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More than 150 University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa students from a variety of majors took advantage of a rare opportunity to meet one-on-one with technology industry professionals from organizations such as Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn and Activision Blizzard, to learn about technology career opportunities.

The event on October 11, at Kuykendall Hall began with an introduction of more than 20 professionals, which included software engineers, company founders, business leaders and cybersecurity experts, followed by a one-hour mixer where students were able to chat face-to-face with the speakers.

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The event was hosted by the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) in UH Mānoa’s Shidler College of Business, Association for Computing Machinery at UH Mānoa, ThriveHI and Builders VC.

Amanda Nitta is a UH Mānoa senior majoring in computer science and data science, and vice president and chief of operations for the Association for Computing Machinery at UH Mānoa. Nitta was one of the event’s student organizers and gained knowledge about how to apply data science and management in a future career.

“This is a great opportunity for these students because of the fact that it gives exposure to what they are able to do, and be able to apply what they learned and see that they are not restricted to one thing such as software engineering,” Nitta said. “They have so many other capabilities within them to do interdisciplinary work and have different mindsets going into the workforce.”

Narrowing the pay gap

Kanaʻi Gooding is a computer science student and president of the Association for Computing Machinery at UH Mānoa. Gooding said many of the tech professionals featured at the event are remote workers for companies based on the continental U.S. He said there is a disparity between salaries offered by those companies and salaries offered by companies based in Hawaiʻi. Gooding’s goal for the event was to begin a dialogue to take steps forward so Hawaiʻi-based companies can match the salaries of their continental U.S.-based counterparts.

“This is just one of the many aspects that we are trying to attack the problem with,” Gooding said. “One of our big asks for the professionals here was, ‘Hey, we’re going to have the students ask you your salary. Please be ok with us asking and you answering.’ Hopefully that spreads loudly across the community.”

Creating a path into tech

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Kevin Shin (far left) shares career advice with current UH students.

Kevin Shin, a senior software engineer at LinkedIn, shared his manaʻo (thoughts and perspectives) with UH Mānoa’s current students. Shin graduated from UH Mānoa 2014 with a degree in mechanical engineering, before pursuing a graduate degree at Stanford University.

His goal for the event was “to let the students know that there is a path to tech and people from Hawaiʻi can make it. There are a bunch out here doing it.”

“Students at the University of Hawaiʻi are just as capable of taking on tech careers, including tech-centered entrepreneurship, as their mainland counterparts. Because of Hawaiʻi’s distance from major technological hubs, however, local students may be learning about these careers from the internet or other secondhand sources,” PACE Executive Director Sandra Fujiyama said. “PACE, along with ThriveHI, ACM@Mānoa and Builders VC, recognized the need to close that gap and connect students directly to people who know what it is to work in tech today.”

—By Marc Arakaki

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