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Spotlight on Commerce: Diane Farrell, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade, International Trade Administration (ITA)

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As Acting Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade, I manage the daily operations of the International Trade Administration, comprised of 2,200 colleagues: 200 plus based in Washington, D.C., more than 100 located in offices across the United States, and the remaining located in 70 offices around the world.

If there is one thing I have experienced throughout my professional life, an open mind to new opportunities has been a recurrent theme. During my career, I have been an advertising executive, a community volunteer, a mayor, a Congressional candidate, a member of the US EXIM Bank board, a senior executive at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Asia at U.S. Department of Commerce. If asked on the day I graduated from college what I would be doing years later, I could never have imagined such opportunities! Granted, I majored in American Government, so certainly some of my professional endeavors align with my academic pursuits and personal passions, but the path has been anything but a straight line.

Throughout my professional journey, I had to make choices that involved the most important part of my life – my family. I grew up in a strong family environment as the oldest of four children. My parents inspired me; my mother, a teacher and avid community volunteer, and father, a New York advertising executive who also gave countless hours to the community. My folks, along with church and being a Girl Scout, set me on a wonderful path that encouraged me to pursue challenging opportunities and to do my best to carry forward the values they embodied.

In addition to my professional interests and ambitions, I also hoped to have a family of my own and was fortunate enough to do so along with my husband, Win. At the time our two daughters were born, daycare was not as available as it is today and I stepped back for a few years until they were school-aged. Though I was at home with the kids, I looked for opportunities to be of service to my community and to keep my professional skills sharp. One thing led to another, and I found myself elected to public office as mayor of our town. Again, though I was a Government major in college, I did not imagine running for elective office! From there, many other opportunities presented themselves and I have to say that, though it hasn’t been a very predictable trajectory, I have loved each opportunity and have used every experience to build on the next.

Now in my fifth year at Commerce and in my current role as Acting Deputy Under Secretary, I have particularly come to appreciate the efforts the Commerce Department takes to provide opportunities for professional development and advancement. Like many Commerce bureaus, we are currently experiencing an exciting influx of new colleagues. It will be incumbent upon all of us to ensure that our newest co-workers are not only given the tools they need to do their current jobs well but are also encouraged to take advantage of the many programs, courses, and mentorships throughout their tenure that may in some cases result in the kind of path I have taken – not exactly a straight line, but an exciting and fulfilling professional career.  

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