Blog post by Michael Marangell, Commercial Attaché, U.S. Foreign Commercial Service, U.S. Embassy Beijing
It still catches me off-guard when I realize that 2020 marks 10 years of Federal service, and all of it with the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration (ITA).
I joined ITA after graduating from The George Washington University with a Bachelor of Business Administration and spending two years at a small consulting firm. Two consulting clients were foreign trade associations and I thought “man, wouldn’t it be really cool to do this work for the Federal government?"
In early 2010, I found an online application for the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service just after it had closed, but looked for other open ITA positions on USAjobs.gov. A few months later, and not really knowing what I had gotten myself into, I started work as an International Trade Specialist in what was then the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Trade Promotion/Director General of the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service. This role gave me a chance to understand the way in which our team, both domestically and internationally, works to promote economic development through international trade.
In 2012, I transferred to the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Chicago, and in 2019, took on the role of Commercial Attaché for Education and Tourism in Beijing. I had never been to Chicago or Beijing before taking positions in either city. That’s part of the appeal in working for an organization like ITA – there are hundreds of cities, in the United States and abroad, where ITA staff work to support U.S. exporters, but both the work and experience in each one will be different.
It was during my time in Chicago that I met my now husband Zach. I’d been waiting on the roster of Foreign Commercial Service candidates for more than two years at that point, and had nearly given up when we met. On our first date I was told that, if the job offer ever came, I was taking it and he was coming with me. He might have been joking then, but he did get on the plane to China with me when the time came last year.
As COVID-19 cases grew locally, Mission China was put on Authorized Departure status and I returned to Washington, taking a detail to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) where I have been helping better connect our overseas field with FEMA’s efforts to secure critically needed personal protective equipment including masks, gowns, and gloves. Additionally, I have been working with interagency colleagues to fairly implement a Presidential Memorandum and a FEMA Temporary Final Rule, both of which restricted the export of personal protective equipment.
My career has consistently offered new challenges, as well as personal and professional growth. For us in the LGBTQ+ community, there’s often a split second where you’re not sure how someone will react when they realize you’re gay, much less when you introduce your husband. At ITA, in Washington, in Chicago, and at overseas posts, I have felt accepted and supported by colleagues and partners at every step. In Beijing, we even made plans to jointly celebrate Pride and the International Day Against Homophobia with representatives from other embassies, and were supported by U.S. companies wanting to celebrate the contributions that LGBTQ+ employees make to their teams.
Ten years ago, I couldn’t have expected where my job would take me – or that I’d spend years waiting for paperwork to clear so I could transfer to the Foreign Commercial Service only to get routed back to Washington because of a pandemic. But, that brings me to the advice I would give to any younger professional interested in Federal service: aim high, serve the public good…and don’t forget to take Pride in the unfolding adventure that is your career.