Posted at 4:03 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.
I grew up in a town on the border between the U.S. and Mexico; a place where two cities abutted one another culturally and geographically. At the time, I was too young to understand all of the influences at play around me. I went to school in the U.S. and actively volunteered in varied capacities throughout high school. In college, I discovered the intoxicating world of study abroad and sought every opportunity to apply what I was learning in varied settings, doing research in Pakistan, India and Latin America. After college, I worked in Asia for a number of years before moving to New York to work for a large international non-profit. Somewhere along the way, someone shared the speech, “To Hell With Good Intentions” by Ivan Illich. At first amused by the somewhat sardonic remarks admonishing a group of volunteers for coming equipped with solely good intentions and not much else, the speech impacted me profoundly as its other message was clear… come to the table prepared.
In all places I had lived and worked, there seems to be one commonality not unlike the ethos we aspire to here in the U.S. The desire to earn a living, provide for your family and live a safe, content life. Its manifestations differ by age group, culture and country, but the foundation is the same; what change are the economics. This is part of the reason why the Department of Commerce’s mission resonates with me. It puts businesses at the forefront and understands that a healthy business ecosystem creates ripple effects into the surrounding area. When I travel back to my hometown, I see how much economics have transformed it. It is facing enormous economic and security hardships and does not look like the bustling town in which I grew up. I hear stories of how a once vibrant business community dwindled as security and transparency were compromised. As businesses moved, their wake left neighborhoods of abandoned homes and a population without financial or geographic means of mobility.
Every day at Commerce, we work with businesses to understand the challenges they are facing. The topics are complex and often do not have short-term solutions. The issues can be thorny and the stakeholders varied. It is critical to listen and understand concerns from a variety of angles, as there will always be opportunity costs for opting for one solution over another.
The Office of Business Liaison (OBL) is on the front line of business engagement for the Office of the Secretary. We engage with the private sector every day to keep a pulse on the concerns and issues that businesses, across all sectors, are facing. We also work with our colleagues across all Commerce bureaus to gauge how we can use the broad resources at our disposal to better serve the business community.
As part of OBL, my responsibilities include facilitating this dialogue, both with the business community, but also internally at Commerce. Commerce is a vast agency whose portfolio includes everything from satellites and weather, to the census and technology standards. I feel lucky that every day is a chance to learn something new from extremely talented individuals who are incredibly knowledgeable in their field of expertise.
Many years ago, I came across T.S. Eliot’s words “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” Unexpectedly, in both my personal and professional life, small returns to previous beginnings have appeared, each time encased in new opportunities. If I were to offer a piece of advice to those starting along what is seldom a linear career path, it would be to stay to stay curious, find the connections and never lose the sense of adventure that comes from coming to a familiar cross-road and seeing it from a whole new perspective.