Monday, January 5, 2009

reactions to some of the TechHui discussions

there have been some discussions on TechHui my favorite hawaii social network about a couple of subjects centering around Act221 and the talent in hawaii.

here are some excerpts (i know a few of these authors, so i'm definitely not taking a shot at them):

In Dave Takaki's forum post Action Committee for Threatened Hi Tech Tax Credits John raised an excellent point, "But maybe the issue is: Hawaii has insufficient tech talent so we are simply throwing money at the wrong problem." This is definitely a serious issue for a number of reasons.

- the talent is fairly limited (which is the premise of Dan's opening post)
- we lack talent in building startups
Let me give 2 examples:
When I worked in SF, our 50 person startup had the equivalent of a Hawaii all-start team. The academic and work credentials, along with the level of expertise was extraordinarily high. Someone like Dan would easily excel there but a lot of local techs would have trouble because of a lack of experience/training at that level.

For example, I used to go to the Ruby meetup in Berkeley and every meeting had 30 guys who were really advanced programmers. That's just Berkeley and just for Ruby, there were others in Novato, SF, San Jose, etc. While Hawaii has a number of people with similar skills, it's nowhere near that quantity of people.

IMHO, Mainlanders (well, West Coast mainlanders from my limited experience) tend to invest more time establishing their careers before settling down.

I view Act 221/215 as a High-Tech Charity (or Welfare Program) that should not be renewed.

All of these comments seem to be be pretty negative. And I tend to disagree with them. Here are some of my comments:
  • Hawaii is Hawaii - Hawaii doesn't have to be a Silicon Valley, Berkeley, or where ever. It needs to be what it is. Hawaii is about its people and thats what makes it special. With that being said, I don't think we need to have a Silicon Valley culture to make it in the tech world. We need to maximize the strengths of Hawaii to create a tech industry that thrives off of our own unique culture. People that want Silicon Valley culture should probably go to Silicon Valley. Lets not lose our identity - diversity is key.
  • Perhaps its not the talent, its the leadership that sucks - there are many talented people in hawaii. many that i think would thrive in startups. i think a large part of the finding and retaining talent in hawaii is the lack of true leaders, visionaries, and mentors. i always like to think about this quote that kevin taketa said in hawaii business magazine:
    In Hawaii, you have to listen, you have to be a good listener. You need to pay attention to relationships and how relationships are all connected here. And you need to have a certain kind of humility. And humility does not mean you don’t have courage or a certain kind of self-confidence. Hawaii is a people place and if people don’t feel you respect them or don’t care about them enough to think about them, it is really hard to lead here.

    leading and talking the loudest is different. leading and having the most money is different. you have to listen before people will listen to you; and thats the way it should work. we have the talent, but can you lead us?
  • less talk and more doing - there are a lot of people that unhappy with the current state of the hawaii tech industry. myself included; especially when i was being recruited by google (i failed the interview, i suck). but, i've come to realize that i'm to blame, because i know that i could be doing more to help. i've devoted the last couple years to not only this blog, but also to numerous student and industry events. my goal was to talk to as many students and people (including people like mazie hirono and neil abercrombie) that i could find about what we (techies) do and why its awesome. there is a huge need for mentors and experts to talk to students. do something for the greater good, anything.

    anyway... its great to see discussions on TechHui.
  • 1 comment:

    John Honovich said...

    Hi Aaron,

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the TechHui discussion. I have linked to your post on that thread. It would be great if you could join that discussion.