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Before starting our interview, I tried to recall how I met Michal Hron. I’m unsure if it was a shared class or a mutual friend, but what I can definitely tell you is that Michal is one of those people at AAU that staff, faculty and fellow students alike know by name.
Originally from Plzen, he started a Business degree at AAU in 2013 with an interest in marketing and took advantage of many of the opportunities offered through the school- from Student Council, a semester in Hawaii and VCU’s International Consulting Practicum. He now resides in Denmark where he is obtaining his masters in Business Intelligence.
You started with an interest in Marketing at AAU. How did you switch over to Business Intelligence?
“I would call it more refinement of interest because a big part of the data that the companies have is marketing related. It’s about customers, where they are and what they buy, and how their interests and preferences change over time.”
Can you please explain what business intelligence is? And in a way that I (a Social Science student) can understand!
“It’s an intersection of three disciplines: business studies, information technology, and statistical methods of all sorts with computers and the digitalization of everything. There are data records of any and all transactions. And these records can be very valuable for companies if they know how to work with them by extracting values from them and becoming more operationally effective to transform their business at its core.”
Tell me about how you chose Aarhus University.
“I did look at a number of other countries and universities but in the end I just applied to Aarhus alone because the program was the most interesting for my development and it was with the guarantee of admission. Basically, they have the policy that if you pass the criteria, they will accept you no matter how many people applied that year. The university of Aarhus had a program which I was fully qualified for and they were looking for applicants with the exact background AAU provides. It was a very natural fit for me. ”
Denmark is apparently the happiest country. Why do you think this is?
“The first reason is generous safety. You don’t have to worry about being fired or unemployed, you don’t have to worry about tuition or health expenses because all these things are provided for as long as you pay taxes – high taxes, of course. Secondly, the country is quite small and you are very likely to work in a small organization with typically a very flat structure. And because people tend to spend quite a big part of their days or weeks at work having a nice environment is an important factor in happiness.”
From your first hand experience, do you think they are exceptionally happy?
“It’s not easy to get into the things which are source of what we call happiness here because you need to know Danish people. To do that fully you need to speak Danish, and it takes a long time before you form friendships in these cultures. But if you go through all that, and wait through the three to four years or more it may take, then, yes, you will feel as happy as the Danes do. But it’s very misleading when you see these Internet headlines that Denmark is the happiest country. You will not feel that in the first three years.”
We all know Prague is great with its public transportation. What about Denmark? How did you adjust to biking?
“I adjusted to the bikes very quickly. Biking is a matter of necessity because it just is the best option. Even if you can afford a car, bikes take you exactly where you want to be as some of the streets are narrow and parking could get difficult sometimes.”
What about food in Denmark?
“Frankly, it’s just European food. There is more fish because you are closer to the sea and everything is 3–4 times more expensive as here [Prague]. What’s interesting actually is that they have little selection in stores.”
Do you think the selection is more limited because you’re not in the capital?
“In Denmark, they are very practical and pragmatic. Why would you have seven types of sweets when you can have two?”
Aarhus and AAU, what the difference?
“At AAU you really feel that you are going through a customized education model, you choose your classes and you decide what class you take at what point. You can retake classes. You have a lot of flexibility in what you do with your time. This is the exact opposite of how old schools in Denmark work. It’s a much more linear process because you just go through the program that was designed for you and your options for choosing what to take and when you take it are quite constrained because they need to work with so many students. It’s government funded, so this is the more efficient way to produce graduates.”
As Czech citizen, why did you choose AAU?
“During high school, I spent a year an exchange student in Los Angeles, California. Because I was put in a senior class there, in the graduating class, all the people I got to know, who became my highschool friends in LA, were choosing universities. Even though I am Czech, the first university culture I came to understand was American. When I came back to Plzen, I was actually surprised by how little sense Czech public schools made to me. So I was looking for what I left behind when I left LA. And I found AAU which had the right structure and a type of university culture that was very close to what I was looking for.”
What, in your opinion, is the difference between Czech public schools and American-style schools?
“It’s the community. At European schools you study, at American schools you live. People at British or American schools live on campus, engage in student activities and have clubs. The education model is also much more customizeable whereas these publically funded schools tend to be an assembly line for graduates. And I really like the idea of being engaged in the university and making it your community. I think I benefited from it a lot.”
Why did you join Student Council??
“It was one of the big things I was looking for at universities, actually – the opportunity to be engaged. If you asked me about my favourite class, I would say “Student Council” because there I learnt the most. Being in charge of events, projects, and people, organizing things and dealing with real problems and real budgets. I learnt leadership skills and how to communicate with people.”
If you had to write an article that the whole world would read, what would it be about?
“Statistics. We live in a more and more numbers-driven world and a lot of the numbers you see around are interpreted incorrectly.”
If you had a teaching class at AAU, what class would you teach?
“Business Intelligence, Digital Marketing, Econometrics, or Data Mining”
What does it mean to you to be an AAU alumni?
“I would split it into two parts. One is keeping the connections alive and another is fostering new connections. There are a lot of very good friendships that were formed during the three years I spent at AAU with the other students and faculty. Also, there are a lot of people I have never met in the alumni community and that can be interesting both professionally and just because it’s nice to meet new friends.”