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Blog Category: Spotlight on Commerce

Spotlight on Commerce: Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico

Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Guest blog post by Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico

My name is Jose F. Burgos. My nickname is Pepe and I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. My mother was from the town of Aguadilla in the west part of the island, and my father was from Humacao on the opposite side of the island. I was raised in Aguadilla by my mother and brothers after my father passed away when I was four years old. When I was 13 years old, my mother and older sister passed away in a car accident. Then I was raised by one of my cousins and their family. I have one brother who lives in Baltimore and we are very close. I was blessed to grow in a very family-oriented environment surrounded by my cousins and friends.

At first I wanted to be a doctor, but when I start studying and got to physics and organic chemistry, I realized medicine was not for me. I decided to study business, but I was not sure what kind of business. I decided to study international business with the main purpose to obtain a job to travel around the world.

Eleven years into my career, I realize how big international business can be – that it is more than traveling and is a daily learning experience. I worked three years in the Puerto Rico Trade Company and I have been currently working for the past eight years as Director of the U.S. Commercial Service in Puerto Rico. 

My passion for international commerce grew during my academic years, ultimately leading to my earning a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in International Business & Marketing from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico and a professional development certification from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in International Trade Policy.

It has been a rewarding and amazing opportunity to be able to do what I always wanted to do and work in the field that I studied. 

Since 2006, I have been working as Director of the US Department of Commerce for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. I have assisted companies from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in exporting to countries around the world, and provided advice with all the logistic components, including market intelligence, trade counseling, business matchmaking, and advocacy/commercial diplomacy support.

My support has helped companies survive difficult economic times and helped them be among the companies that are creating new jobs for residents in the islands.

Spotlight on Commerce: Aaron Trujillo, Associate Director For Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Spotlight on Commerce: Aaron Trujillo, Associate Director For Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Guest blog post by Aaron Trujillo, Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Commerce

As the Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Commerce, I carry two responsibilities; handling the issues of Economic Development, Skills Development, and Manufacturing and serving as the Acting Senior Advisor for Native American Affairs Policy. The Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs (OLIA) supports the Secretary on all matters pertaining to the Department’s relationship with Congress, state/local elected officials, territorial and tribal governments.    

Before coming to Commerce, I worked in the U.S. House of Representatives for five and a half years. There I served a Member of Congress in his capacity on the House Natural Resources Committee as Ranking Member of the Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee, and later, as a distinguished member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. During my time in the U.S. House, I also served as Senior Policy Advisor on Rural Development, Energy, Environment, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and Native American Affairs policies.

While working here at the Department of Commerce, I have been given the great opportunity to utilize my expertise to assist the Department and the Administration in advancing initiatives to build a stronger American economy. Our work here at the Department truly embodies the notions of opportunity, action and optimism because we work daily with businesses, organizations, community leaders, and elected officials at the local and national level to find opportunities that will create the conditions for economic success. 

I was raised in El Rancho, New Mexico, a small farming community just north of Santa Fe, NM.  As a child, I was influenced by the time honored traditions of my rural community and developed a deep respect for diversity in culture, language and the inherent connection between agricultural communities and natural resources. My upbringing has always been a driving force behind my work and advocacy in government.

Spotlight on Commerce: Sara A. Rosario, U.S. Census Bureau

Spotlight on Commerce: Sara A. Rosario, U.S. Census Bureau

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Guest blog post by Sara A. Rosario Nieves, U.S. Census Bureau

As the Census Scientific Advisory Committee coordinator, I help determine Census Bureau operations and programs that need scientific advice. By working with the committee — established by the Secretary of Commerce as an advisory body to the Census Bureau director — I help engage some of the nation’s top economists, statisticians, researchers, geographers, sociologists, engineers, political scientists, demographers, and operations managers on ways to advise us on streamlining processes without compromising quality and use proper technologies all while saving taxpayer money.

The President’s State of the Union Address this year centered around three key principles: opportunity, action, and optimism. I too will use these three words to describe my 10-plus years as a federal employee.

