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IT Talent in Hawaii

May 20, 2016

Early this week, I attended an HICTA1 luncheon where the State of Hawaii’s CIO, Todd Nacapuy, was the guest speaker.  As he began to speak and started to review the accomplishments of his State office over the past year, a theme that I can relate to was coming through; and that is the development of our local IT talent.  When he began his tenure as State CIO, there has a heavy reliance on consultants and contractors for the Office of Enterprise Technology Services.  The actual staff members of the office where cut over the years, starting with over 400 position, down to the current level of about 125, of which, about 25% are still open and needs to be filled.  As he continued on his’ priorities for the Office, the priority of IT Workforce Development was on top. 


Now I have worked for some of Hawaii’s largest organizations, and I have heard many of the executives here state that there is no or not enough IT talent in Hawaii. This is why they need to bring in consultants to fill the ranks.  While this may be true for some type of new technology or large scale efforts that could use an extra hand to complete, I don’t believe it is completely true across the board.


Remembering that Hawaii is a small community. Our ‘C’-level execs from one company, sits on the boards of another.  It’s not far from a possibility that a CEO from one large organization, be the chairman of another and member of the next.  I say this, because what is said about the state of our IT talent in one board meeting, has a large impact on how IT talent is viewed as a whole across the State.  In my 20+ years of work in Hawaii, I have had the pleasure and opportunity to work with some of the best IT talent that the State has to offer. I have also had the opportunity to meet with the new generation, those in our universities and colleges, that have a desire to provide their IT talents for the companies of Hawaii – if only given the chance.


This is why I was elated to hear that our State CIO understands that there is talent in Hawaii, and as an executive, it is his responsibly to grow and develop that talent with his staff.  As a leader of an IT team, I have always believed that it was my responsibility to provide the team with the right tools to complete their job and to grow and develop themselves – technically and in other aspects.  It was also my responsibility to provide them and encourage them to take on new opportunities, to stretch themselves, to allow them to learn from mistakes and learn to take chances.  And if that meant that they were to take a new job outside of the department; as long as it was for the right reason, that it provided them growth, then I felt I did my job for them (as long as it wasn’t because of me).


As Mr. Nacapuy mentioned in his talk, we need to develop our staff by providing them the right mentorship and have a great on-boarding process.  There is a challenge for small organizations with small IT teams, there is not enough people to have any mentorship. I would have loved to have a senior systems administrator mentor a junior admin on their first job.  This allowed me to hire people that had the right cultural fit, attitude and team dynamics. But often, I was in the position where did not have a large enough staff to have the mentor and the mentored. Face with only one opening, many of the IT managers will hire senior, skilled employee – making it harder for that junior or first-time job tech to get the experience needed. Short of asking for more staff, this may be the case to bring in a contractor, short term, to help with the mentorship role. But none of this matters if, as leaders, we don’t have a good mentorship program or on-boarding process in place. These are things that we can control and should have in place for our team.


There are many clichés or saying that I can go into here: We get what we sow, Don’t be afraid to train someone that will leave, be afraid if we don’t and they stay, We only get what we put into it - but it’s not until our organizations take action that we can expect a change.  I am glad that the State CIO see the need to focus on IT Workforce Development and that is he is looking to mentor and taking a chance on giving an analyst their first shot. I am extremely happy that he is also going out and speaking about it to the business leaders of Hawaii.  I believe that there is great talent in Hawaii, not just in IT but in many other occupations, and now there is one more advocate letting our business leaders know.


If you are interested, the State of Hawaii’s Office of Enterprise Technology Services has their open positions posted on their site (  This includes a State internship program for undergraduate and graduate students.



1 - HICTA is the Hawaii Information, Communications and Technology Association (

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