Posted at 5:02 PM
As many college students prepare to head back to school, interns at the U.S. Department of Commerce had a unique opportunity to hear from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. Earlier this week, Secretary Pritzker hosted an armchair discussion alongside former intern and current Confidential Assistant to the Deputy Chiefs of Staff, Rory Slatko.
Secretary Pritzker opened the discussion with stories from both her personal and professional experiences that helped shape her success as a leader in both the public and private sector. Specifically, Secretary Pritzker shared her passion for public service and her desire to give back to the United States, as it provided a home for her family when they emigrated from the Ukraine amidst violence and oppression 135 years ago.
Secretary Pritzker noted that in the private sector, she honed skills in building teams, listening to others, and testing her strengths and weaknesses. As Secretary of Commerce, she uses those skills every day, recognizing that successful operational leadership also comes from being part of a team. In reflecting on how her 27 years in the private sector prepared her for success as Commerce Secretary, she stated:
“It’s a process of you finding out what you like and knowing yourself. For me, I’m a builder. I have built buildings, teams, and organizations. What I brought to the Department of Commerce from the private sector was the notion of building, taking risks, and pushing growth.”
As for her favorite part of the job, Secretary Pritzker said she has enjoyed working alongside the entire Department of Commerce team. She noted that with twelve bureaus, the Department of Commerce has an interesting and diverse set of responsibilities and operational structures, which can pose challenges. To address this, Secretary Pritzker spearheaded a strategic plan to create a cohesive core set of goals.
Secretary Pritzker closed the discussion by comparing and contrasting her experiences as a leader in both government and business. She encouraged interns to remember that success depends most on one’s ability to know their strengths, weaknesses, and goals, regardless of the sector in which they work. Finally, Secretary Pritzker thanked the interns for their vital contributions to the Department of Commerce and their roles in promoting prosperity and keeping America open for business.