Jason Mikami’s Hat Trick
Finding success as a leader, a farmer and a father
Jason Mikami MBA 96 graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Asian languages (Japanese) and quickly landed a job in Silicon Valley as a business liaison with the company’s Japan office. ”I soon realized that I needed both a technical degree and a business degree to be truly successful,” he says. ”I embarked on a four-year journey whereby I returned to Berkeley for a second BA in electrical engineering and computer science—and came to Davis and the GSM for my MBA.”
Describe your career path. What opportunities and decisions led to your current position at BitCasa?
Similar to my selection in choosing the GSM, my career choices have always placed me in dynamic, startup organizations experiencing accelerated growth, where my actions have an immediate, material impact on the success of the company. Since earning my MBA, I have been part of an IPO (Wink Communications), a billion dollar “unicorn” before they were so named (MobiTV), a successful acquisition event (SugarSync), and now a leader in the next evolution of cloud storage (Bitcasa).
What personal and professional satisfactions do you get as the founder and owner of Mikami Vineyards?
My family has been growing grapes for over a century. I’m the third generation to continue the tradition, and I feel both a sense of obligation and pride in continuing the legacy. We started producing our hand-crafted artisanal wines 10 years ago, and to see how they have been honored by the likes of Wine Enthusiast, Sunset Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle with 90-point scores and Gold Medals is definitely satisfying.
What are you passionate about in your work?
I’m passionate about growing teams. In all of my companies since the GSM, I’ve started with small teams (some as small as two people) and grown, mentored and developed cohesive organizations that are focused on making the company succeed. This is what drives me.
Where is your career headed?
My career will likely continue down this path of growing strong teams. Ultimately I hope to have a successful run in tech to enable me to focus on winemaking full time.
How has your UC Davis MBA experience helped shape your success?
The GSM experience has been invaluable. Though I am a leader in technology, engineering and operations, what has enabled me to be successful is my general business knowledge and decision making. And for that, I am indebted to the School for what it provided me in terms of education and training. I still recall fondly my finance courses from Professor Barber and my organizational behavior training from Professor Palmer. ROI, SWOT and Porter’s principles are all things that resonate today more than ever.
How are you making a positive impact in the world?
I find that it’s a combination of being a corporate leader, a farmer and a father. As an example, for the last item, I am now serving on the board of my daughter’s Japanese language school. And as part of that, just like with everything else, it’s the challenge of growing a small organization.
What is the most incredible thing that’s happened to you since graduating?
What has been the most amazing has been the combination of being recognized in Time magazine for technology and being featured in Wine Enthusiast and having our wines recognized with a 90-point score.
Your favorite GSM memory?
There are a number: working with great classmates like Laura Rosenthal and presenting in front of key execs at Hewlett-Packard, learning core decision-making skills from folks like Professors Tsai and Barber, and then being part of the first class to see the School ranked nationally by U.S. News and World Report. I remember seeing Dean Smiley very happy that day!
How do you support and participate in the GSM now?
I attend annually the Wine Luncheon sponsored by the GSM and have been trying to help with events like the Big Bang!, but unfortunately it’s been difficult. I hope to help out more.