2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Aron Bjorn Bjarnason, U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

Aron Bjorn Bjarnason

University of California-Berkeley, Haas School of Business

“Naturally curious Icelandic who loves problem-solving, sports, and spending quality time with friends and family.”

Hometown: Reykjavik, Iceland

Fun fact about yourself: When I was in middle school, I played in the ‘notorious’ band, Pink Rosewood. I was our celebrated bass player (primarily because no one else wanted the role), and in the Icelandic battle of the bands we were described as a “promising young band with a LOT to learn!”

Undergraduate School and Degree: Reykjavik University, BS in Financial Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was a lead product owner on the Lending Team at Islandsbanki.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? I was a product manager with Amazon, based in Santa Clara.

Where will you be working after graduation? As a technical senior product manager at Amazon.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: MBA Association Vice President of Clubs, Graduate Student Instructor for the core Finance class for all first-year MBA students.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my time as a member of our student government, where I served as the MBA Association Vice President of Clubs. There were several structural and organizational processes lost during the pandemic, and I was responsible for developing and overseeing a period of systems-building. Although most of the role is impacting change behind the scenes, I was able to support the club leaders by making the club infrastructure more supportive and effective, even managing a successful club fair where 40+ clubs interfaced with new students. This facilitated recruitment and engagement efforts for the clubs, ensuring they met their membership targets and outreached students that would continue their legacy.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Leading the digital transformation at Islandsbanki with an incredible team! During that time, I led the development of the bank’s first fully automatic lending product and the first fully automatic refinancing solution in Iceland. Both revolutionized the customer experience and took the bank to the forefront among financial institutions in Iceland.

Why did you choose this business school? The people. Early in the process, I suffered from a mild case of analysis paralysis when choosing between several top-ranked schools. However, after attending a few events where I had the opportunity to get to know prospective classmates, I was immediately drawn to Haas. Every single person I met was empathetic, thoughtful, and extremely capable, while at the same time maintaining a healthy dose of humility that I found refreshing and real.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor at Haas is Timothy McQuade, who taught me Finance in my first year. With a BS in Financial Engineering, I was on the fence about taking this core course, but Timothy’s ability to simplify complex financial jargon and quantitative concepts, while allowing students with special interest in the topic to dive deeper, made this an exceptional class. His breadth of knowledge, both from an academic lens and from the ‘real-world,’ is astounding. He revitalized my interest in finance, so much so that I became motivated to seek a Graduate Student Instructor role with him the following year.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Venture Capital and Private Equity, taught by Sean Foote and Keval Desai. The class was the perfect combination of impressive speakers, cases, theory, and equally as important, the professor’s experiences as a venture capitalist. Sean created an exciting learning environment in which every student gave a 110% to the class, engaging in animated dialogues to move discussions forward and dedicated to sharing their experience with the subject.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Barbeques hosted by the Latin American Business Association (LAHBA). My roommates at the time, Lucho Lira and JP Arias, encouraged me to join them at the first LAHBA barbecue. There, I was greeted with the incredibly warm hospitality and loving nature of the LAHBA community. Furthermore, LAHBA’s mouthwatering cuisine, which they devotedly prepared every barbecue at 8:00 am, made those events a culinary staple. The afternoon dancing added to the joyous and celebratory ambiance. I was able to socialize, learn to salsa, and have a good time, all while strengthening my connections and forging deep friendships.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Overall, I’m grateful and happy with my business school experience. However, the one thing I would change is my selection criteria around the activities I chose to be involved in. There are endless possibilities to explore while in business school. Because I’m a naturally inquisitive person, I jumped at the opportunity to say yes to anything that piqued my curiosity. I would have liked to have focused on fewer things and explored them in more depth so as to not feel so spread thin.

What is the biggest myth about your school? “Everyone at Haas is a radical far leftist.” Although I believe Haas is generally liberal, I think the confusion stems from the empathetic and self-conscious culture at Haas.

What surprised you the most about business school? How diverse and impressive my classmates are. I had heard the typical MBA mantra of “diverse classroom”, but I still didn’t expect it. Getting to know my classmates and their story has been one of my favorite things about business school.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? It might sound cliché, but sharing my story through the essays in the most authentic way possible. Realizing how much Haas values its culture and sharing an extra 10%, even though it might feel slightly uncomfortable, was the best decision I made.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are numerous incredible people in the class. If I had to choose one, I would say my roommate and co-founder of Roots, Lovre Soric. He’s incredibly kind and good hearted, a true start-up grinder, and a social animal. He’s taught me that there is never a thing that can’t be done; only a few challenges on the way with multiple solutions on how to overcome them. He’s empathetic and always willing to help. Whether it’s organizing a trip for hundreds of MBA’s or helping out with a conference or organizing a social for the cohort, Lovre is one of my go-to people.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Empowering and mentoring young up-and-coming professionals. I would not be in the position I am today without the support and guidance from my mentors. Looking back, I realize how important that was for my personal and professional growth, and I want to provide to others the same kind of support I received.

Learn to speak Spanish fluently. Many of my best friends in the class are native Spanish speakers and I would love to be able to communicate with them in their native tongue. Although I studied Spanish in high school and can follow some of the conversation, I need to step out of my comfort zone more often and practice.

What made Aron such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“It is my great honor and pleasure to highly recommend Aron Bjarnason for the Best and Brightest of 2023. In my 13 years working both domestically and internationally with students, I’ve found Aron to be an exceptional student leader. He is both a dedicated and empathetic leader who is able to listen to various stakeholders, discern strengths and opportunities, and develop a systematic approach to resolving various issues. He’s also an excellent community-builder and seeks to bring individuals together through his work.

As vice president of clubs, Aron oversaw over 40 MBA student organizations and effectively liaised between club leaders and Haas administration, rekindling collaborative efforts among stakeholders in a post-COVID era. He worked to ensure sufficient resources for a multitude of initiatives that support social, affinity, professional, and industry clubs. Not only did he work with the Program Office to plan club-leader orientation and training, he improved infrastructure and systems for the club ecosystem and managed multiple funding opportunities. Aron served as a fantastic thought partner, helping to spearhead the transition of all clubs and club leaders to a new platform, and elevated the Club Fair for the student body. Through this painstaking year-long process, Aron helped convince student leaders on the importance of transitioning to the new platform and served as a bridge of understanding.”

Sumayyah Alsabri
Director of Student Life & Leadership Development


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