Posted at 11:46 AM
When you ask William Wheeler, Jr. what the most rewarding aspect of his new job as an IT project manager at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is, he smiles, and without hesitation, provides an answer that’s tinged with a sense of pride. “Supporting the development of systems which help patent examiners protect the intellectual property of American inventors,” he says.
Wheeler is one of over 200 veterans working in the USPTO’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) where such industry best practices as Agile and DevOps are the norm. With DevOps practices, the OCIO can deliver new software into its customers’ hands faster, at a pace usually seen in the private sector. This is part of a drive toward modernizing IT systems to gain efficiencies for patent and trademark examination. In addition, the OCIO builds, deploys, and maintains civic systems for public use. In his new role, Wheeler applies the military training in IT management that he earned during his decorated tenure as a major in the United States Marine Corps.
How did he land this opportunity that leverages the IT skills he learned on active duty? By attending last year’s First Annual IT Veteran Hiring Fair in June 2014. The hiring fair was the vision of the agency’s CIO, John Owens, who conceptualized an event that would cut out months from the existing hiring process and put veterans to work right away.
On April 17 and 18, the OCIO is hosting its Second Annual IT Veteran Hiring Fair at the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Va. Walk-ins are welcome.
“The IT Veteran Hiring Fair is the fastest way for us to meet highly skilled service men and women who can help us build next generation systems and keep up with the pace of technological change,” said Owens. “So I’m bringing on 160 new OCIO employees in 2015. I’m looking for individuals with the very latest skills for 21st century innovation and superior performance,” he added.
There’s a shared dedication to duty and a deep determination among the cohort of OCIO veterans to continue to do what they do best: safeguard America. By enhancing existing tools and launching next generation IT systems for patent and trademarks, the OCIO improves the overall quality of output from the USPTO -- boosting America’s economy one invention at a time.
“I served as a communications and information systems officer, ‘Comm Officer’ for short,” said Wheeler. “I learned the basics of systems thinking; meaning that a system is essentially a collection of people, processes, and technologies. I learned how to lead a diverse group of highly skilled people to accomplish any project. I also learned how to manage resources like time, money, and equipment,” he added.
By connecting directly with eligible veterans or transitioning service members who qualify for a Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA) or a Schedule A appointment at last year’s event, the agency was able to hold over 200 on-site interviews over two days, and use its hiring authority to extend job offers immediately.
OCIO hiring managers at the IT Veteran Hiring Fair are looking for talent with a combination of technical expertise, intellectual curiosity, and attention to detail. And there are some other “intangibles” service men and women possess that are equally important when joining the OCIO. It all boils down to character-- especially when it comes to making that leap from active duty-- and applying that character in a civilian work place.
At the June 2014 event, Wheeler got a chance to hear directly from Owens about his strategic vision for IT transformation within OCIO and attend the OCIO veteran panel which discussed the transition from military service to life at the USPTO. He was also able to engage with staff from each division within OCIO to gain a better understanding of the whole organization. Wheeler was interviewed on the spot. And just two months after attending the IT Veteran Hiring Fair, he was at orientation, standing in front of the American flag with his right hand raised -- taking his oath to join the USPTO.
“The USPTO values veterans and wants us to be successful. Veteran candidates should bring their deeply ingrained, hard work ethic, dedication to duty, and a constant desire for self-improvement,” said Wheeler. “This agency also values acting with integrity in everything we do, much like the Marine Corps, and offers a tight-knit community that is here to support vets from any background.”