Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during Black History Month.
As the Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity (OEEOD) at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), I provide strategic direction and guidance in carrying out the Agency’s equal employment opportunity and civil rights initiatives.
In June, I will celebrate a decade as the Director of OEEOD. Among my most proud accomplishments is the organizational transformation of a small Civil Rights office nestled within the agency’s administrative directorate, to a new Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity. Through this organizational transformation, I became the principal advisor to the Under Secretary and Director of the USPTO on equal employment opportunity, reasonable accommodation, civil rights compliance and diversity strategies.
Prior to becoming the Director of OEEOD, I was the Supervisory Attorney Advisor and Assistant Director of the USPTO’s Office of Civil Rights from July 2003 until June 2008. Before joining the USPTO in 2003, I served as a civil rights attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Office of Federal Operations, where I drafted hundreds of federal sector appellate decisions adjudicating the merits of complaints of employment discrimination, and provided training throughout the federal sector on civil rights law. Previous to my federal service, I was a trial attorney for the City of Baltimore, Maryland.
I earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from Florida State University in 1993 and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Missouri in 1996. I am a member of the bars of the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland. In 2008, I completed Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Senior Executive Fellow program. I entered the Senior Executive Service in 2012.
I am a second-generation federal executive. My father’s jobs in the U.S. Army and the Foreign Service required us taking up residence in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monrovia, Liberia, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Alexandria, Virginia, to name a few places. I admire my father’s professional accomplishments rising out of poverty in Portsmouth, Virginia, to achieve two consecutive, Senate-confirmed, ambassadorial appointments to the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of Liberia. Despite all of this moving around, I consider my mother’s hometown, Columbus, Georgia, home. Growing up, she was the most influential person in my life. She always expects more than what can immediately be seen. I believe that to be one of the most important characteristics of effective leaders.
I struggle with providing career advice because I think of my career as being unconventional. Here are two pieces of advice for young professionals. First, work hard trying to leave more than you take – this is the only way to pay back the sacrifices which led you to a place of remarkable opportunity. Second, appreciate the counterintuitive fact that the greater your reputation for selfless service, the more likely you are to receive promotion and recognition.