Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
Guest blog post by Laura Shin, Deputy Chief, Federal Assistance Law Division, Office of General Counsel
During this Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we recognize the cultures and contributions of the approximately 16.6 million AAPIs that reside in the United States. AAPIs represent over 30 countries and ethnic groups and speak over 100 different languages. The AAPI community is definitely rich in diversity.
My story in the United States began when my parents came to America in the 1970s and, like so many immigrants, hoped for a better life for their children. After saving enough money to invest in a business, they started a trophy and awards store in Los Angeles. I saw first-hand the struggles, late hours and stresses of being a small business owner. Operating a business while learning a new language was difficult, but their resilience and tenacity as immigrants allowed them to create a new path, invest in a new opportunity and provide a decent life for my family.
Because of my parents, I was able to go to college and then law school and eventually become a public servant as an attorney for the federal government. I started my legal career at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a grants attorney and then moved to the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC). Currently, I am the Deputy Chief of the Federal Assistance Law Division in the Office of General Counsel's Office of Administration and Transactions. In my present role, I provide legal advice on the approximately $1 billion in grants that the Department of Commerce awards to state and local governments, universities, non-profits, and other entities on an annual basis. While at the Office of General Counsel, I had the opportunity to participate in and graduate from the Department of Commerce's Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program, which allowed me to increase my leadership and management skills and also work with the Minority Business Development Agency, the Deputy Secretary's office, and the Office of Human Resources and Management (OHRM).
During my time at Commerce, I also have been part of establishing a new AAPI employee resource group at the Commerce Department headquarters. In January 2017, I worked with other employees and the Diversity and Inclusion Director in OHRM to launch an AAPI employee resource group that supports the Department in addressing issues of interest to the Commerce Department AAPI community and to foster professional development and networking among its members. This group will serve as a resource to the Department and other interested individuals or groups and help support the Department's overall goals and mission. This group, like other employee resource groups, provides resources to its members and ultimately works to support employee engagement, recruitment and retention.
For those that are interested in public service, I would encourage you to get involved in the many opportunities to grow and learn as a leader in the federal government and to give back through different avenues. For me, my passion lies in helping facilitate federal funding for the public to help grow the economy, in enhancing my leadership skills to meet the agency mission, and in strengthening employee engagement within the agency. Get involved and be passionate about the opportunities around you to give back to our country.