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Blog Category: Spotlight on Commerce

Spotlight on Commerce: Hari Sastry, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Resource Management

Hari Sastry, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Resource Management

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

As Deputy Assistant Secretary for Resource Management, my main responsibility is to support the Office of the Secretary to link Budget, Performance, and Risk Management with the strategic direction of the Department. The budget for the Department of Commerce is approximately $8 billion and contains numerous Presidential priorities including trade promotion and advance manufacturing as well as programs of national security such as weather prediction and export control enforcement. Furthermore, we are working with each bureau to create a uniform enterprise risk management framework to improve Department’s ability to understand the status of major programs and make decisions based on that information. Our office plays a critical role in supporting the President’s agenda, as we use performance and risk information to formulate the budget in accordance with the Administration’s priorities. My favorite part of this job is that both policy formulation and implementation come together as budgets are formulated, allowing me to get a complete picture of how public policy works.

I was born and grew up in Chicago, IL. My parents emigrated from India in the early 1970s and have lived in the Chicago area for most of my life. I received a BS in Mathematics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, a Masters in Public Health from the University of Illinois-Chicago with a focus in Epidemiology, and moved to DC in 1997 to get a Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown University with a focus on health policy. I worked at the Office of Management and Budget for 11 years on veterans and military health issues prior to joining the Department of Commerce.

Spotlight on Commerce: Nishith Acharya, Director, Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Senior Adviser

Nishith Acharya, Director, Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Senior Adviser

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

As Director of the Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, my main responsibility is to manage and coordinate efforts to commercialize more of the research that is funded by the federal government.  The US government provides about $150 billion in research funds to universities, labs and companies annually, and we are finding ways for support greater commercial application of that research to create successful companies and jobs. We support the President’s Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, work with over 500 universities around the country on issues of innovation and entrepreneurship, and run the i6 Challenge, which is a $1 million award to six different winners each – focused on creating more commercial ventures at our research institutes.

Our office plays a critical role in supporting the President’s agenda.  America’s greatest advantage is its innovation infrastructure and its deep culture of entrepreneurship.  Our office supports the development and implementation of programs and policies to enhance that.  This includes funding for innovation centers, coordination with universities and federal labs, and communication with entrepreneurs directly to understand their challenges and needs from the Administration.  Supporting innovation is critical for sectors such as manufacturing and energy, and entrepreneurship can never be taught too early.

I grew up in Wayland, MA, just outside of Boston.  My parents emigrated from India in the 1960’s and have lived in the Boston area for most of my life. I got my BS in Political Science and Economics from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. and then moved to DC to get my Master’s in Public Administration from the George Washington University with a specialization in international development.

Spotlight on Commerce: Karen Hyun, Senior Policy Adviser

Karen Hyun, Senior Policy Adviser

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

At the Commerce Department, I have the privilege to serve as Secretary Bryson's senior policy adviser on energy and environment issues.  

My parents emigrated from Korea over forty years ago with a couple of suitcases and an incredible work ethic.  They eventually landed in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania, halfway between my dad's small business fixing electric motors and the Veterans' Administration medical center where my mom was a doctor.  My sisters and I were products of our parents' focus on education, independence, public service, and proximity to a good public school system.   

When I was in elementary school, my dad used to wait with me at the bus stop until the bus came to pick me up.  The only days when this did not happen were election days because my parents were already waiting in line at the polls.  Early on, they instilled in us the right and responsibility to vote.  Although it was years before I could vote, my curiosity on how democracy works was piqued at an early age.  

My parents probably wanted me to follow in their footsteps and be an engineer or a doctor, but I chose a major in Earth Systems at Stanford University.  Earth Systems is a major in environmental science and policy and I chose to focus on our ocean ecosystems.  This was my first foray into learning about public policy that led to a Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island and several years on the Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

Spotlight on Commerce: Ellen Herbst, Senior Adviser to the Deputy Secretary

Ellen Herbst, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

As Senior Adviser to the Deputy Secretary, I support accomplishment of the mission of all of our operating units.  My job requires a combination of problem-solving, coordinating across bureaus and offices, and connecting people to the resources they need to successfully deliver results to the American people.