Opportunity: While pursuing my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Puerto Rico, I noticed that years of specialized experience were required for entry-level positions on the island. I was astonished but continued studying and looking for work opportunities. Part of my studies included a semester-long industrial management internship with the master scheduler of Bristol-Myers Squibb pharmaceutical in Mayaguez. One of my professors then told me about a summer internship opportunity with the Department of Commerce, which led me to Washington, D.C., in 2001. Upon completion of my MBA, I accepted a job with the Census Bureau. Though I was eager to learn new things and yearned to hear fresh ideas, this geographical move was not an easy decision but thinking back now on the incredible experiences I have had and the professional growth I have gone through, I know I made the right decision. While at the Census Bureau, I have completed the DOC Aspiring Leaders Development Program and obtained a Masters Certificate in Project Management from George Washington University. In 2011, the Department of Commerce honored me with its Gold Medal Award for helping lead the 2010 Census partnership program, which engaged 257,000 national and local organizations with $1.2 billion in value-added contributions to the overall census effort.

Action: One of the most enjoyable aspects of my civil service work is mentoring young individuals who are looking to expand their skills and for advice on how to reach their maximum potential. Last month, I was a panelist for the Paths for Success session of the Government Leaders for Tomorrow (GL4T), where nationwide selected science and technology students with diverse economic, social, academic and cultural backgrounds come to D.C. to learn about life as a federal government employee. The conversations with the mentees, along with recruits I regularly meet on campus, help me understand the vast capacity of the next generation to work alongside seasoned and experienced talent and contribute to the department’s innovation and reengineering goals. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Efrain Gonzalez, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer, BusinessUSA

Efrain Gonzalez, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer, BusinessUSA

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Guest blog post by Efrain Gonzalez, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer, BusinessUSA

I currently serve as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer at BusinessUSA, a Presidential Initiative and partnership between the Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration. Our mission is to help American entrepreneurs, businesses owners and executives successfully start and grow their business by making it easier for them to find and access the right government resources. Put simply, my role as part of BusinessUSA is to make sure people, money and strategy come together to achieve this mission.

From my first days at Commerce, I have been privileged to serve on initiatives and projects aimed to either directly serve the needs of businesses or assist the agencies that directly serve U.S. businesses. Prior to joining BusinessUSA, I served as Chief of the Office of Business Development for the Minority Business Development Agency where I worked on the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Recovery Projects and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. For me, it’s this type of mission-driven work that we do here at Commerce that connects me to my roots as a first-generation American growing up in East Los Angeles and Montebello, California, a suburb just east of LA.

My father was an entrepreneur who owned a service station. Like many kids of hardworking business owners in this country, I spent my weekends working with him to support the family business. I watched him succeed, and I watched him struggle. I saw his commitment to his employees and how the responsibility of making his payroll sometimes weighed on him. Later, when I took over managing the business for a short time, I felt the weight of that responsibility myself. But, I think that just like many Mexican immigrants to this country, my dad thought that all those long days and weekends were a fair price for the opportunity to build a better life for his family. His hard work gave me the opportunity to attend good schools and eventually graduate from the University of Southern California (USC). My years running the family business helped to build the foundation that my career at Commerce and before that, at USC, has been built on.

Spotlight on Commerce: Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to the Open for Business Agenda Strategic Plan.

Guest blog post by Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

I was born in Saigon, five years before the Vietnam War ended. My family made a tough decision, one that benefitted me for a lifetime. My mother, five aunts, one uncle, four sisters and I were airlifted to the U.S. as Saigon fell. When we arrived in Chantilly, Virginia, we had very little.  But, we had each other, the support of a local church and our public school. My mother and aunts taught us about our Vietnamese and Chinese heritages, which fortunately centered around great food. Just as important, they pushed us to learn English and become thoroughly integrated in the American experience. I’ve been given the opportunity in my lifetime to take the best from both worlds—from my Asian heritage and from the rich diversity that is America. The values I extrapolated from both backgrounds are so similar and are shared across the globe—dedication to family, hard work, respect of others and their cultures and faiths.  I’m as likely to watch a Washington Nationals game with either Vietnamese banh mi sandwich or a hot dog.

I graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in history, high hopes and no job.  I’d like to tell you that I’m here because I executed each element of my master plan perfectly or that I had good fortune. But, opportunities don’t just happen without context. I applied hard earned skills and landed an internship at the White House. I worked hard to perfect my technical skills, becoming expert on every administration department and agency.  I became a valued member of the team, in large measure, because no one else wanted to do the huge volume of detailed, non-political, technical work.  But I learned something else even more valuable—that leaders in politics are often in short supply, peace and prosperity don’t just happen and that enlightened leadership was more critical than the technical aspects of my work. I was genuinely willing to learn from those I believed were the best leaders, and they were willing to share their experience and wisdom with me. I got hooked on Washington and this inexplicable political world in which we operate.

