Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during Hispanic Heritage Month.
Guest blog post by Nestor Ramirez, Technical Center Director, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is one of those amazing places in government you may not be familiar with. The Patent Examining Corps, in particular, is filled with over 9,000 scientists, engineers and other professionals who labor every day to reward our nation’s drive for creativity and innovation and in turn contribute to the development of our economy.
I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At at the urging of my parents, I decided to seek my college degree in the mainland U.S. where I obtained B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Florida Tech. I certainly did not know much about the patent office until they came to visit my school campus about 29 years ago. I signed up for an interview and shortly afterwards, got an offer. Getting a job at the USPTO was, of course, the first opportunity this agency would give me but it would not be the last. At that point, I knew one thing, I was heading to Washington D.C. to begin my career at the USPTO!
I started working as a Junior Patent Examiner examining applications in photocopying machines. As an examiner, I saw the transition of an entire industry into the digital age. I saw them transition from basic analog machines into systems with digital capabilities. I saw the proliferation of image editing, color capabilities and the advent of ink jet and laser printers. Fellow examiners in other groups were seeing patent applications on digital cameras, cell phones, televisions and millions of other inventions that would eventually change the world and the way we live. Most great inventions start with a patent and working at the USPTO gave me the opportunity to see technological innovation up close.
Over the years at USPTO, I have served as a Primary Examiner, Supervisory Patent Examiner, Executive Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner and Director of the Office of Patent Automation, where I was responsible for numerous patent automation initiatives. Currently, I serve as a Technology Center Director and am in charge of overseeing the operation of 15 examining units composed of about 250 employees in the area of Cryptography and Cybersecurity. Technology Center Directors exercise administrative and technical authority over a patent examining group. I am responsible for the comprehensive planning and management functions essential to effective patent examining group operations as well as maintaining quality, timeliness and quantity performance standards. I also perform functions related to human resource management, training, career development and patent examining practice and procedures. This position has given me the rewarding opportunity to contribute towards improving the operation of the office at its highest levels.
During my career, I had the opportunity to serve as a managing partner in charge of overseeing the USPTO’s transition to a paperless environment. In this role, I was able to expand my education and mentor hundreds of examiners and see them grow into successful professionals. This job also allowed me to become the first Hispanic Senior Executive in the USPTO helping shape the future of the office. In addition, I also had the opportunity to join the Computer Science (ComSci) Fellowship Program participating on a one year assignment to the Executive Office of the President where I was assigned to the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House and served as the Executive Director of the National Science and Technology Council. Growing up in Puerto Rico, I never ever thought that someday I would shake hands with a President of the United States.
Whether you examine patent applications or work in another branch of government as a federal worker, we have the opportunity to help the United States become a more prosperous nation. Every single day we have the opportunity to make a difference!
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate our Hispanic culture and heritage and recognize the many contributions Hispanic Americans have made to our nation. We come from many different backgrounds; South American, Central American and the Caribbean, we have very diverse histories, and very strong ties to family and to our ancestral homelands. We are an integral part of the diverse fiber of this country. We have had a significant role in our nation’s history and will have an even greater role in shaping its future. We are embracing that responsibility.
As I reflect on my experience, I have enjoyed the benefits of opportunities and most importantly, I see the promise of opportunities for our future generations, opportunities for a great career and opportunities to make a difference. The Department of Commerce and its bureaus and offices provide vital services to our nation and they are brimming with opportunities for future generations to enjoy a bright career and a prosperous future. Opportunities are out there and it is up to us to take advantage of them.