Posted at 3:30 PM
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 in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month
Guest blog post by Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico
My name is Jose F. Burgos. My nickname is Pepe and I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. My mother was from the town of Aguadilla in the west part of the island, and my father was from Humacao on the opposite side of the island. I was raised in Aguadilla by my mother and brothers after my father passed away when I was four years old. When I was 13 years old, my mother and older sister passed away in a car accident. Then I was raised by one of my cousins and their family. I have one brother who lives in Baltimore and we are very close. I was blessed to grow in a very family-oriented environment surrounded by my cousins and friends.
At first I wanted to be a doctor, but when I start studying and got to physics and organic chemistry, I realized medicine was not for me. I decided to study business, but I was not sure what kind of business. I decided to study international business with the main purpose to obtain a job to travel around the world.
Eleven years into my career, I realize how big international business can be – that it is more than traveling and is a daily learning experience. I worked three years in the Puerto Rico Trade Company and I have been currently working for the past eight years as Director of the U.S. Commercial Service in Puerto Rico.
My passion for international commerce grew during my academic years, ultimately leading to my earning a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in International Business & Marketing from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico and a professional development certification from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in International Trade Policy.
It has been a rewarding and amazing opportunity to be able to do what I always wanted to do and work in the field that I studied.
Since 2006, I have been working as Director of the US Department of Commerce for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. I have assisted companies from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in exporting to countries around the world, and provided advice with all the logistic components, including market intelligence, trade counseling, business matchmaking, and advocacy/commercial diplomacy support.
My support has helped companies survive difficult economic times and helped them be among the companies that are creating new jobs for residents in the islands.
Prior to the Department of Commerce, I worked as Marketing Manager of the Puerto Rico Trade Company in San Juan, P.R., using this expertise in international commerce to help companies in the island promote and export their products or services around the world.
Outside of work, I am proud to have spent time working with local universities like the Ana G. Mendez University System and The Inter American University of Puerto Rico, helping students learn more and develop interest in international commerce. I have given numerous speeches and trainings to students in Puerto Rico, and given them practical advice on how to find job opportunities in my agency or in other international companies.
My recommendation to students is always that they should try to do an internship in our agency or a similar position to receive the professional development needed for a better shot at that future dream job.
During my free time, I enjoy being with my wife and son of three years, and I enjoy working out. I have twice completed the Half Ironman of St. Croix, and three times the Puerto Rico 70.3. I’ve also completed five Ironman races in the United States and Canada.
For me, Hispanic Heritage Week is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions that Hispanic community has provided to United States culture. As a Hispanic working in the U.S. Commercial Service in the U.S. Department of Commerce, I feel extremely proud to support Puerto Rican exporters and to be part of an even bigger worldwide Commerce family. Besides having Hispanic coworkers from different parts of South and Central America, I also have a great opportunity to work with colleagues from other cultures all over the world.
One of my favorite books is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It has a great quote that I’d like to share: “The universe conspires for things to happen.” It shows how no matter how much we try to foresee or plan for the future, many times things occur because they are meant to be – “because the universe conspires for it to happen…”