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 Ana Valentin, Survey Statistician, Fisheries Statistics Division of the Office of Science and Technology, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service.
My dearest friend Albert Einstein said, "The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable receiving." Giving is the driver that motivated me to pursue a public service career. My parents, who proudly retired from the Puerto Rico government, encouraged me to enter public service for our country. Being educated in the Puerto Rico public system and graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a bachelor in Secondary Math Education and a Masters in Public Health in Biostatistics, I prized the significance of professional education in the workplace. Today, as a doctoral candidate in Information Assurance, I embrace how diversity presents innovative solutions for the challenges of our competitive world market.
My career started in academia, where I worked as a clinical researcher in a School of Medicine, and mathematics, statistics and computer science professor for undergraduate and graduate programs in public and private universities. My experience in academia led me to accept a position as a survey statistician at the Census Bureau, where I revised statistical and mathematical protocols and the translation of census materials written in Spanish to assure the Agency’s mission. Through the observation of Spanish field interviews, I valued the contribution of Hispanics population into United States’ economy. Currently, I work for the NOAA Fisheries Service, where I manage a survey that produces catch-effort estimates of recreational fishing activities and help oversee the budget allocated for recreational and commercial survey operations. As a Hispanic woman, I cherished the importance of a diverse workforce to outreach growing minority populations in accountability of fishery stock assessment and management in the United States and its territories.
Through non-profit organizations, I was able to reach out to diverse groups of cultures, expertise, education, and political interests to focus on the discussion of common needs and challenge in our life. As a member of the Federal Training Institute (FTI) of the League United of Latin American Citizens (LULAC), I collaborated with other FTI members from NOAA, Commerce and other Departments to develop leadership and management workshops that trains Hispanics Federal government employees, students, veterans, and general public at no-cost for our Agencies. Through the University of Puerto Rico Alumni and Abroad Friends (UPRAA), I had the opportunity to mentor and coach students, friends, veterans, and colleagues to improve their horizons by pursuing their goals and the American dream. This non-profit organization collects and disburses scholarships to Hispanics graduate students with socio-economic needs to pursue their college careers. As co-chair of the Noche Boricua Committee, I annually organize educational and cultural events in the Metropolitan Washington Area. In these events, I invite influential Hispanics leaders from the public and private sector to donate services or resources toward the scholarship program. As a Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of the Blacks In Government NOAA Chapter, I was able to improve financial management best practices that oversee the Chapter’s budget toward our scholars, social and professional development programs. I truly believe that fostering young Hispanics through affinity groups is a way to outreach, educate, and attract professionals in our workforce.
Affinity groups are vital venues to promote collaboration and innovation among diversity groups. The collaboration of affinity groups may assist the Department to develop strategies to find alternatives for common problems, while innovation helps with the development of strategies for building a diverse workforce. As a collateral duty, I actively participate in the planning of the NOAA Hispanic Heritage Month Observance Program and NOAA Black History Month Program. Participating in the planning of observance months had increased my network and coalitions to engage NOAA staff in the execution of the programs. Working closely with the Civil Rights Office and affinity groups has helped me to understand the importance of a Blueprint for an America Built to Last through diversity and inclusion. My involvement is to build and share responsibilities of strengthening America’s people with our Agency leaders in the construction of a diverse workforce that reflect United Stated population.
I am very proud of being a Hispanic woman who pursues a career with an employer that provides you many job opportunities. I encourage young Hispanic to accept the daily challenges with courage by putting your skills and talents on your professional career. As a Hispanic, I invite you to cuddle diversity as a path that open minds, expand knowledge, improve expertise, and develop tolerance in our society.