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Spotlight on Commerce: Pam Smith, Administrative Director for the Chicago Regional Office, U.S. Economic Development Administration

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during Women's History Month.

Guest blog post by Pam Smith, Administrative Director for the Chicago Regional Office, U.S. Economic Development Administration

I am very honored to participate in the Department of Commerce’s celebration of Women’s History Month. I joined the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) in October 2017 as the Administrative Director for the Chicago Regional Office. In this role, I serve as the administrative advisor to the Regional Director and Area Directors, in the areas of human resources, budget justification and execution, information technology, procurement, property management and facilities management. I also oversee the administration and program analysis for the region’s Partnership Planning Program and Environmental/Disaster functions.

Prior to joining EDA, I served in various leadership roles in human resources within the U.S. Department of Labor, including Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Program Manager in the Office of Employee Engagement. Positions I held in other agencies are Acting Director for the Federal Executive Board, Chicago Region; HR Director for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Chicago Region; and Regional HR Programs Specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration, Chicago Region.

I received my Bachelor of Arts in communications/public relations from Towson University and my Masters in Business Administration from DePaul University. I started my federal career, as many have, working as a college summer intern in the Washington, D.C., area. I was fortunate to continue working in the government with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation while attending graduate school in Chicago. After graduate school, I held several human resources positions in the private sector with the Southland Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and Lyondell Basell, before returning to federal service.

I was born in Grambling, Louisiana, then moved to the Prince George’s County, Maryland, area where I spent my teen and college years. The saying, “It takes a village….” truly applies to me. I was influenced and mentored by my mother, my aunts (especially, my aunt Virginia Garner), as well as other women in my church, community, school and work. I am very thankful for their ongoing support, advice and encouragement.

It is because of the lessons learned in my youth, that I believe and live by the words, “Unto whom much is given, much is required.” I apply them in every aspect of my life, by reaching back and giving my time and talents to help others succeed. One way I do that is by volunteering and mentoring with several organizations. On the professional side, as a member of the Society for HR Management and a certified Senior Professional in HR, I volunteer for various organizational events and mentor individuals interested in a career in HR or obtaining their certification. In addition, I serve as a mentor and member of the DePaul University MS HR Advisory Council, helping to prepare the next generation of business professionals and leaders.

Within my community, I was recently recognized as the 2018 Citizen of the Year, in appreciation for my years of service, dedication, and leadership as a volunteer. Currently, I chair of our Sister Cities Committee, which partners with our sister city Cat Island, Bahamas, to provide educational and cultural exchanges between our communities. And, in line with this month’s focus, my true passion is mentoring and volunteering with organizations and programs geared towards helping teen girls and women. In past years I served as a leader in my church’s mentoring program – G.R.A.C.E. – “Godly young women Reaching After Charm and Elegance”. I am also a current volunteer with Dress for Success and the Glass Slipper Project.

My advice for today’s female youth would be: Find something you’re passionate about and pursue it. You should love the journey you’re on! – Find a mentor; they provide invaluable advice, support, and insight. Be confident but not arrogant; you want people to be drawn to you, not avoid you! Most importantly: love and believe in yourself! Be your own cheerleader, when no one else will!

Finally, this month especially, let us remember, recognize, and honor women who have and are making a difference in the workplace, home and community and inspire the next generations of leaders and trailblazers.