By Sabrina Liu

Jason Holman (Class of 2018) is a current second year student at Darden. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Economics and Political Science in 2011, Jason worked for Discover Financial Services in Chicago where he primarily focused on new digital product development and business development. After graduating this May, Jason will be joining the Boston Consulting Group’s Denver office full time.

One of the biggest factors for choosing Darden was the school’s robust global experience offerings. In addition to his own travel with Darden classmates, he has participated in two Darden Worldwide Courses, including a Global Immersion Course to Japan in his first year, and a Global Consulting Project with LEPL, the Republic of Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) during his second year.

What motivated you to join Darden Worldwide Course to Japan and the Global Consulting Project in Tbilisi, Georgia?

Though I had never been to Japan, I have been interested in that part of the world for a long time. I’m a history nerd, so being able to explore both the traditional (Kyoto) and modern (Tokyo) components of Japan were a big selling point. In addition, the course focused on project management in Japan and even included time with members of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizing committee. I’m a big Olympics nut, so being able to learn from the folks organizing the world’s biggest event was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

My decision to participate in the consulting project was more from a professional perspective. Since I am going into consulting with BCG after I graduate from Darden, I wanted to practice and continue to develop my consulting skillset. I knew that having a global consulting experience before starting in my role at BCG would be incredibly helpful. Also, I have never been to Georgia and I had heard great things about the capital Tbilisi, where our client was based. I’m a bit of a travel junkie and am always eager to see parts of the world that I’ve never been to before.

What were some of the differences between Japanese business culture and that of the United States?

In many ways, Japan is a country still in transition. It is a fiercely traditional place where relationships are valued above everything else. It was interesting to experience both a more traditional collectivist culture in Kyoto and a unique blend of Western and Japanese business culture in Tokyo. Most of my professional experiences in the U.S. have been very direct. Decisions are often made in the room quickly. In contrast, Japanese business culture seems to be more relation-based, where decision making happens not in said meeting but outside when you meet people. Consulting is all about relationship, and Japan is a country that truly amplifies that.

Jason (second from right) in Kyoto with fellow Darden students

How would you describe the GCP experience with LEPL GITA?

The project, broadly speaking, was to help the Georgian government find and create ways to foster entrepreneurship and support startups. In recent years, the Georgian government has made efforts to try and invigorate the economy by supporting startups and prioritizing entrepreneurship in hopes of Tbilisi becoming a new entrepreneurial hub like Silicon Valley. Our GCP team’s project help provide a framework for how the GITA team can enhance the start-up culture within the country. We began by examining the models in place at other entrepreneurial hot beds like Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, and Singapore. We spoke with VCs, CEOs, and government agencies from all over the world to capture their best practices and understand how their local and national governments supported their growth and transformation.

At the end of the semester, we travelled to Tbilisi for a week to complete our site visit and present our findings. Over our week there, we met with a variety of Georgian entrepreneurs, VC investors, and government ministers. This helped us get a better sense of what was working there and where opportunities for improvement lay. At the end of the trip, we met with GITA’s executive team to discuss our findings and share our ideas for growth.

How has your participation in these Darden Worldwide Courses impacted or prepared you for your career path post-Darden?

Participating in these DWCs has been one of my Darden highlights. I’d like to continue to both travel and work abroad after graduation, and I am thankful that Darden has the Global Consulting Projects as an option for course credit. These courses are unforgettable parts of my Darden experience as they provided me with new learning experiences that I couldn’t have gotten staying in the U.S. These experiences provided more than academic insights and professional development. Each trip continued to shape my obsession with travel. I developed new and lasting friendships with my classmates, and an obsession for great Japanese sushi and excellent Georgian wine. The memories I made through these courses are some of the highlights of my time at Darden.

Enjoying traditional Japanese cuisine during the Japan Darden Worldwide Course
Jason exploring Tbilisi, Georgia with friends