During Presidents’ Day week (February 20-24), Congress took a brief recess, with many officials returning to their districts to hold local meetings, conduct town halls, and perhaps get a little R&R.
It just so happened this recess coincided with National Entrepreneurship Week, a nationwide program supported by Microsoft, Voices for Innovation, and many other businesses and organizations.
With these events intersecting, VFI leaders reached out to their U.S. Representatives to schedule meetings to share their own experiences as tech entrepreneurs and to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the tech sector and tech users.
U.S. Reps Hear about the Tech Talent Gap
During several meetings—and one call—VFI leaders highlighted the critical need for Congress to support K-12 computer science education.
Frank Valdivieso, President and CEO of Gryphon Consulting in Largo, Maryland, met with freshman U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-MD-4) and shared his experiences with seeking skilled employees for his business. “I told Rep. Brown that I notice that candidates for tech support jobs coming out of community college are better prepared if they were exposed to computer science in high school,” said Frank. Rep. Brown was very receptive to Frank’s concerns, and the two are planning to meet again soon.
Lacy Finley, President and CEO of Tech Cumulus in Austin, Texas, reached out to U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX-21) to meet with him during the recess. While Rep. Smith wasn’t available to meet, he gave Lacy a call! In addition to discussing computer science education funding, Lacy shared her experiences working with Texas law enforcement agencies, and the need to clarify digital privacy laws for everyone. “It was a great conversation!” said Lacy. Rep. Smith may attend an event that Lacy is organizing in April.
Another Texan, Stephen Cracknell, President and CIO of Dallas-based U.S. Medical IT, met with U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX-3), along with members of his staff. Stephen discussed his company and highlighted his concerns about outdated digital privacy laws as they relate to health IT. He also discussed the need to improve computer science education in America’s schools.
Carter-McGowan Services’ CEO Nikkia Carter, a passionate advocate for tech education, met with Joe Schumacher and Karen Klotz, in-district staff for Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA-1). “I told them, I am here to help and would like to be of service to help push K-12 computer science education and come up with solutions,” said Nikkia. “I told them we need to get kids thinking about the tech field early.” Rep. Wittman’s staff plan to invite Nikkia to participate in a district roundtable.
The Takeaway: Legislators Value Hearing from Local Tech Experts and Job Creators
All of these meetings underscored the point that members of Congress and their staff welcome hearing from tech business leaders from their districts. They benefit from learning what issues are priorities for their constituents and how they can help in Washington. In addition, tech experts bring special knowledge to the table that can inform tech policy discussions.
In many ways, technology has helped transform advocacy. You can send an email to elected officials in just a few minutes. But there is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting for building ties and making a case for the issues that you care about.