Whitman, a one time candidate for governor of California, said it is critical that the technology industry weigh in on issues like government surveillance and jurisdiction of data.
"We have to tell our story because if we don't, someone else will tell it for us and we will be set back years and years and years," she said. "This is going to be interesting because most of the elected officials I have met want to know about technology, they are hungry to know, but they can't almost envision what it is we are talking about."
A big problem is the technology industry is moving faster than the legal system, said Whitman. "I think there is a tremendous responsibility as we create things that did not exist before," she said. "We simply are going to have to spend the time to bring along society. The technology will be ahead of what society in many ways will be able to embrace."
Whitman also made an impassioned plea for immigration reform and lifting the cap on H1-B visas in order to bring more technical talent to the U.S. from overseas. "This goes beyond our industry," she said. "It goes to the very economic vibrancy of the United States of America."
Whitman compared the mad dash to get ahold of the small number of H1-B visas available to trying to get tickets to a Madonna concert. "You have got to be in line, you have got to have the right people in the right place to get your fair share," she said. "And by the way, estimates are [that] in Silicon Valley we could use three or four times as many as we are allocated."
Whitman called for broad-based movement to press hard for H1-B visas reform in Washington. "This is not just about the technology companies that you think about," she said. "Every company is a technology company. Caterpillar Tractor is a technology company. Every bank is a technology company. If we are going to capture this next [technology] revolution, which I think is as big as we have seen in our lifetime, we are not going to do this without an enlightened immigration policy."
Whitman's plea for H1-B reform and education reform to make America more competitive received a thunderous round of applause from Discover attendees.
Krzanich, for his part, said H1-B policy should be a pragmatic issue for the U.S. "These people we are trying to hire are smart; they are going to go invent somewhere. Why not have them inventing for American companies for products made in America or generating revenue in America?” he said. "I think at some point you have to take a pragmatic view. These are smart people we are trying to hire. They are going to go do [innovative] things. And we would rather have them do it here."
Proclaiming himself a a beneficiary of past U.S. immigration policies, Nadella, a native of Hyderabad, India, also urged H1-B reform as part of what he called "enlightened" immigration and education policies. These reforms, he said, are the "true things that are going to keep America competitive. We also want to make sure American industry is competitive by making sure that trust is regained."
Kelly Ireland, CEO of CB Technologies, a Westminster, Calif.-based Platinum HP Enterprise partner attending Discover, said she is working with state customers to tap into technology to improve U.S. education to make America more competitive in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.
"We are working with state education to implement a change in the way students are educated," she said.
PUBLISHED JUNE 11, 2014