Spotlight on Commerce: Kate McAdams, Senior Advisor, Department of Commerce

Kate McAdams, Senior Adviser to the Secretary

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Kate McAdams, Senior Adviser to the Secretary, Department of Commerce

In addition to my role on the Secretary's senior management team, I lead the Department's effort to ensure a skilled workforce, one of the pillars of our Open for Business Agenda. For the first time, the Department of Commerce is focusing on the critical importance of a globally competitive workforce as part of the Department's mission to help set the conditions for economic growth and opportunity. In addition to developing strategic partnerships with the Departments of Labor and Education, we are building on the Department's existing assets, including access to business leaders; data tools; economic development planning expertise; and Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers that serve the needs of small and medium manufacturers. To date, I have been spending time developing partnerships and our internal "skills team" that focuses on expanding job-driven training that ensures employers find the skilled workers they need and workers access quality jobs and career paths.

Recognizing that more can be accomplished through a team effort is inherent in my approach to solving problems and achieving outcomes due to a lifelong passion for playing competitive sports. Growing up playing ice hockey on a team of all boys, to playing women's ice hockey in college, to even "old man's hockey" as an adult, I am hard-wired to think about how to accomplish goals by utilizing my strengths in combination with those of my teammates. This is the case in my new position at Commerce and past positions in city government, and even when I was the sole employee of an organization I found a way to be more impactful through strategic partnerships. Particularly in public service positions, the fast pace and limited resources require creativity when building and utilizing teams.  I am lucky to have worked for two respected mayors and now I view it as a true honor to work for Secretary Pritzker and President Obama.  

I often say I am lucky for the professional opportunities I’ve experienced, but was recently chided for saying so, as if it was out of my control. What I actually mean is better described by the quote “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I believe that hard work is noticed and is the best preparation for the next opportunity, and as I learned from coaches at a very young age, "keep your head on a swivel" to attempt to prepare for the unexpected. This is my advice for young people starting a career – seek out leaders you want to work for and projects to which you want exposure. Keeping your head on a swivel was my hockey coach’s term to be looking forward, backwards, left and right – to be cognizant of your strengths, weaknesses and the position of your teammates who will help you achieve your goals.

Spotlight on Commerce: Jeannette P. Tamayo, Chicago Regional Director, Economic Development Administration

Spotlight on Commerce: Jeannette P. Tamayo, Chicago Regional Director, Economic Development Administration

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Jeannette P, Tamayo, Chicago Regional Director, Economic Development Administration

I am both honored and humbled to have been asked to share my experience in the DOC Spotlight as part of Women’s History Month as so many extraordinary women, and their sons, contribute to our collective achievements.

As the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Chicago Regional Director, I am truly privileged to touch lives in extraordinary ways through the catalytic investments EDA funds and the hope and economic impact these investments bring to economically distressed communities across the nation.  As the only federal agency with economic development as its exclusive mission, EDA promotes the economic ecosystems in which jobs are created. EDA strives to advance global competitiveness, foster the creation of high-paying jobs, and leverage public and private resources strategically.

I am fortunate to work with creative, dedicated and energetic colleagues who use their specialized knowledge and skills to help communities transform ideas into a competitive application that, once implemented, results in initiatives that create jobs and leverage private investment.  No two ideas or communities are the same, and, as the competitive needs of regional economies change to be globally competitive, EDA is constantly presented with unique asset-based, innovative concepts that test our imagination and compel us to “push the envelope” – trying new approaches to foster economic sustainability and resiliency.  Grant making requires an understanding of communities and regions, risk management, and the ability to translate visionary goals into measurable activities.  It also requires building partnerships and creating opportunities for collaboration.  While ensuring that federal funds  for transformational projects flow to communities in my six-state region (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, and WI), my specific role involves leading a regional staff, fostering creativity, finding solutions, managing change, engaging in negotiations and mediation, analyzing applications, marketing programs, and building coalitions. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Lisa Casias, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce

Spotlight on Commerce: Lisa Casias, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Lisa Casias, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce 

As the Deputy Chief Financial Officer and Director for Financial Management, I work with all of the bureaus CFOs and financial management teams to provide support to the Department’s program managers in meeting their missions.  As a community we ensure that we meet the many requirements of the federal government’s financial reporting mandates, maintain robust internal control environments, and maintain the systems to produce financial information.  Perhaps, the most important aspect of our work is to ensure program managers have the information needed for decision making.  I am also responsible for the Office of Secretary’s budget operations and most recently the travel, fleet and personal property offices. 

