VFI Member Carol Lynn Grow Discusses Bringing Her Voice to Washington
Though I’ve been a business leader for more than 15 years, until recently, I’d never been directly involved in policy advocacy as part of my professional activities. This all changed in 2017.
For several years, I’ve consistently heard potential customers voice concerns about the security and privacy of documents stored in the cloud.
My company, LawToolBox.com, serves law firms and corporate legal departments, and these concerns can be a barrier to adopting our products.
While LawToolBox can provide assurance about the security of our cloud platform, Microsoft Azure, we have no control over government data requests. This is a legal and policy issue outside our influence—or so I thought.
Connecting with Voices for Innovation
In February 2017, I was invited to participate in a National Entrepreneurship Week event at Microsoft’s New York offices. In addition to showcasing great businesses and entrepreneurial programs, the event underscored the role of government in supporting small businesses.
At the event, I also heard about Voices for Innovation and met the program’s director, Jonathan Friebert. What I learned is that I can make an impact on legal and policy issues by sharing my views and expertise. I don’t just have to be a spectator. Just as government policies can help small businesses, small businesses can help government develop better policies.
Jonathan encouraged me to start participating in VFI. As a first step, I wrote to my members of Congress to raise my concerns about digital privacy. Then, given the importance of this issue to my customers and my company, Jonathan suggested that I share my perspective face-to-face when I came to Washington, DC, for the Microsoft Inspire partner conference.
Fast Forward to Washington
For LawToolBox, Microsoft Inspire was a great success. I met with many partners who are eager to bring our innovative legal solutions to their customers. LawToolBox is tightly integrated with the Microsoft platform—and our companies have a shared commitment to seeing digital privacy laws modernized to support new growth and address our mutual customers’ concerns. It was gratifying to hear Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith highlight this very issue during his keynote.
In advance of Inspire, I scheduled a meeting on Capitol Hill with the office of my U.S. Representative, Diana DeGette (D-CO-1). I’d never engaged in this type of direct advocacy, but my meeting went very well. Rep. DeGette wasn’t able to attend, but I met with her chief staffer who handles tech policy issues. He listened closely to my concerns about digital privacy. Since our meeting, I have provided additional information and plan to meet with Rep. DeGette when she is in Denver.
As a culmination of my week in Washington, I joined a small group of tech business leaders for a CEO Listening Session at the White House. We meet with two high-ranking officials, Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer, and Chris Liddell, Assistant to the President and Director of Strategic Initiatives.
I was inspired by this meeting. It became clear that the White House wants to hear from small businesses. They want the private sector to lead—and they committed to supporting good ideas that come from us. We had the opportunity to speak about the need to improve tech education and to spread the reach of broadband using TV white spaces spectrum.
After the formal meeting, I spoke directly with Mr. Kratsios about the challenges posed by outdated digital privacy laws. He listened carefully and asked me to follow up by email, which I recently did. It is the start of building support in the White House for supporting modernized privacy policies that benefit the tech sector, businesses, and consumers.
Looking ahead, I plan to stay engaged. In addition to advocating on digital privacy, I am a champion for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. I especially want to see changes in K-12 that give girls improved opportunities to excel in science and technology. This is a personal passion—and I now have new skills and knowledge to move the needle on this issue as well.
Carol Lynn Grow is co-founder, owner, and vice president of marketing and sales of Denver-based LawToolBox.com, an online court deadline and docketing system.