Unconventional Career Paths and Universal Advice With Booz Allen's Ed Barnabas

Nov 10, 2020 8:00 AM ET

How do you become a lead technologist at a global Fortune 500 firm? And once there, how do you make the leap to lead an innovation and technology team that’s nearly 500 members strong—and growing? 

Ed Barnabas’ path to becoming a principal at Booz Allen’s Honolulu office began with music and involved many twists and turns. He shared his journey and career advice at a recent “Mini Virtual Tech Jobs Fair” hosted by the Hawai`i Technology Development Council.

Career “must-haves”: Curiosity and a growth mindset

Barnabas originally went to college for music, but he worried about what his career prospects would be. “From there I did a logical pivot into philosophy, then government and politics, and then played music professionally. Here I am 20 years later,” he said. 

Today, Booz Allen’s Honolulu office handles projects for the U.S. government, commercial clients, and organizations throughout the Pacific Rim region, extending to Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. Their mission: help clients adopt new technologies and stay on the cutting edge.

As the Honolulu office and his career have grown, Barnabas has been guided by curiosity, critical thinking, and a growth mindset—traits he looks for in his team as well. 

“One of the best technical managers I worked with spent six years in the Peace Corps,” he said. “Another was an English and writing major. The best and most successful teams have diversity in their skill sets.”  

New things to learn—and opportunities to grow

 At the virtual career fair, Barnabas answered questions about in-demand positions, like illustrators and UX developers for the military’s virtual and augmented reality training. 

While the discussion ranged from immersive technology, drones, and the democratization of AI, Barnabas emphasized that you don’t necessarily have to have an IT background to find a career path in this sector. “You have to like tech and find it cool and be curious. Then you can learn the technology.”

One audience member asked, “What about finding a job in federal consulting with no government experience?” 

Barnabas explained that many client problems, such as change management, culture change, modernization, and cost management, are universal and can be solved using tools and tactics that don’t necessarily come from government experience. 

“Everywhere you go, you’ll need to learn something new, so be confident in the skills you bring to the table,” he advised. “The things you don’t know you’ll gain through experience, and the areas where you need to learn will become opportunities to grow.”

Learn more about Booz Allen’s Honolulu office and careers at Booz Allen.