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 Gabriel Sanchez, Improving Operational Efficiency Program Manager, U.S. Census Bureau
The Improving Operational Efficiency (IOE) program at the U.S. Census Bureau harvests ideas from employees and brings cost saving and efficiency-improving innovation to executive staff for possible investment. The program has invested in 109 projects in the last three years and saved more than $32 million. I am currently revamping the program to streamline and improve metrics, objectives, performance and the harvesting of ideas.
There are several overarching themes within my current responsibilities that relate to the President’s blueprint for America — innovation, efficiency, saving money, avoiding costs, streamlining processes, and creating projects that add strategic value to the organization. By spurring innovation and improving operational efficiency, my program helps government run more efficiently and do more with less.
In my varied career since joining the Department of Commerce in 1998, I have worked in five of the Census Bureau’s12 regional offices as well as the headquarters building in Suitland, Md. My previous position — director of the Dallas Regional Office — was the most challenging, as at the peak of operations during the 2010 Census, it had 111,000 employees in 51 local census offices. I led the enumeration of more than 33 million people while dealing with 45 congressional districts and four of the 10 most populous cities in the country.
I was born in Uruguay and immigrated to the United States at the age of eight. I was raised in New York City, but I have been fortunate to live in various places around the country, which helped ratchet down the big city experience. I was very proud of my heritage when I became the first-ever foreign-born regional director of the Census Bureau. Still, I keep searching for another Uruguayan in the Commerce Department.
I was one of the founders of the Census Latino Employee Organization in 2004, and I continue to assist their efforts to this day. I volunteer, as I have had for years, with the National Kidney Foundation, and I try to give back by informally mentoring multiple employees throughout the country.
Hispanic Heritage Month serves as a reminder of what our diversity goals at Commerce should be; that we should create an organization reflective of our nation. We can be better public servants if we strive for diversity not only because we will better understand our customers but also because we will be able to harness one of our country’s greatest assets.
I always advise young Hispanics to put the Commerce Department at the top of their federal job wish list because while we may not be the sexiest agency (there will never be a TV show or movie about us), the depth and breadth of our activities allow for tremendous creativity and a true fulfillment of practically any career choice. Working for the Department of Commerce can be a job, but it can also be an opening to so many bureaus and activities that you are bound to be able to find a place to make a happy career.
My career-long commitment to diversity garnered me the Department of Commerce Equal Employment Opportunity Award in 2004 and the Diversity Champion Award in 2006. My commitment to innovation earned me the Director’s Award for Innovation in 2012 and the Commerce Department Gold Medal in 2013.
I hold a bachelor’s degree in military history from the City University of New York, a master’s certificate in leadership from the University of Maryland and a master’s certificate in project management from Georgetown University. I will graduate next month from the Commerce Department’s Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program (SESCDP), during which I helped develop the strategic planning process for the Department and completed a four-month detail at the Department of Education to assist them with performance management.
My two favorite quotes come from Gen. George S. Patton and Groucho Marx. Patton said: “We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me or get out of my way.” Marx said: “A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.” These quotes remind me that we always need to focus on what we are doing, and the other one that we should always remember to laugh.