Technical support team member Raun Ohama loves to go camping.
He would go camping with his neighbors as a kid, then with the Cub Scouts. Getting his first car meant being able to camp anywhere on the island. He was camping when he heard he’d landed the job at Hawaii Information Service three years ago. And he celebrated his birthday with a camping trip last week.
“I like being outdoors, not surrounded by buildings, with the beach right there, and you can make noise without annoying your neighbors,” Raun says. “It’s mostly just relaxing, fishing, cooking… some drinking.”
Raun grew up in Puunui, a neighborhood nestled furthest up in the back of Kalihi Valley. He and his younger brother lived with their mom, who at the time was a substitute teacher, but back then he spent a fair amount of time indoors.
“There was a lot of outdoor stuff, but also a lot of video games,” he recalls. “I was just the right age for the first Nintendo, my mom got it when it was new, so I spent hours playing Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt.”
“Childhood was pretty fun, but school wasn’t that fun,” he adds.
While Raun knows he was fortunate to be attending private school at Hawaii Baptist Academy, most of his friends from the neighborhood playground were in public school at Maemae Elementary. He says he still remembers the day he told his mom he wasn’t happy, and when he said he wanted to go to Maemae Elementary instead, she let him transfer for 6th grade.
“Just being able to wear slippers to school, it was a weight lifted from my shoulders,” he says. “It was pretty great, even back in sixth grade I could tell it felt better — there was just less pressure, and no chapel.”
When he wasn’t playing video games, Raun kept busy with the Cub Scouts, judo and soccer.
“I remember getting in trouble once and my dad asked me what my favorite activity was,” he recalls. “I said soccer, and he said, ‘Okay, you can’t do soccer anymore.’ I said, ‘Wait, I want to change my answer to cub scouts!'”
He eventually earned his green belt in judo, grew out of the Cub Scouts, and in a way grew out of soccer.
“Soccer was super fun until intermediate school,” he says. “I got a little awkward and I got a little terrible and couldn’t kick the ball straight anymore.”
Raun also had to adjust to the tougher parts of public school life.
“I went to Kawananakoa Intermediate, and the kids were pretty nuts over there, with lots of fights,” Raun recalls. “In town there was our school and Central Intermediate, and you’d think Central was worse, but…”
Fortunately, Raun stayed out of trouble, mostly because living deep in the valley meant having to catch an early bus after school to get home. The same was true even after he started at McKinley High School.
“Where we are up in Puunui, if you look at the map, we’re the farthest away from McKinley — Farrington and Roosevelt high schools are closer, but it was our bus that went up there,” he says.
Raun’s interests as a high schooler were a mix of outdoor athlete and indoor geek.
“We’d play football at the park, or baseball, go surfing or body boarding,” he says. “But there was still a lot of video games, and I played Magic cards — I even got my surfing buddies into Magic.”
And his first car, a Toyota Camry, expanded his world considerably. He was able to visit friends around town, and go camping anywhere on the island, from Peacock Flats out west to Mokuleia on the Windward side.
|High school-age Raun and his cousins camping and hunting on the Big Island.
“My first major car trouble was driving out to Mokuleia, when my radiator exploded hitting the big speed bumps by Schofield,” he laughs. “We asked a friend, who was not the best driver, to tow us back to town, and he hit 90 miles an hour with us in back, pushing on the brakes so hard they were smoking.”
When Raun graduated, he immediately went looking for a job, and found one at the business closest to his house.
“I worked at Foodland on School Street for a year, and it was a good first job,” he said. “You have to start bagging, then work your way up, and it was fun, for about a year.”
From there he followed a friend to a full-time gig as a merchandiser with Nature’s Best, a national wholesaler of health and natural food products. The job afforded him the opportunity to travel interisland, but it was hard work.
“I flew out lots of times with that company, to Maui, to Kauai, and they love their natural foods on Kauai,” he recalls. “At other Foodland stores, we just had an end cap for our products, but on Kauai, it was a whole aisle. One of my co-workers supposedly got shingles from all the stress.”
|Raun, his younger brother,
and their grandfather.
Looking for something different, Raun decided to go back to school, and enrolled at Honolulu Community College’s Computing, Electronics & Networking Technologies (CENT) program.
