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.
Alejandra Y. Castillo  is the National Deputy Director of the Minority Business Development Agency.
Since joining the Minority Business Development Agency  in April 2010, I serve as the principal advisor to the MBDA National Director and manage the day-to-day activities of the Agency’s 5 Regional Offices and 48 Minority Business Centers. These Offices and Business Centers are vital centers of economic growth and job creation. Under the Obama Administration, MBDA has assisted minority-owned firms in obtaining nearly $7 billion in contracts and capital, creating nearly 11,000 during the last two years. As the National Deputy Director, I am also responsible for executing the Agency’s mission to help Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) grow and succeed through access to capital, access to contract and access to business opportunities both domestically and abroad.
Prior to MBDA, I served as Special Advisor to the Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) where I was responsible for business outreach and development of policy initiatives geared at trade promotion and enforcement of U.S. trade laws. Before coming to the Department of Commerce, I was a practicing attorney for several years, working in the private, government and non-profit sector. I also served as the Interim Executive Director of the Hispanic National Bar Association working with the White House and non-profit organization, such as the Latinos for a Fair Judiciary, in support of the nomination and confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court.
Even though my professional life has been on a legal track, I stand on the shoulders of a long line of family owned businesses, from bodegas to garment factories, as well as professional services. I recall going to work with my father when I could barely see over the counter. As a small business owner in the Bronx in the mid 70’s, my father provided me with a window to witness up-close the challenges minority businesses face. I remember visiting the Bronx Terminal Market in NY, watching the transportation of produce into a food distribution network that not only supplied the NY Metro Area but most of the U.S. eastern seaboard. At a young age, I watched my father conduct the purchasing of goods and monitoring of inventory as well balancing books, and pursuing credit and capital all within the context of the 1970 recession. Those experiences have guided me every day since and continue to fuel my drive to assist minority-owned businesses to grow in size and scale.
My advice to young Hispanics just starting out would be to pursue your dreams, follow your passion and strive to be the best in every aspect of your professional pursuit. It is critical that as Latino/Hispanics we place education at the core of one’s foundation for growth and advancement. While it may take some time to identify what we are passionate about, it is critical that as we journey through life we aspire to seek excellence in all that we do. Equally as important, is the goal of passing on the lessons that we’ve learned to those coming behind us through mentorship. I live through my Abuela’s refranes, especially “haz bien y no mires a quien.” (translation: Do good onto others without regard to who they are.)