Peter Burns was born in Kingston, in Jamaica, and moved to the United States when he was 12 years old. Today, Burns works for Nokia, bringing communications infrastructure to cities across the country. In this position, he has seen the great degree to which the nation’s immigrants benefit the economy. “We work with 30 countries around the world, so being able to communicate with each one is important,” Burns says. “Within my team, we have such diversity. I had lunch with a group of guys recently and not a single person was from the U.S., but from Pakistan, India, and Europe.”
I’ve served in the military, and I know the challenges out there. We need to take the necessary steps from a security perspective, but we also need to make immigration available for those who can take advantage of it and be successful.
Burns got his start in technology while he was serving in the U.S. military, where he worked in several tech sectors. “It was a pivotal moment for me,” he says. “Follow your strengths, which for me, were math and technology.” In addition to his work at Nokia, Burns helps children develop their strengths in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Since 2008, he’s been involved in the development and growth of Mindbender Academy, in Frisco, Texas, a weeklong summer camp that now serves 400 students a season. “We need more kids to start considering high-tech careers,” he says. Roughly 60 percent of the enrolled children are American-born; the rest are immigrants. Area businesses such as Microsoft, Nokia, Raytheon, Texas Instruments, and Mary Kay have lent support to Mindbender, eager to encourage the next generation to pursue careers in technology and help grow the nation’s talent pool.
All of his experiences — as immigrant, as tech employee, as educational program founder — convince Burns that the United States needs to embrace the hardworking people who want to come to America. Furthermore, the United States should provide talented immigrants with access to education to help ensure that the country remains competitive in the global economy. “I know immigration works because I’m a perfect example of that,” he says. “So how do we make that process simpler? I’ve served in the military, and I know the challenges out there. We need to take the necessary steps from a security perspective, but we also need to make immigration available for those who can take advantage of it and be successful.”