“That was great, a lot of focus on the basics, like how to take apart and build a computer, but the networking was the interesting part,” he said. “HCC has a partnership with Cisco, so we could get hands-on with routers and switches.”
At the same time, Raun found himself partnering with a high school friend on a T-shirt printing business. It started with printing things for themselves in a garage, but they started to pick up jobs printing for other people.
“Eventually by word of mouth we had a lot of contacts and we turned it into a small business, printing for clubs and schools, and we ended up renting some shop space in McCully.”
He would end up spending five years in the T-shirt business.
“It was perfect for me, you have no boss or no real hours, and if you get tired, you can just go into the back office and play Rock Band,” he says. “At the same time, you do have to pick up jobs or else you don’t get paid.”
After a while, he fell out of sync with his business partner, who still had another full-time job and was sporadic in scheduling work.
“The partnership got weird, and it got to the point where we both were doing our own thing,” he says. Soon enough it was time to find another job.
“I didn’t have a plan and went looking for work, and ended up at Hawaiian Telcom as a temp,” he says. “That was hard, after having no boss for so long, I wasn’t used to having to wake up in the morning, or catching a bus to get downtown.”
|Raun frolicking with some reindeer
After working there for a year, he wanted something more permanent, and landed at a healthcare call center. It was a crash course in how call centers work.
“I was on the phone all day, and there was lots of pressure,” he says. “All your calls are audited, you had to keep your call times down, and you had to keep perfect notes.”
“You couldn’t take your headset off, you don’t answer calls you just hear a beep and you were on the line,” Raun adds. “You got scoldings for wasting time, or speaking pidgin, or making a typo in your notes.”
He lasted two years, but the call center’s contract ran out, and he was back on the hunt for another job. One of the first ads he answered was for a technical support position at HIS.
“I remember waiting for the technical interview, and Faith was just talking story with me, telling me about all the good stuff happening here,” Raun recalls. “When she was telling me all that I was thinking. ‘Stop telling me this, I’ll be upset if I don’t get it,’ but I had a good feeling about it.”
His second interview involved a mock customer support call, and he calmly walked one of his future coworkers through the specific steps needed to post a photo on Facebook.
“I didn’t even have a smartphone,” Raun laughs. “I just Googled while on the call, which is often a part of tech support anyway.”
He got the good news while out camping, and his first day on the job was a memorable one. The entire staff was called into a meeting, so he was left to answer the phone without a minute of training.
“I thought it was strange, just being thrown on the phone and talking to people right away,” he says. “But I was fine by myself, and it wasn’t as difficult to take calls here versus at the call center.”
Raun’s ability to think on his feet, and to keep calm, has served him well at HIS.
|Raun may be the first face you see when visiting the HIS office.
“I’m happy with my little cube, and I enjoy working with the more laid-back neighbor islands,” he says. “I know my higher-ups know what they’re doing — Diana knows all the technical, legal stuff we don’t know — and that makes me feel comfortable.”
He says he loves the people he works with… and the food they share.
“I have definitely gained weight since I started here,” he says.
When he’s not on the phone or answering emails at HIS, he’s still playing a lot of video games, catching up on older titles after his PlayStation 3 broke a while back. He also consumes a lot of media.
“I watch a wide range of stuff on TV — Walking Dead, Grimm, Silicon Valley, Top Chef, Hawaii Five-0, but a lot of stuff is now on hiatus,” he says. “I’m also into a ton of podcasts: Nerdist, Indoor Kids, Today we learned, Pointless, Comedy Bang Bang…”
But for Raun, there will always be camping, whether it’s at an uncle’s kalo farm in Waialua, the old air force station at Bellows, or high in the Waianae mountains at Peacock Flats,. This past weekend, for his birthday, it was back out to Mokuleia.
“It was okay, it was kinda short,” he says. “Someone will want to go camping again next month, I’m sure.”
If you’re new to podcasts, ask Raun for some recommendations at email@example.com. Make sure you didn’t miss our earlier profiles of Michelle, Colleen, Mike, Diana, Preston, Faith, Sam, Gay, and Novena.