Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of current and past members of the Department of Commerce during Women's History Month.
Guest blog post by Vonda Bell, Human Resources Director, U.S. Census Bureau
My name is Vonda Bell and I am thrilled to participate in the Department of Commerce’s celebration of Women’s History Month! I began my Federal career in 1999, at the Department of the Navy as an Outstanding Scholar with the Human Resources Service Center. I am a University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) alumna. I hold degrees from Troy University (M.S. Human Resources) and UAH (B.S. Human Resources). I am also a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources.
I am currently serving as the Human Resources (HR) Director for the U.S. Census Bureau. Prior to joining Census, I held leadership positions in a variety of capacities across the federal government, such as the Director of Human Capital Management for HUD OIG, the Director of Business Services at the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, and Deputy Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I was also at the Department of Labor where I was privileged to have the opportunity to reshape the workforce as the Director of Workforce Restructuring.
Reflecting back, even as a child I was both determined and curious. I believe that this determination/drive and fundamental curiosity is what has made me the leader I am today. HR is full of rules and regulations, but I'm not deterred by that. In fact, my fundamental curiosity is what drives me to read everything about HR that comes my way. As a leader, I am determined to help my staff feed their curiosity by addressing problems on their own and defining their own individual missions as a member of the HR Division. I believe one gains credibility as a leader by working their way up the ladder. I also had my own share of obstacles. For instance, putting myself through college, while raising my son as a single parent, was definitely the biggest challenge. There were days when my son would literally be sitting in a college course right next to me because his daycare may have been closed on that particular day. It was a difficult, but special time. Out of all the memories my son and I share, that's the one he always brings up first. He tells his friends that he went to college as a 2-year old. These challenges can become a source of strength and perseverance; taken together with excellent mentors, I was incredibly honored to join the elite ranks of the Senior Executive Service (SES). Indeed, as I reflect on this, I would say that my greatest accomplishment was being selected for the SES by Joanne Crane and the Census Bureau. I was doubly lucky to reach such a prestigious level fairly early in my career. The Senior Executive Service leads America's Federal workforce. As a member of the SES, I don't take that responsibility lightly.
My advice to young women entering the workforce today – the aspiring leaders of tomorrow - is remember your awesome and boundless strength! I've never met a woman who was not powerful. To be a great leader, you just need to know how and when to use that power without abusing it. Sometimes you will have to make tough calls that will be unpopular, but if you know that your decisions are best for the long run and you've been transparent about your decision making process, your team will support you.