by Jonathan Friebert, Public Policy Manager and Director of Voices for Innovation

imageHave you ever been frustrated about how taxes and regulations impact your business? Or worried about how data privacy and security laws could affect your cloud computing strategy? Or experienced firsthand how shortcomings in our nation’s education and immigration systems make it hard to hire the talent you need to build your products? Voices for Innovation (VFI) exists to help you understand and tackle these problems by engaging in the public policy arena.

I manage the VFI community for Microsoft, and as I do each year, I’ll be staffing the VFI booth at WPC. But this year, I’m very excited because for the first time ever, we’ll be located right within the US lounge in The Commons—giving you and me a great opportunity to get acquainted.

What is VFI?

VFI is a community of Microsoft partners and other IT professionals engaged at the points where government, citizens, and IT businesses have shared concerns. We promote a pro-technology agenda on a range of IT and general business public policy issues—from addressing the high-skilled talent gap, to promoting computer science education and technology certifications, to economic development—that significantly impact the tech industry and your business’s ability to innovate and grow. Our members get involved at a variety of levels, from signing petitions and writing lawmakers, to meeting with elected officials in statehouses, and recently, testifying before Congress.

VFI also connects you with like-minded partners—and even senior Microsoft staff—who care about and work on these policy topics. We facilitate opportunities for you to network, interact, and learn through in-person events and webinars.

clip_image002 My job is to keep you informed about public policy initiatives that impact your business and your customers and to inform you of ways you can help make an impact if you want. VFI is completely free for partners—there’s no cost or obligation to join, and you can get involved as much or as little as you choose at any time. For example, if you simply want to stay informed of the latest news and what we’re up to, following us on Twitter and Facebook and reading our weekly “Take Action Tuesday” alerts is a great way to get started.

Talk shop with some of our most active—and influential—VFI members at WPC

What I most look forward to at WPC is meeting partners, because it’s often our best opportunity to hear about what issues concern them the most and how their businesses are directly impacted by public policies. Meeting face-to-face allows me to give you the most detailed, up-to-date information on what’s happening in the halls of government nationally and in your state, and to share ideas about how the Microsoft partner community can bring about positive changes.

VFI has some pretty impressive members, many of whom will be at WPC and at our booth to share their insights with partners. For example: Shahin Konan, President of AIMS 360/Focal Technology Solutions in Los Angeles, is a VFI leader on the issue of software piracy/IT theft. He realized that in working with VFI, he could make his voice heard with people who can make a difference on this issue, which directly impacts his company. In addition to regularly meeting with elected officials, he also sits on the Advisory Board for the National Alliance for Jobs and Innovation.

Then there’s Naomi Moneypenny, Chief Technology Officer of ManyWorlds, Inc., in Houston, who just three weeks ago served on a panel convened by the US Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and discussed the need to connect small businesses with students who have benefitted from STEM education programs—and to make those programs relevant for businesses. We’ll have other active VFI members and allies, such as Marc Hoppers of the IAMCP, stopping by our booth to mingle with partners.

As I hope you can tell, we track a lot of issues and we try to foster partners’ engagement with policymakers at various levels for the best possible impact. I hope you’ll stop by the VFI booth and allow me to introduce myself to you. I’d like to learn more about your concerns as business leaders and tech professionals. In turn, I can let you know what’s shaking in Washington, D.C. and in your state on some key issues.

See you in Houston!

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Jonathan Friebert is a Public Policy Manager and part of the US Government Affairs team in the Microsoft Legal and Corporate Affairs Division. Connect with Jonathan by email and stay connected to VFI through Twitter, Facebook, and the VFI newsletter.

Read more WPC-related blog posts.