Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce African Americans during Black History Month.
Guest blog post by Asia L. Robertson, Research and Development Welder, Fabrication Technology Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Black History Month is a time to reflect, rejoice and recognize the brave men and women of color who paved a way for us all. Great African-American leaders fought for equality for people of color and I am truly proud to be a man of color born in America, and I am honored to share my career path for this special month.
An inspirational leader of particular interest to me is Ernest D. Levert, who was the first black president of the American Welding Society. In 1982, Levert graduated from Ohio State University with a B.S. in welding engineering with a focus in electron beam and laser welding. He was known for his outstanding leadership within the welding industry.
As a child, my parents instilled in me important values of integrity, hard work and dedication, which created the basis for the man I am today. I was born and raised in Charles County, Maryland. I grew up in a Christian home and now attend Smith Chapel United Methodist Church. I serve on the church’s usher and trustee boards, and I am a part of the United Methodist Men organization. In my spare time, I enjoy oil painting, 3D printing, and expanding my knowledge of technologies.
My father, being a research and development (R&D) welder for many years, inspired my career path as a combination welder. In welding, two or more pieces of metal are joined together by the application of heat, pressure or a combination of both. At the age of 12, my father taught me the fundamentals of welding and fabrication. By age 17, my knowledge of welding theory, sheet metal fabrication, and metallurgy increased significantly. At 18, my welding career launched when I received my structural welding certification and then accepted a welding position located in Baltimore, Maryland.
At that time, I also started attending welding and drafting courses at the College of Southern Maryland to expand my technical horizon. In 2014, I transitioned from a great company (Rockville Steel & Manufacturing) and accepted a federal position with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a welder. Roughly a year later, I accepted a position at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as an R&D welder under the Fabrication Technology Division (FTD), supporting the NIST Gaithersburg and Boulder campuses. Our division supports NIST’s mission to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness – and also upholds quality, integrity and dignity.
My role as R&D welder is to provide technical support for manufacturing systems and technologies to NIST clients. I use welding equipment to produce mechanical parts, instrumentation, measurement devices and welding of various material types in support of machine shop activities. Contributing to the fabrication of new metrology systems, I devise improvements to instruments, subsystems, operating welding equipment, manual machines and manufacturing technical equipment parts and assemblies from basic concepts to complex mechanical designs. In January 2018, I had the privilege of providing technical support for the installation of original copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
For the youth of today, I say to make one’s career about integrity, leadership and determination. The fate of one’s future lies in one’s own hands. Consistency to be the best version of oneself will bring about greatness beyond your wildest imagination and will reveal one’s true character.
I’m grateful for the people in my life who have influenced me, including my father Luther L. Robertson and mother Almalita D. Robertson, who have always supported me through my career journey and taught me to lead by example and be great in everything I do. Furthermore, my wife Tiffany L. Robertson always inspires me to thrive to be the best version of myself.