Blog post by Stephanie Mendez, Senior Management Analyst, Office of the Secretary
My name is Stephanie Mendez, and I am a first-generation professional. I work as a Senior Management Analyst in the Office of the Secretary and am currently finishing a duel MBA from Johns Hopkins University.
My family circumstances led me to call home to more than two-dozen cities along the east coast; from homelessness and shelters to big city apartments, and small-town homes. My mother, a high school graduate, worked as a bartender. She was also a drug addict. As a result, my siblings and I learned quickly how to care for ourselves and one another. This greatly influenced a sense of courage, strength, and maturity, at a very young age.
It is due to my upbringing that I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, where I found family, belonging, standards, structure and a deep sense of drive and pride. My mentor, GySgt (Ret.) Donald Praska consistently challenged me to be better than the life I was accustomed to. He entrusted me with great responsibility and pushed me to always strive for more. His molding and mentoring allowed me to earn several distinguished awards and led me to become a Drill Instructor, where it was my honor to influence and mentor hundreds of young women.
Transitioning to a professional environment from my upbringing was an enormous adjustment. I often felt that regardless of my accomplishments or successes, that I never belonged. But, I also feel that my upbringing provided me with unparalleled drive, determination, and natural competency. I have learned to persevere under the most extreme circumstances no matter what and, more importantly, to influence others to do the same.
My upbringing has given me the ability to interact with any audience, to have grit when necessary and to always treat others with humanity and dignity.
Ed. note: This post is part of the very first Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of the Department of Commerce employees who are First Generation Professionals. First Generation Professionals are one of the first in their immediate families to enter the professional work environment. They are professionals with varying socio-economic backgrounds, life experiences, skills and talents that diversify our workforce.