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Jason Mikami: Software Executive, Winemaker, Husband, Father

By ELLEN ENDO

OAKLAND, CA–Jason Mikami, a 48-year old senior executive in the software industry, refuses to be cast in a mold. 

His resumé describes a 15-year veteran of senior level positions with expertise in software development, large-scale cloud storage, technical operations, and product and program management, but there is more to this multi-skilled Sansei. Today, as Head of Efficiency, he manages a team of engineers for Uber, the global company and mega-brand that is changing the way we travel around our cities, have food delivered, and use bikes.

Mikami’s journey to the executive suite began in the 1990s when he graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa honoree from the University of California at Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Japanese and Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as a Tau Beta Pi scholar.  He went on to earn an MBA in Finance and Marketing from the UC Davis Graduate School of Management as a Beta Gamma Sigma scholar.

One of his first jobs in Silicon Valley was with the interactive television service Wink Communications as Vice President, Operations. He later served as Director, Engineering Operations for Open TV after the company merged with Wink. 

In 2005, Mikami joined MobiTV, the first company to bring live and on-demand TV to mobile devices. A Senior Director, Program Management, he was instrumental in building MobiTV into the number one paid application in the Apple App Store with the launch of March Madness on Demand tournament games.

From 2009-2015, he worked for SugarSync, an early entry in the file-sharing software industry, where he rose to Vice President, Engineering and Operations. He left SugarSync to accept a similar position with Bitcasa, a cloud storage company based in Mountain View, California.

He subsequently joined to San Francisco-based Kumofox, Inc., where he served as Chief Executive Officer, before moving to his current position with Uber.

I’m passionate about growing teams,” Mikami recently said in an interview with Davis’ GSM, “In all of my companies…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.

In addition to his technical prowess, Mikami has an artistic, perhaps even a “romantic” side to his persona.  Born in Lodi, a major wine grape growing region of California, Mikami was raised amid the vineyards tended by his father, the late Matsuto “Jim” Mikami, carrying on the tradition started by Jason’s grandfather, Teruichi Mikami, who had emigrated from Hiroshima in the late 1800s.

the Family Business

In 1942, following the outbreak of World War, Teruichi and his entire family, which included Jim and five other children, were sent to a War Relocation Authority concentration camp in Rohwer, Arkansas, where they lived until the war ended in 1945. 

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Jim returned to Lodi after the war and helped Teruichi rebuild the family farming business. In 1958, through an arranged marriage, Jim married Aiko Ninomiya, a hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor) from Hiroshima. He purchased his own vineyard property in 1965, working almost singlehandedly to tend the grapevines and the land.  

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Together with his wife, Mitzi Onizuka Mikami, Jason founded Mikami Vineyards, transitioning from grape-growing to wine-making. Along with experienced winemaker Kian Tavakoli, the vineyards have produced award-winning Zinfandel and Rosé wines, and most recently introduced their 2016 Petit Sirah.

Jason’s dedication extends to his Japanese heritage. He currently serves on the board of directors of his daughter Kate’s Japanese language and cultural school, Diablo Nippongo Gakuen and is committed to continuing the family business in honor of his father, mentor, and role model Jim Mikami.

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