United States immigration and professional work visas

Chef Community,

Chef has recently communicated with employees that we believe may be impacted by recent or future changes to immigration and visa policy. Our message is simple: we’ll support you however we can, including meaningful legal support. To the U.S. administration, our message is equally clear: a) revoke the recent immigration executive order and b) maintain or expand our professional visa programs including the H1B visa program and the NAFTA Professional TN Visa program.

I’ve been thinking for the past several days about my broader message to our community and the administration. Peter Drucker, the management guru, says this about the CEO role: “The CEO is the link between the Inside that is ‘the organization,’ and the Outside of society, economy, technology, markets, and customers.” From this vantage point, I’d like to explain our position.

Foremost, the recent U.S. executive order on immigration, as well as potential restrictions to the H1B or NAFTA TN Professional visa programs, will impinge Chef’s ability to hire top talent, to effectively compete in our highly competitive and dynamic market, and to deliver sustained shareholder return.

Chef, and companies like Chef, are driving economic growth for the U.S.  Chef’s software is used to rapidly and efficiently set up and manage computers and applications, including the work of building and releasing software. We put particular emphasis on being able to do these complex tasks well in the cloud. Chef ranked #210 on Deloitte’s 2016 Technology Fast 500 and the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of our annual recurring revenue is 158% over the past four years, well above the U.S. average.

This growth has been driven by the value our employees have created for our customers, primarily through software. Some of this software is free (Open Source), some of it not. While we have a strong business model we should recognize, like many in our industry, that our world is a tenuous one. We live in a time of massive ongoing technological disruption and, if we’re not careful, we could flip roles from the disruptor to the disrupted faster than you can imagine. The firewall that protects us from this disruption is our employees and the value that they create every day.

Many companies in our industry have come to the same conclusion. Technology companies fight fiercely for their employees because there is an intense, worldwide battle for top talent. Ideally, we like to hire people near our Seattle headquarters. But since we’re in a highly specialized field, and seek very particular skills, we must often forgo geographic preferences and hire talent that meets our very high standards wherever they may be. We fight for these talented individuals not only with our direct competitors, but also with Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, not to mention a thousand other tech companies. Further complicating the talent competition is that now nearly every company, including organizations like GE, Citi, and Starbucks, are attempting to hire the same technical talent to drive their digital transformation initiatives. Hiring foreign employees, who today make up more than 10 percent of our workforce, isn’t about saving money, it’s about winning the talent battle.

Restricting immigration and work visas is myopic from the point of view of the American economy. Chef has several employees that work for us legally in the U.S. under the NAFTA TN Professional visa program. If this program is eliminated or restricted, our employees may be forced to leave the country. This is an unnecessary disruption to Chef and of course to our employees, their families, and their respective communities. Their departure from the U.S. wouldn’t end their employment with Chef, but instead of contributing to the U.S. economy on a local level, they would now be spending their money and paying taxes in other countries. The United States has a huge competitive advantage over the rest of the world — many of the best and brightest around the globe want to come here to work and participate in growing our economy. It simply doesn’t make economic sense to kill this.

While the economic argument is compelling, there is a second, deeper reason why there has been such a strong response by the tech community. We work shoulder-to-shoulder every day with recent immigrants from all over the world. These immigrants have helped build not only our entire industry, but also the American economy. As many have pointed out, Steve Jobs is a well known son of a Syrian immigrant that made a big impact on the tech industry; there are thousands and thousands of other examples. This system of immigration works both for Chef and for our industry.

Unless you can claim that your family was here before the Mayflower, we’re all from immigrant families. I know I am. Right now there are a record number of worldwide refugees that have been forced to make the heart-wrenching decision to leave their home and venture out into what today is a too-unfriendly world. In addition to our economic imperative, it is also our moral imperative to help who we can without regard to ethnic or religious background. If we don’t, we risk undermining our country’s most precious principles which include freedom, liberty, and bravery.

Thank you,
Barry Crist

Barry Crist

Barry Crist has more than 20 years of experience in driving enterprise customer success with open source and DevOps software solutions and is a recognized leader in driving a culture of innovation. Barry joined Chef as CEO in 2013 and has been a leading force behind the company’s business operations, culture and technology innovation.