Guest blog post by Jolene Lau, Communications Specialist, Pacific Islands Regional Office, NOAA Fisheries
Aloha, I'm Jolene Lau and I handle media and public inquiries for NOAA Fisheries' Pacific Islands Regional Office. As the Communications Specialist for the region, I also work closely with subject matter experts. I ensure that our communication products are reaching our target audience and comply with agency policies. I am part of the directorate division, meaning that my projects contribute towards protected resources, habitat conservation, sustainable fisheries, and international fisheries, as well as operations, management, and information.
I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, and my grandmother, Edith Lau, is the person that influenced me to be who I am today. She was a hard-working Christian woman who taught me the value of waking up early, preparing the family store before customers arrived, and being a humble servant. At the precious age of 91, she was still donating rice to and feeding the homeless—two activities that I carry on in her memory.
I also carry the values she taught me into my current work in the government. Being a public servant in today’s workplace means that our customers are our first priority. If the media is my "customer," then I am quick to provide an accurate response in a timely fashion to meet their deadline. This is reflective in the media relationships I have developed—they know they can call me anytime for any question. After all, being a 27-year career civil servant means that I am held accountable for my roles and responsibilities. I take pride in my work and do the best that I possibly can.
Additionally, I am proud of my Chinese heritage and faith. In my spare time, I actively participate in the First Chinese Church of Christ in Honolulu. As a member of "Women of Worship," I help to lead our bible study group of about 20 women. We are all on a spiritual journey to encourage each other, and our community, in a meaningful way. I am also a lifetime member of both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Blacks in Government. These are national organizations with Hawai‘i chapters. I serve on the executive board for both of these community groups, focusing on equality and mentoring members in a professional capacity.
Throughout my professional life, I have encountered a handful of mentors who have influenced my federal career. My very first supervisor, Marsha Gery, was the Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. She held that post when I started employment in 1993 as a part-time student trainee. Marsha encouraged me to study communications at the University of Hawai‘i, from which I hold a degree in Communications with a minor in speech. She has watched me grow professionally and personally. While she enjoys retirement on the mainland, I remain in close contact with her. We continue to discuss our mutual passion for communication in the federal government. She is still instrumental in guiding my career path over all these years.
To help guide the careers of others, I have participated in countless career fairs and class presentations for all ages. There is one piece of advice I always share with today's youth who are interested in a career in the federal government: Keep studying hard and have a stellar work ethic. I encourage them to focus on what they enjoy doing and then master it. Whether it's for science, technology, engineering, or math, communication is instrumental in all professional fields.
What has been particularly instrumental in my professional (and personal) life is a quote from "Kingdom Woman," by Tony Evans and his daughter, Chrystal Evans Hurst. The quote reads:
As a Kingdom Woman, you have a right to fully experience your destiny. You do not have to live doomed to disappointment."
Powerful, right? I know my worth!
Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month to me means the legacy of my great grandparents will continue to flourish. I'm grateful for their hard work and dedication to community service, as those characteristics carried on through the generations and shaped who I am today.
Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series showcasing the vast and diverse work of Department of Commerce AAPI employees during Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.