Bob Miano's Blog

An Executive journal

Don't Look Down

Harvey Nash USA was privileged to host Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, at our annual Leadership Lecture in New York.

It was a fascinating event with tremendous insight from Carly and a range of stimulating questions from the audience.

I wanted to use this blog to highlight a few of my thoughts that emerged as a result of discussing "Leadership in a Changing World" with Carly.

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The introduction I used for Carly outlined her successes of course, but it also defined the challenges we face as a nation to recover from one of the most severe recessions in 100 years.

I positioned why I feel the U.S. economy is slowly inching its way up a skills cliff and still faces the risk of falling off the cliff in the middle of our climb as a result of not supplying enough IT talent that is needed to spark innovation to drive GDP growth.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis confirms that the most significant and sustained period of American GDP growth in modern history was achieved in the two decades following World War II. There were two major trends that were behind that unparalleled level of growth, sustained immigration and education progress, and they are just as relevant today as they were then.

Today, on immigration there are the first positive signs that genuine steps are being taken to reform legal immigration. This can only boost our economic prospects.

In a 2012 report titled "America's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Then and Now," researchers from the Kauffman Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes entrepreneurship, identified that immigrants founded one quarter of all U.S. technology start-up companies.

And a separate report from the Partnership for a New American Economy found more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were led by immigrants or their children.

The more striving immigrants we have legally contributing to our economy the healthier our economy will be.

The other major challenge that lies between modern America and sustained economic growth is based on the supply of skilled labor for a future American economy. On this subject I have written a paper called "Scaling the IT Skills Cliff" which you can download here.

In this paper I argue that we need to do more to encourage young Americans to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and to pursue careers in related sectors.

I was very pleased that Carly agreed with me on these education and immigration issues. She argued that the brave new world we face will be defined by brain power. "Those with the best ideas will win," she said.

Carly added that, "The 21st century is the first century in human experience that the capability exists for any person to source any piece of information from anywhere in the world." This presents many opportunities for organizations who can develop people capable of succeeding in a knowledge economy.

Carly also argued that two further trends directly impact our economy's ability to drag itself out of anemic growth.

The first of these was encouraging more entrepreneurs to invest in starting their own businesses, something people currently feel is too risky in the economic climate.

As Carly rightly points out, small businesses employ far more people than big businesses (up to 70 percent of the American workforce are employed by "small" organizations) so the more people we have starting small businesses the more jobs will be created.

However, Carly felt "big" government and "big" business still have a specific role to play in reigniting economic growth.

For government, it is first to simplify the tax code to make it easier for small businesses to commit capital to innovation, but also to act as the primary investor and primary customer for large scale research and development in ground-breaking technologies that are too expensive or too speculative for the private sector to undertake.

Examples such as the development of industrial space technologies in the 1960's and 1970's, and early Internet communication models in the 1970's and 1980's were used by Carly to identify the long-term commercial benefit that can come from early government funding.

Today, Carly sees opportunities in energy, space technology, information technology, bio technology and health technology sectors, where government and big businesses can adopt a research funding role.

Finally, I was encouraged to hear Carly's insight on leadership and the role American leaders will play, at all levels of American organizations, to help form our 21st century economy. I hope everyone in my organization was listening as she talked about her own spectacular career success as an example of what American leadership training and development can accomplish.

After kicking off the Harvey Nash USA year in such spectacular fashion I am excited to spend the next several months working with you all in our regional U.S. markets as we engage with employers and skilled IT talent to innovate our way to success and contribute to U.S. economic growth.

Remember, as we continue the steady climb up the IT skills cliff don't look down, focus on the exciting challenges and summits ahead.