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SERVING THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY SINCE 1993
APRIL 7, 2018

COVER STORY

COVER STORY

Sparking Change: Nation’s First Filipino State CIO Implements Innovation and Modernization

By Edwin QUINABO

Todd Nacapuy marks three years as the State of Hawaii’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Office of Enterprise Technology Services (ETS) this month.  Without a doubt, under his leadership, ETS has moved the needle in modernizing the State using innovative and enterprising tools.  However, he said his proudest achievement so far is not one of a technical factor, rather it is of a human factor.

“I saw one of our entry-level employees grow professionally under our team’s guidance and earn a promotion, which thrust him two steps up the career path,” said

Nacapuy, the nation’s first state CIO of Filipino ancestry (he’s also half Japanese). 

“Governor Ige inspired me to manage the careers of my employees,” added Nacapuy.  “He told me, ‘If you give an employee a job, it only gives that employee the ability to work here in Hawaii.  If you give an employee a career, it gives them the ability to live here.’

“With that in mind, I feel that my primary job is to be a people manager and to manage the careers of the individuals who come to work for me.”

He said, “It’s gratifying for me to help my employees grow professionally.  I’m in a position where I can help people move up the career ladder, whether it’s within state agencies or the private sector.  In the end, I believe the whole community benefits because I am helping to keep local talent here in Hawaii while trying to grow a local IT workforce ecosystem.

 “One of the biggest things I like to focus on is creating an environment where it’s okay for individuals to fail. I want to create an environment where it’s okay for our technical team to try out different technologies, to think outside the box. And the way you’re going to get individuals to do that is making sure they understand that it’s okay to fail.  If an employee feels that it is not okay to fail, that their career or job may be on the line, then it hinders him/her from being innovative,” he explained.

Nacapuy also seeks to inspire employees to become enterprise leaders.

“Todd really cares about making a difference, both in the tech space as well as in his employees' careers. He encourages me to step outside of my comfort zone and take on projects and responsibilities that are geared toward bettering my career. He also instills a combination of confidence and drive that makes you want to make a difference as well,” said Darryl Lajola, an IT service delivery specialist with ETS.

“I believe our employees are our greatest asset,” said Nacapuy, whose roots hail from Waialua on Oahu’s North Shore.

Small Town Kid to E-Commerce

The North Shore was his playground and a place of “business” for the budding entrepreneur.  “My friends and I gathered peacock feathers and sold them to businesses at the small strip mall along Kamehameha Highway.

“During the summer, we didn’t have lunch money. And I somehow figured out that all I needed to sell was five feathers for a dollar each, which would be enough to buy a plate lunch,” he recalls, nostalgically.  

“They didn’t grow up rich, money was very tight,” said Sharon Nacapuy, Todd’s mother, a retired federal government employee. 

Todd spent a summer during high school working on the sugar plantation. “That was hard work, under the hot blazing sun.  My father thought that was a good way to learn about hard work and manual labor,” said Nacapuy, whose father Tony is a retired sugar plantation worker with roots from Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.  And, like most Filipinos in Hawaii, Todd’s paternal grandfather was a Sakada.

He also gained other work experience before graduation working at the neighborhood store. 

“He and his brother (Todd has an identical twin, named Chad) worked as stock boys at the Fujioka store,” said Sharon.

So, how does a finance major from Seattle University end up in IT?

He believes the path his career has taken is by a stroke of luck and being at the right place at the right time.  

However, his mother believes it was more than luck. “Todd is self-motivated, and driven.  He accomplishes what he sets out to do,” she said.

Nacapuy’s path from finance to IT took a turn with a simple phone call.  While participating in a management program at the Boeing company in Washington, a friend called him with a bizarre proposition.

"He said, ‘Hey, I got $20 million in seed money. Want to come work with me?’”

And so that’s how his journey began into the IT world.  He joined an internet startup called Cobweb, one of the first e-commerce businesses.

 From a small operation, the company grew to a powerful company with a few hundred employees.  The company was sold after riding the dot-com wave for six years.

With his successes, he packed his bags, and returned to Hawaii.  He spent his time volunteering and mentoring students in the world-renowned robotics program at his alma mater, Waialua High.

“Not only did I feel it was a way for me to give back to my school, but I felt that it was important for me to show students that even a kid from the North Shore can find success,” said Nacapuy, who continues to support the program. 

He also dabbled a bit in the restaurant and cookie industries, working with restaurateur Hiroshi Kimura to launch Royal Hawaiian Cookies, a gourmet shortbread cookie line, and help Kimura’s Yakiniku Hiroshi restaurant expand.

One day, Microsoft called Nacapuy to become the senior technical account manager responsible for all Premier Commercial services for Microsoft in Hawaii.  He spent 11 years in that position before becoming the State’s CIO. 

Nacapuy has also worked as a senior infrastructure specialist for EDS, an IT systems and technology company that Hewlett-Packard Co. acquired in 2008. At EDS, Nacapuy monitored and optimized the Web services within the Navy and Marine Corps network in the Pacific Ocean. He also led architecture and establishment of a Navy and Marine Corps network with 65,000 users.

“They (Todd and Chad) are polar-opposites and whatever career path they have taken, we are proud of them both,” said Sharon.  

“Both boys are very smart.  That, I could see at an early age.  We put them in private school while they were in elementary because we believed that in that environment, they would learn good study habits,” she explained.

“We always told them that education starts with you,” added Sharon.   

The strong educational foundation has certainly paid off.  At just 41-years-old, he is the head of a division with more than 182 employees that report directly to him and oversees an additional 800 employees.

The CIO for the State of Hawaii and ETS is responsible for, in simple terms, modernizing the State’s IT system.  According to the ETS website, the office “provides governance for executive branch IT projects and seeks to identify, prioritize and advance innovative initiatives with the greatest potential to increase efficiency, reduce waste, and improve transparency and accountability in state government. ETS also supports the management and operation of all state agencies by providing effective, efficient, coordinated and cost-beneficial computer and telecommunication services such that state program objectives may be achieved.”

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