Last year Microsoft chose as its third Chief Executive Officer (CEO), an immigrant, Satya Nadella, who grew up in Mangalore in India. Before being named, he worked for Microsoft for 22 years after being previously employed by Sun Microsystem. He originally came to the United States to study engineering at Wisconsin University in Madison.
He is hardly the first immigrant to lead a major technology company. Andrew Grove, the former head of Intel Corporation, emigrated to the United States from Hungary in 1956. Sergey Brin, who went on to start Google with his business partner, Larry Page, came to the United States at age 6 from the Soviet Union.
Nadella is one of many entrepreneurs and engineers who came to the United States via H-1B visas to work in the IT sector. In the 2012 fiscal year, more than 135,000 people were issued H-1B visas, a type of visa that allows US employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in “specialty occupations” — fields like engineering, biotech, education or law, according to the US Bureau of Consular Affairs. The heads of many of the world’s largest tech companies have called for an increase of the cap in H-1B visas, as a way to attract the brightest minds in the world to work in the US.
According to Vivek Wadhwa, the veteran entrepreneur and outspoken Stanford professor who writes frequently on the topic, said that it is not a zero sum game: If a company like Microsoft has a good leader, then it will be adding jobs, he argues. “It should reinvigorate [the debate],” he said. “If the most qualified person for the Bill Gates job was a foreign-born person, it says something about immigration.
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