2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Hannes Harnack, Stanford GSB

Hannes Harnack

Stanford Graduate School of Business

  • Joint degree: MBA and MS in Environment and Resources

European, optimist, extroverted introvert, passionate about mobility & technology, eager to connect, learn, and explore.”

Hometown: Ibbenbüren, Germany

Fun fact about yourself: I played chess competitively during middle and high school – long before Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit made it cool.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW), Germany – BA in International Business

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Mercedes-Benz in Germany, Associate in Product Strategy

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? McKinsey & Company

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: President of the Stanford GSB Future of Mobility Club; and Investor at the GSB Impact Fund

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Serving as co-president of the GSB Future of Mobility Club was one of the highlights of my time at Stanford. It was a pleasure to share my passion for mobility with my classmates, invite guest speakers to campus, and moderate panels to discuss what the future of mobility might look like.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Working at the strategy department of Mercedes-Benz gave me the opportunity to redefine how we will move from A to B in the future. I coordinated all the corporate functions involved in the new product development process and learned how to lead a large project team without having formal authority. Drawing on the expertise of my team members, I defined the cornerstones of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle architecture and the drivetrain electrification strategy for 2025 and beyond. In an intense three-hour presentation to the CEO and the board of Mercedes-Benz, I finally succeeded in getting approval for our proposal.

Why did you choose this business school? I decided to go to business school to learn about who I am as a person and as a professional. Stanford’s emphasis on interpersonal skills and leadership resonated with me because it promised unique learning experiences and plenty of opportunities for self-growth and career development. I knew that the GSB experience would push me out of my comfort zone and challenge me to explore something new every day.

I was also drawn to Stanford’s close connection to Silicon Valley, which would allow me to explore interesting startups and connect with successful entrepreneurs.

Lastly, I felt fortunate to become part of a community of classmates who are some of the most accomplished, inspiring, and humble people I can imagine. I learned that we all share a common belief in supporting each other and striving for a happy and fulfilling life.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Once a week, two classmates give their TALK. They share their life stories with the entire GSB community in an intimate and supportive setting. The whole class comes together to celebrate self-reflection, vulnerability, and diversity in our community.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I wish I had taken more classes at other Stanford schools “across the street,” which is allowed and encouraged under the GSB curriculum. Stanford University offers so many more incredible courses and opportunities to connect with students from other departments. I will make this a priority during my joint degree program in my third year at Stanford.

What is the biggest myth about your school?

Myth: Every GSB student wants to become an entrepreneur.

Reality: Entrepreneurship is indeed a focus at the GSB. Classes such as “Formation of New Ventures” and “Startup Garage” are very popular. However, interests within our community are diverse, and the comprehensive business education at the GSB prepares us to succeed in all types of careers.

What surprised you the most about business school? I thought that most of my classmates would come to Stanford with a clear idea of what they wanted to do after the MBA. Instead, most people, myself included, use their time at the GSB to reflect on personal and professional goals, explore different career paths, and get inspired by fellow students. Here at the GSB, I learned about professions I had never heard of before and now feel much better prepared to decide which career path I want to pursue.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? The admissions process at the GSB is holistic and considers many aspects of the applicant’s life and personality. I presented not only my professional achievements, but also my entrepreneurial experience and social commitment. Overall, I was very authentic in my application and in my interview and felt comfortable sharing my true self. Perhaps it also helped that I have a rather uncommon background.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Davide Zanchi. He was my randomly assigned roommate during our first MBA year and became the best friend I could ask for at the GSB. Davide is incredibly smart, driven, and hard-working. He is funny and brings joy to everyone around him. Davide came to the GSB with the dream of co-founding a startup with a Stanford professor. He made it happen. Today, he runs a company that develops a drug to prevent strokes – and he still comes up with three new business ideas every day. Davide is a wonderful person, and I couldn’t be happier to have made him a life-long friend.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First, I want to have a lasting impact on the people I work with and the organizations I am a part of. Second, and this is more of a long-term dream, I want to go into European politics one day and promote European integration.

What made Hannes such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

Hannes embodies a generosity of spirit and courageous resilience that shows up in a deep caring for others and commitment to self-growth. A key course tenet is that relationships can be deepened more quickly when one is willing to share personally and emotionally, creating opportunities for others to respond in kind and build trust. Believing in the possibilities of this, Hannes leaned against cultural and familial norms to cultivate a richer emotional experience for himself.

He was tenacious in building this competency. Learning to register a wider range of emotions can be frustrating without an external touchpoint; it requires discipline to refocus repeatedly in non-cognitive ways. Regulating more intense reactions that arise takes courage and strength to admit certain reactions (or blind spots) rather than push them away. Much of his motivation to master these skills came from a desire to see himself honestly and clearly and take responsibility for any impact he had on others. I believe that prioritizing others’ feelings over his own feelings of embarrassment or shame is generous and rare. Hannes is well equipped to lead others in ways that build loyalty and commitment and to set a team environment of candor, mutual support, and growth. I have faith in him and wish him well!”

Leslie Chin
Lecturer in Management at Stanford Graduate School of Business


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