club was one of the best ways to make friends and get to know colleagues from other offices around the world. I am expecting the same from HBS Football/Soccer club as well as to be active and have fun while competing against other schools.

When you think of Harvard Business School, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? Leadership. It in the school’s DNA and is what brings it all together. I feel like everything in HBS is meant to help us become better and more impactful leaders.  

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment is to have promoted economic and regulation public policies that helped thousands of small and medium enterprises in Brazil to survive, retain jobs, and have a chance to come out of the pandemic stronger. Through the largest SMEs credit program in Brazilian history, I helped $5 billion get to 300,000 companies in extreme need. As one entrepreneur said, “Credit is the vaccine for SMEs.” I also led, end-to-end, the creation of the Business Environment Bill, which just became a law and will bring an estimated impact of 3% of Brazil’s GDP in the long term. It will allow for entrepreneurs to open companies in one day, reduce by 4x the time companies need to obtain electricity and create dual class stocks in Brazil to help startups get into the stock market. I was also involved in more than 40 other improvements to take Brazil, for the first time, to the top 100 in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? Professionally, it reinforced my commitment to making Brazil a better country through public policies and initiatives that promote freedom, entrepreneurship, and competition – ultimately giving a better chance to those whose are willing to put in honest, hard work. I joined the Ministry of Economy when COVID-19 was peaking in Brazil, and I will never forget how committed everyone in the Ministry was to do our part in alleviating the effects of the pandemics in Brazilian companies and citizens.

Personally, the pandemic was a very humbling experience. It taught me to focus on what I can control and not to take anything for granted. It may sound cliché, but for someone who was always planning months and years ahead, COVID-19 was a huge wake-up call. Ever since, I have been trying to always be ready so as I don’t have to get ready when life hits me. During the first part of the pandemic, I was living by myself, so it was also an opportunity for self-reflection.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? It just felt right to take a break to think about the next steps on my life and career while being in a highly stimulating environment – full of bright people and great ideas. It is also an opportunity to learn about topics that always interested me, but that I never took the proper time to learn. Finally, I am an enthusiast of the transformative and accelerating power of networks and both the greater Harvard community and HBS will connect me with amazing people and institutions for life.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford, Wharton, MIT Sloan, Kellogg and Booth. Got accepted to all but Booth – waitlisted.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Harvard Business School’s MBA program? Know your story from beginning to end, reflect on your values, and understand how HBS is going to help you on your path of life. Going to HBS is not an end in itself; it is means to an end – keep that in mind. If you don’t exactly know what the end is, HBS will help you on that – just be honest. Never lie and avoid overselling. Get GMAT out of the way as soon as possible. Prepare for the interview – it can be tough.


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