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 winning the future through their work.
Michelle Duff- Mitchell is the Deputy Director for the International Trade Administration 's National Export Initiative  at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Last year, President Obama launched the National Export Initiative (NEI) during his State of the Union Address, as a key component of his economic recovery agenda, setting the ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015 in order to support and sustain millions of American jobs.
In my role as Deputy Director for the NEI, I have the distinct pleasure of working on an issue that is very dear to me: ensuring America's competitiveness today and in the future. And it's important to remember that at the center of this ability to compete are the contributions of African-American inventors, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals -- who we celebrate and honor during Black History Month and every month.
Today as the global marketplace expands and takes shape, it gives me great pleasure to continue in the legacy of my African-American forefathers and mothers through my work on the NEI. As Deputy Director, I have the ability to help American companies find new and innovative ways to grow their sales in international markets and create employment opportunities for American workers. As Secretary Locke often says, “As American companies sell more of their goods and services abroad, they will need to produce more, which means more good-paying American jobs for our workers.” With only 1 percent of American companies exporting and only 58 percent of those businesses exporting to just one market, there is tremendous opportunity for America to strengthen our economic footing through the expansion of exports—meaning we aggressively compete for every contract and every job.
President Obama remarked at “Winning the Future Forum on Small Businesses ” in Cleveland that “winning the future involves out-educating, out-innovating, out-hustling everyone else.” It is my personal mission through my work on the NEI to find ways to strengthen domestic policies, which are the bedrock of our nation's international competitiveness, continuing a national tradition of growth and innovation begun so many years ago.
Prior to serving as the Deputy Director for the NEI, I served as Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Before joining the Obama Administration, I led the Obama for America Campaign Voter Protection efforts in Ohio and Texas—building a robust, statewide operation to ensure the 2008 Presidential Election was “free, fair and open.” I’m a Chicago native and graduate of DePaul University College of Law, where I earned my Juris Doctor. While in law school, I worked on trial and post-conviction capital cases for indigent defendants at the Center for Justice in Capital Cases and also worked on police misconduct, malicious prosecution, and wrongful incarceration cases at a Chicago-based criminal defense firm.