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January 18, 2008

« Bubble Land | Main | Diversity = Productivity »

Business Week reports (h/t: Steve Arenburg):.

Bill Gates took one of his company's most nettlesome issues to Washington. Testifying before the Senate, Gates criticized U.S. immigration policy for limiting the H-1B visas issued to skilled workers from foreign countries ... Senators ignored his pleas ...

So in September, Microsoft took matters into its own hands. It opened an office in Richmond, B.C., a polyglot Vancouver suburb, where it hopes to place hundreds of workers unable to obtain visas a few miles south in the U.S. The office won't be filled only with those who can't get visas. But for many, it's akin to a refugee camp, except these displaced persons aren't fleeing the U.S. They're trying to get in .... Microsoft's Richmond site is unique because it's located just 130 miles north of the company's Redmond (Wash.) headquarters, where 85% of its core software development is done. Placing workers in the same time zone helps them collaborate. And if they need face time in Redmond, it's just a 2 1/2-hour drive on Interstate 5 over the Peace Arch border. It doesn't hurt that Canada does not put limits on visas for skilled workers ... Says Parminder Singh, managing director of the new facility: "I call it the U.N. of tech."


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What a novel idea allowing skilled workers to come to your country and work. Seems to me that is better than having skilled workers compete against you.


Daver - well said. Microsoft folks told me they picked that particular location:
a) because of US immigration restrictions, b) because it is close, and c) because located there are a large cadre of people who actually know how to manage diverse groups of people - both genders, various ethnicities, generations and sexual orientations. My hunch is c will become a more important location driver in the future.


This wouldn't be nearly as newsworthy for decentralized companies like Google or IBM (the latter has had technical staff in Toronto for years), but it's a major change in approach for Microsoft. There, it's always been said your importance at the company is measured by the distance between your office and Bill Gates'. Money-makers Windows and Office are within walking distance of him; less influential teams like Encarta or MSN have to drive or take the shuttle service. Employees outside the US used to be almost entirely sales & support, or their location was an acquisition left-over. Given that culture, Microsoft has to be pretty frustrated to take this path.

Michael Wells

They'll face longer lines at the Peace Bridge. According to Homeland Security chief Michael Chernoff, US & Canadian citizens will need passports to enter the US, slowing travel considerably. Gates other major organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has also had trouble hiring foreign staff to run its international programs because of visa restrictions. Maybe they should just move everything to Vancouver.

hayden fisher

Or maybe our 'leaders' in Washington should eliminate this ridiculous obstacle. It's like your server telling you that you should not only pay for your bad steak but, also, be thankful that the delay cost to their table-turn rotation didn't get added to the bill. What are the folks in Washington thinking, really!!!!


One of the key precepts of organization theory: organizations in crisis wall themselves off from the environment.

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