I have worked in the Department for over 22 years in both the Office of Secretary and Office of Inspector General. I have held different positions within these organizations and added new areas to my portfolio over that time.  While some choose career paths that cross into many federal agencies, the opportunities to continually learn new things and ability to work with outstanding financial and administrative communities have kept me in the Department.

One of the most interesting aspects in working at the Department level is the ability to engage with all of the bureaus and learn their missions as we support their financial management needs.  As demonstrated in the Department’s Strategic Plan, the Department plays a critical role in the nation’s economy and the financial and administrative management communities are an integral part of mission success. 

I attribute my ability to follow my dreams (yes, I always wanted to be an accountant) and my career successes to the support of my parents.  I grew up in Dumont, New Jersey where my parents had migrated from England. They taught by example instilling in both my sister and me the importance of having strong work ethic, integrity and belief in oneself. They stayed in the United States as they believed we would have more opportunities to achieve our dreams, including obtaining a college education.  We were the first in our family to graduate from college. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Kim Glas, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials, International Trade Administration

Spotlight on Commerce: Kim Glas, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials, International Trade Administration

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Kim Glas, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials, International Trade Administration

Serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials, my job is to improve the domestic and international competitiveness of the broad product range of U.S. textiles, footwear, consumer goods, metals and mining, forest products, and chemicals and plastics manufacturing sectors and industries. This position requires strong negotiation and problem-solving skills and the ability to work with a broad array of stakeholders with divergent opinions in order to find solutions on a whole host of issues. 

Over the last 3 years, I have spent significant time at the negotiating table for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement to ensure opportunities under the agreement for U.S. textile and footwear producers.  I coordinate within the ITA and across agencies to ensure we can deliver results for companies and the workers they employ.  While the job has been challenging, it has been an incredibly rewarding opportunity.  I have worked with top-notch staff across the Department and in the Administration who are driven to expanding opportunities for U.S. industries and workers.

Having worked in two Administrations and on Capitol Hill, I have always been driven by a mission to serve the American people and have been fortunate to do so throughout my career.  Growing up, my parents, extended family, teachers, and mentors were incredibly supportive of me and instilled in me to work hard, serve others, and have a strong sense of self. I grew up in the close-knit community of Lockport, NY located near Buffalo during a time when many industries in the area were facing enormous economic hardships.  Layoffs all too often were the front page news of the local paper.  My high school experience reflected what was happening in the community – and I knew that I wanted to make it better.

Spotlight on Commerce: LaJuene Desmukes,Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

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Spotlight on Commerce: LaJuene Desmukes, Director, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by LaJuene Desmukes, Director, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

As the Director for the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, I am the Department of Commerce’s chief advocate for promoting the use of small business concerns to fulfill its contract and grant requirements. Helping small businesses navigate the complex Federal acquisition arena and successfully pursue opportunities is the most rewarding job I’ve held over the course of my 34-year career.  

I serve as a liaison between small businesses and the Department, seeking out and connecting quality firms with the necessary skills and expertise to meet the Department’s requirements. One of the more interesting aspects of my job is the opportunity to meet with individuals in both the government and private sector who work on projects and build solutions benefitting the nation and the world.  The more I learn about the Department’s programs and industries’ capabilities, the better able I am in helping small businesses pursue and compete for opportunities with Commerce. 

Small businesses, including disadvantaged, women-owned, service-disabled, veteran-owned, and small businesses located in Historically Underutilized Business Zones, are the backbone of the nation’s economy and the primary source of jobs for Americans.  I’m proud to help small businesses successfully pursue contracts and grants with the Department, and to use these opportunities to help small businesses grow and thrive. 

My desire to help others was impressed upon me by my parents. They met and married in Washington, DC, in the 1940s after migrating from the South in search of better paying jobs. Together they raised three boys and two girls. My parents wanted their children to have opportunities that were not available to them growing up in the segregated South. They stressed the importance of faithfully serving God, paying tithes, and honest work. These were the cornerstones of the Black community in which I grew up. My parents exemplified their beliefs by holding various church offices, paying off their mortgage, helping those in need, and serving in the federal government. My mother worked for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for over 40 years and retired as a clerical supervisor. My father retired as a Freight Rate Specialist from the General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) after 35 years.