Much of the time, this involves working to improve the way we do things–how to be more effective and efficient in our processes-and measuring our progress towards our goals. The work is always interesting because I get to work with very dedicated people who deliver results across the broad portfolio of the Commerce Department. The people of the Department of Commerce are delivering results in areas as diverse as supporting the growth of regional economic clusters; managing grants to build broadband networks; providing severe weather warnings earlier than ever before; delivering cutting edge measurement science and protecting our business’ intellectual property.

I have been working for 32 years and have been very fortunate in my career. My good fortune started with parents who supported all three of their daughters by setting high standards; by instilling a strong work ethic, perseverance and a “can do” attitude and by teaching us to live by the Golden Rule. I was fortunate to enjoy the process of learning and receive a wonderful formal education. And finally, I have been fortunate in the support of many mentors, both formal and informal, throughout my career.

Spotlight on Commerce: Deborah Cohn, Commissioner for Trademarks

Deborah Cohn, Commissioner for Trademarks

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

As Commissioner for Trademarks at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), I oversee all aspects of the USPTO’s Trademarks organization including policy, operations and budget relating to trademark examination, registration and maintenance. The main functions of the Trademark office are the examination of applications for registration and the maintenance of those registrations. Trademarks are an important form of intellectual property that can be a company’s most valuable asset. Trademarks also serve a vital function in protecting consumers from confusion about the source of goods and services in the marketplace. 

I first joined the USPTO in 1983 as an examining attorney. I was extremely fortunate because trademark law was an area that I enjoyed in law school and government service was very appealing to me. At that time, the majority of examining attorneys were men, but today, 67 percent of our examining attorneys are women! This is due in part to an increasing number of women in law over the past few decades, but the high percentage of women is also due to the flexibility here at the USPTO which allows employees to successfully balance work and family life. Telework and flexible schedules allow employees to create the environment that works best for them.

Women’s History Month means a great deal to me. As women’s roles have changed and expanded, many occupations that were traditionally filled primarily by men have benefited from the great talent and hard work of women. Here at the USPTO, I have been lucky enough to work with some terrific leaders who happen to be women. For example, my former boss, former Commissioner Lynne Beresford, was a great mentor and role model.

Spotlight on Commerce: Nancy Potok, Associate Director for Demographic Programs

Nancy Potok, Associate Director for Demographic Programs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

I direct the Demographic programs at the Census Bureau. We calculate annual population estimates for each area of the US, calculate the official poverty rate numbers, and work with data from the decennial census and the American Community Survey to create numerous reports and products that inform our nation about the changing characteristics of our growing population. We also conduct surveys on behalf of other Federal agencies such as the National Crime Victims Survey, which the Bureau of Justice Statistics uses to calculate the crime rate, the Current Population Survey, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses to calculate the unemployment rate each month, and many others.  One unsung area of the Census is our strong international program. That group, in cooperation with USAID and other agencies, offers technical assistance to countries on how to set up their own scientific and objective statistical activities and conduct censuses and surveys of their population.

The President has laid out a vision to build an America that lasts, and the Census Bureau contributes to that future. Much of the data that we produce is used by state and local Economic Development Authorities to bring businesses to their area.  Businesses use the information to make relocation decisions and to target their marketing appropriately.  We also report, at various geographic levels such as states, counties, cities, and small towns, on educational attainment, income, poverty, how people make various use of government assistance programs, and other critical information needed to inform our communities on how we as a nation are doing and where we need to invest our resources to strengthen our future.  Without the data collected by the Census Bureau, we would not have the information we need to grow our economy, create jobs, improve our schools, build roads, and other activities critical to our civil society.

