Page 5 - MidWeek Kauai - Feb 17, 2021
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But after a few years in the journal- ism field, Shin decided a change was in order. She accepted the position of senior vice president at public re- lations agency Bennet Group, where she learned, among other things, the value of strategic planning. Later, she served as chief communications officer at Honolulu Board of Water Supply, where she made it a point to embrace the intricacies of the entire municipal operation.
remember from her days as a reporter at KHNL-TV.
thing yourself. When you get into a position of leadership, as much as I want to do everything, there are only 24 hours in a day. At some point, you have to trust in your people.”
Gathering for a family celebration are (bottom row, from left) mother Chung Hee Spell, daughter Kayla and husband Dan Meisenzahl; and (top row) brother Jae, daughter Maya and Su Shin. PHOTO COURTESY SU SHIN
 If anything, Shin discovered that she doesn’t have to be a superwoman
In accepting to lead roughly 1,200 employees, Shin acknowledges that her responsibility “is big and huge.” But to her credit, she hasn’t shrunk from her obligations, and is particu- larly proud of how Hawaiian Telcom has navigated its way through the tri- als of COVID.
The transition to the islands had its share of difficulties. For one thing, none of them spoke English. For an- other, the family had very little money and would come to rely upon govern- ment assistance to make ends meet.
Trusting her team is one of the many lessons she’s learned from a host of mentors, including the person whom she replaced at Hawaiian Tel- com, John Komeiji.
 “If you don’t understand the busi- ness, you can’t be a valuable contrib- utor,” she explains. “That’s where I really started digging into kind of the workings of the organization beyond the surface level. That’s when I real- ized what I really loved: problem solv- ing, and working together with people while trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B.”
“He hired me and encouraged me to expand my role beyond corporate communications into marketing, then promoted me to chief of staff when he took over as president,” says Shin, who joined Hawaiian Telcom in 2013 as its director of corporate communication. “I learned so much about leadership and the importance of employee engagement from him, and I literally would not be here with- out him.”
had a Department of Defense job,” Shin recalls. “They sponsored us, and that’s how we ended up here.”
In 1997, she married Dan Meisen- zahl, the former KITV news anchor and Hawai‘i Department of Trans- portation spokesman who now works as director of University of Hawai‘i’s Office of Communications. Despite their busy schedules and highly vis- ible jobs, the couple — who has two daughters, Maya and Kayla — man- ages to find the happy balance be- tween their professional and private lives, according to Shin.
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 Shin is responsible for overseeing approximately 1,200 employees at Hawaiian Telcom. PHOTO COURTESY HAWAIIAN TELCOM
 “We’ve prioritized caring for our employees, but have balanced that out with making sure we’ ve been able to serve our community,” she says. “At the beginning of the pan- demic, no one knew how this virus was spread. It was a tough balance, but I feel like we prioritized the right thing. We chose to have open and transparent communication with our employees, and whether things were bad or good, we made sure they always knew what was happening.”
Shin recalls the family lived in a small apartment “across the street from Ka‘iulani Elementary School and above a TV repair shop” for some time before they were able to find resi- dency at Mayor Wright Homes.
“Dan is so amazingly supportive. Even when the kids were little, we both had really demanding careers,” she shares. “But I always felt it was an even split. You always hear peo- ple complaining, ‘Oh, my husband doesn’t help with the kids and the house things,’ but I definitely feel like we’re partners.”
“I’m really the product of all of the social services that you hear about,” she says. “We had food stamps; we received welfare payments.”
 Despite the financial challenges, Shin’s mother, Chung Hee Spell, was determined to have her children re- ceive a quality education.
One thing Shin is admittedly still coming to terms with is being an emp- ty nester. Her daughters are students at Boston-based colleges, and whenev- er they’re on the East Coast, she can’t help but “miss them terribly.” But she’s grateful that today’s “wonderful communication tools” allow her to better cope with the separation.
  to run Hawaiian Telcom. To her, an effective leader doesn’t worry about being the most knowledgeable person in the room, nor does she reject assis- tance when others are perfectly willing to help shoulder the load.
at the time, had suddenly and unex- pectedly died in his sleep, and as a result, her mother wanted a new start elsewhere for Shin and older brother Jae.
Hawaiian Telcom’s top executive pauses for a moment before continu- ing: “Sometimes we talk about the American dream and immigration. Our story is the example of what can happen with access to education.”
“It’s great to be able to talk to our daughters daily, even if it’s just for short touch points like saying ‘good morning’ or ‘good night,’” she says.
“I’m a big believer in surrounding myself with people smarter than me,” Shin explains. “You can’t do every-
“My mom’s sister was living in Hawai‘i at the time, and her husband
Shin’s story has one more aspect that deserves brief mention, and it involves three other members of her family.
Yes, even Hawaiian Telcom’s lead- er needs speed each day to bridge the digital divide.
hen Shin was 5, her family emigrated from Korea to Hawai‘i. Her father, only 33
“Obviously, education was the top priority for her,” says Shin, adding that she inherited her creative and prob- lem-solving traits from her mother.

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