2018 Best EMBAs: Jason Woon, University of Michigan (Ross)

Jason Woon

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

Self-motivated and trying to inspire those around me to perform at their best.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Family Members: Dad (John), Mom (Janie) and Sister (Jessica)

Fun fact about yourself: I have completed a dozen 200-mile team relays over the past six years all across the country. What started as a work event to increase fitness levels morphed into an annual communal relay running event where we’ve raised over $250,000 to support ALS to honor a former partner. In 2017, we had 84 runners complete the 200-mile course; some had no prior running experience.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.A. in Business Administration (Accounting and Finance Concentrations) from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington.

Where are you currently working? KPMG LLP (Senior Manager, Economic and Valuation Services)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • 2017 recipient of the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts (NACVA) Forty Under Forty recognition program, recognizing the top 40 valuation professionals (nationally) under 40 years old.
  • 2015 (inaugural) recipient of the AICPA’s Standing Ovation Award, recognizing the top 32 forensic and valuation professionals (nationally) under 40 years old.
  • KPMG LLP Chairman’s Award Winner (Pacific Northwest)
  • Past President, Beta Gamma Sigma Seattle Area Alumni Chapter

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Aside from being extremely grateful for being nominated for this recognition, I am very proud that one of my classmates told me that he learned more from my contributions during the Executive Multidisciplinary Action Project (ExecMAP) than from any EMBA course. While it was a team effort, my valuation and industry experience afforded me the ability to act as the project collaborator to guide and teach the rest of the group.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Failing and then succeeding. My first job after undergrad was at a Seattle-area regional accounting firm as an auditor. Two years in, I wanted to pivot my career into valuation. I authored a 50-page business plan that included three strategic options, financial forecasts, and a local industry analysis to build a valuation practice within the firm. I presented the business plan to the shareholders and CEO and while it was well-received, the service offering was lower on the firm’s priority list. Through the experience, I gained valuable contacts and confidence that led to my career at KPMG and onto the Ross EMBA program.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? ExecMAP was my favorite course. This is a four-month capstone consulting project that allows students to apply the skills and knowledge from the program to make a direct impact to startups, nonprofits, NGOs and Fortune 100 companies. My project allowed me to travel to Israel with an awesome team to develop the inorganic growth strategy of a botanical skincare company entering the US market. Not only did I learn about doing business in and the culture of Israel, but I broadened my finance skills to experience life as a strategist and member of the pseudo corporate development team.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I enrolled at the University of Michigan Ross EMBA program because of the top-tier ranking, flexible once-a-month residency schedule, focus on action-based learning, and international alumni network. My goal is to not be perceived and thought of as the “numbers guy,” but as a well-rounded “businessman.” Since Michigan Ross is consistently one of the top business schools with high rankings in nearly all specializations, I felt the course content would allow me to think broadly and act strategically instead of just on the bottom line.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? As I have an undergraduate business degree, I was familiar with most of the curriculum, but taking classes again transformed my lens on the same subjects. For example, I only completed one marketing class as an undergrad and viewed marketing as a bit “pie in the sky.” After seeing the importance of marketing in practice, I appreciated and felt connected to classes such as Strategic Brand Management, Competing on Value and Strategic Market Planning.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? In the “Positive Leadership Program,” an Executive Education course, I learned the theory of and several tools for how to apply positive leadership principles in the workplace. At work, I practiced techniques such as the Reciprocity Ring and Reflected Best Self exercises to improve group morale and enhance connectivity.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? During my busy season at work, I had to clearly set expectations with my groupmates that I would only be able to work on team projects during the weekend. All of my prior teammates have always been respectful of schedules and never called me out as putting in less effort than others even though during the weekdays I would often be absent.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Do some soul searching and know why you want to enter an EMBA program and what you want to get out of it. If you want to switch careers, take advantage of all of the career and alumni resources. If you want to build your network, be sure to go out as much as you can during residencies. And if you want to quench your thirst for knowledge, there’s plenty of learning opportunities – just don’t stress about grades!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? That going back to school is a second job. Needless to say, many times it is, but at the same time it’s a career and social investment that will pay off immediately for some, and in the long-run for all.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not spending enough time to get to know everyone, including professors and program staff. Our cohort was intimate so there was no excuse to socialize even more.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many inspirational, accomplished, and unique classmates in my EMBA cohort, so it is difficult to single out one. However, Angelica Wong is a compassionate and high-performing friend who knows how to finish projects on-time and without errors. Another classmate that stands out is Josh LeDuff, CPA-turned-marketer who succeeds with both his right and left brain. He can put the quantitative spin on seemingly qualitative problems.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I started to think I was being perceived as just the numbers guy.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… better rested over the past two years (joking!).”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Hold an executive-level position where I can influence all facets of an organization, from strategy, marketing, finance, HR and sales.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A respectful teacher, connector and finisher who also knows how to crack a joke when no one expects it.

Favorite book: The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 by Paul Krugman.

Favorite movie or television show: Ocean’s Eleven

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Skydive over Dubai and fly long-haul in international first class.

What made Jason such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“No doubt that Jason Woon has spent most of his life working hard toward an ambitious goal. For example, two months after starting the Ross EMBA program, Jason was promoted to Senior Manager at KPMG. Since his promotion, Jason has increased managed revenue 122% and taken on a role as an inaugural/core/lead member of KPMGs Business Modeling Services practice. In 2017, he was a member of the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts (NACVA) 40 Under 40 Recognition Program.

While accomplishing significant gains at work, Jason maintained a commitment and focus to doing the best possible work in his classes and on his teams. However, what really sets Jason apart is how he inspires others on his teams to give their best. One peer said, “Jason is a results-driven superstar, not only is his work product well thought out from a strategic view, but also his attention to detail is exceptional. Jason is a pleasure to work with because he balances his desire to produce results with fostering teamwork.”

Another peer said that Jason is one of the greatest human beings she has met. “He is kind, humble, and selfless. Jason is a leader who ensures his team executes at the highest level while making them feel valued.”

Jason is a person of high integrity who brings value wherever he goes. He has earned the deepest respect from Ross staff, professors and students.”

Sue Ann Gonis, M.A., CPCC, PCC
Executive Coach & Career Management Coach for Executive MBA & EMBA Alumni
Career Development Office – Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan

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