I grew up in Detroit, but have been living in the Washington, DC area for many years now. I earned my Masters in Administrative Science from the University of Alabama and then became a Presidential Management Fellow at the US Department of Transportation. I went on to earn my Ph.D. in Public Policy and Public Administration from the George Washington University. Since I enjoy school and learning so much, I’ve returned as an adjunct professor there, teaching in the Trachtenberg School of Public policy and Public Administration.

Spotlight on Commerce: Teresa Rea, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property (USPTO)

Teresa Rea on podium

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

As Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, I work alongside David Kappos in advising the President of the United States, and other members of the Obama administration, on matters relating to Intellectual Property (IP) policy. When wearing my Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hat, I help oversee the process by which our nation grants IP rights for cutting-edge innovations and technological breakthroughs. By protecting brands and ideas through trademarks and patents, companies are more readily able to attract investments, hire more employees, spur additional research & development, distribute their products in the marketplace and spawn new growth in new industries.

Spotlight on Commerce: Tyra Dent Smith, Deputy Director, Office of Human Resources Management

Photo: Tyra Dent Smith

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

As a native Washingtonian, and having earned a B.A in Psychology from Hampton Institute and a Master of Public Administration from Howard University, I knew early on that I wanted my life work to center around individual and organizational success. To this end, I decided to dedicate my career to public service. Over twenty years of my career has been spent in the Department of Commerce.

Since February 2011, I have had the privilege to serve as Deputy Director, Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM). My primary responsibility is to lead and direct the development and implementation of government-wide and departmental policies, employee programs and activities in all aspects of human resources management and administration. Additionally, this includes coordinating and overseeing HR operations at each of the department's seven bureau level HR service centers. This role has given me an opportunity to serve the department’s workforce at each stage of the employee lifecycle (planning, recruitment, hiring, training and development, retention and retirement/separation).

In partnership with the Director of OHRM, William “Bill” Fleming, our vision is to deliver optimal HR services and products that support and enable mission accomplishment and create a workplace environment that fosters excellence and innovation. This vision is rooted in the policies, processes and practices that support and sustain a strong and capable organizational workforce built to serve the American people.

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. James Turner, Director of the Office of International Affairs

Dr. James Turner, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Affairs and Director of NOAA Office of International Affairs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

I am a native of Washington, DC and had the benefit of growing up in a home with loving parents who stressed family, integrity, achievement, service, and education.The values I learned at home were reinforced by those I was taught by the Jesuits at Gonzaga High School.  This strong foundation led me to receive degrees in Physics from MIT (Ph.D.) and Johns Hopkins (B.A.). 

Physics is simultaneously empowering and humbling.  It is empowering in the knowledge and understanding that helps others and humbling in that often the more we learn the more we realize we do not know.  When I was in school, it was disturbing that so few minorities and women were considering Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) career fields.  So, after finishing at MIT, I applied for positions at universities in Africa and at Historically Black Colleges in the U.S.  My first two positions were on the Physics Faculties at Southern University (Baton Rouge) and Morehouse College.  I am very proud that, among the students I taught while at Morehouse, two are now NOAA scientists.

Spotlight on Commerce: Michael Phelps, Director of the Office of Budget

Michael Phelps, Director of the Office of Budget

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

I am currently Director of the Office of Budget at the Department of Commerce. That means I am the principal adviser to the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration and other Department officials on all things related to the planning, formulation, execution and defense of the Department’s budget.

I understand that not everyone is a numbers person, but I love this position because of public debates associated with supporting the president’s agenda and, more important, the roles and mission this Department plays in executing those objectives in helping to create an America built to last!

My entire professional career has been in public service. Prior to joining Commerce in March of 2011, I served 33 years in the United States Air Force. My last assignment was Director of Financial Management and Comptroller for Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Hampton, Virginia. As Chief Financial Officer for the largest operational command in the Air Force and the principal financial adviser to the Air Combat Command Commander, I led a 67-person financial management staff that supported a financial network of more than 1,100 people supporting 25 air wings, 1,100 aircraft and approximately 105,000 personnel. I retired from active duty as a colonel in February of 2011 and was given an opportunity to continue my service to the nation here at the Department of Commerce.