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Blog Category: Spotlight on Commerce

Spotlight on Commerce: Michelle A. Crockett, National Program Manager EEO and Diversity, NOAA National Ocean Service

Spotlight on Commerce: Michelle A. Crockett, National Program Manager EEO and Diversity, NOAA National Ocean Service

As National Program Manager for Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service (NOS) I serve as the principal advisor to the Assistant Administrator, Deputy Assistant Administrator and other senior management in fostering the principles and practices of NOS’ Diversity Program, and its Equal Employment Office (EEO) Program, and to assure compliance with affirmative action laws and regulations.  I formulate, develop, recommend, and implement policy, procedures and programs in collaboration with NOS Program and Staff office representatives.  I am responsible for planning, developing, and implementing NOS EEO program and diversity activities, which includes; coordinating all phases of policy analysis, planning, implementation and communications to support NOS EEO and diversity management initiatives. The most important function of my position is I have the opportunity to work with both managers and employees to seek resolution for conflict occurring in the workplace. 

My life has been shaped from experiences I had growing up in the small southern town of LaGrange, GA.  My parents instilled in me the importance of a strong work ethic and education, cultivated in a faith centered home. My parents experienced discrimination and they were always aware of its existence, but they would never allow me to use it as an excuse for not working hard to achieve success. My father’s favorite quote was, “hard work is its own reward” and I have to agree that these words have served as the catalysis for my success.  I received my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration for Georgia Southwestern University and my Certification in Equal Employment Opportunities Studies from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University. 

I began my federal career within the Department of Defense, Defense Commissary Agency as an Accounting Specialist, but my true passion for equal rights and opportunities lead me to my position here at NOS.  It may sound like a cliché but I truly love my job.  No two days are the same and every day I have the ability to foster and generate a greater awareness for organizational diversity.  People are diverse in many ways.  We all have a number of differences that offer substantial opportunities and possibilities to make organizations successful and our world a better place.  When we accept our differences and learn to work with them, we enrich our lives and improve the creativity and productivity of the organization.  Hence, when we are able to fully embrace and implement an effective diversity strategy whereby everyone feels validated the need for enforcement policies are diminished. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Spotlight on Commerce: Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to building a middle class economy in honor of Black History Month

Guest blog post by Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development 

Outside of my parents, the most influential person in my life was the late Bishop Norman L. Wagner.  Bishop Wagner served as the pastor of the church I attended virtually my entire life.  Some of his most powerful lessons focused on service to others and living a life of purpose.  One of Bishop Wagner’s quotes that continues to resonate with me today is that “significance is paramount to success.” Those words have guided me in my career and life. I strive to do things that have significance and affect real change. 

After graduating from Youngstown State University in my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, with a business finance degree, I worked in the banking industry for several years, until leaving to pursue a career in public service – leaving to pursue significance.  In 2005, I was elected as the youngest and first African-American mayor in the City’s history.  I am proud to have been given the opportunity to help change the dynamics and the conversation about Youngstown.  Not just because it’s my hometown, but also because the issues facing Youngstown were not unique. My work at EDA allows me to focus on critical issues that affect distressed communities like Detroit, Michigan; Gary, Indiana; Fresno, California; and rural areas such as Conover, North Carolina. 

As Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, I have the privilege of leading the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which is the only federal agency with a mission focused solely on creating economic opportunities in distressed communities throughout the United States. Distress is something I understand on a very personal level. 

It strikes me as somewhat poetic that I was born and spent most of my life in a community that was, for many years, defined by economic distress. Youngstown was often at the center of the U.S.’s “post-industrialization” debate for nearly three decades due to its historic economic dependence on the declining steel industry. While the city still faces many challenges, in recent years, it has become defined less by its problems and regarded more for its recovery efforts. 

In my role at EDA, I often travel across the country and am afforded the opportunity to meet people from various backgrounds. They may differ in age, race, and wealth, but they share a common thread - a shared sense of purpose and a desire to create better prospects for their communities and themselves.

Spotlight on Commerce: Cecelia V. Royster, Director, Office of Acquisition and Agreements Management, Bureau Procurement Official, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Spotlight on Commerce: Cecelia V. Royster, Director, Office of Acquisition and Agreements Management, Bureau Procurement Official, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to building a middle class economy in honor of Black History Month

Guest blog post by Cecelia V. Royster, Director, Office of Acquisition and Agreements Management, Bureau Procurement Official, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Black history month has a special place in my heart. When I began my federal government career 30 years ago with the U.S. Coast Guard, it was when I learned of the many inspiring accomplishments of African Americans. There was Captain Richard Etheridge, who became the first African-American to command a Life-Saving station in North Carolina in 1880, and Captain Michael Healy or “Hell Roaring Mike”, who took command of the revenue cutter Chandler in 1877. During his 20-year career, Captain Healy was the United States Government in most of Alaska where he acted as judge, doctor, and policeman to Alaskan natives, merchant seamen and whaling crews. And more recently, Admiral Stephen Rochon, the first African-American to serve as Chief Usher of the White House, was a good friend and mentor to me during my Coast Guard career. Black History month allowed me to cherish my heritage, and appreciate the contributions of these great men. 

So I’m especially honored to share my own story of a career in public service this month. 

I was born in Washington, D.C. of parents from the mountains south of Lynchburg, Va., who believed in and demonstrated the values of integrity, attention to detail and above all, a strong work ethic. Both of my parents worked and retired from lifetime careers in the federal government and my father, a decorated Korean War Veteran and U.S Army retiree, insisted that our home stress the values of family accountability and devotion to duty and country. 

I grew up singing in the choir and being a member of the junior usher board at our family African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. As a young teen, I attended Kittrell College, which was a part of the AME church, every summer for a one week summer session which provided young African American students with an introduction to African art, poetry and highlighted the careers of successful African American entrepreneurs, physicians, scientist and educators. 

Currently, I am the Director of the Office of Acquisition and Agreements Management (OAAM), and the Bureau Procurement Official (BPO) for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) where I oversee the full range of the $1 billion acquisition and financial assistance activities awarded for NIST and seven client Bureaus under the Department of Commerce to support ongoing programs, operations and mission objectives.  NIST technological research activities - cover an incredibly diverse range of disciplines including  bioscience, health care, chemistry, neutron research, nanotechnology, information technology, , manufacturing, public safety, energy, physics, cybersecurity and computer technology laboratory practices for all aspects of advanced science. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Joann J. Hill, Chief, Office of Business Development, Minority Business Development Agency

Spotlight on Commerce: Joann J. Hill, Chief of Business Development for the Southeastern Region, Minority Business Development Agency

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to building a middle class economy in honor of Black History Month

Guest blog post by Joann J. Hill, Chief, Office of Business Development, Minority Business Development Agency

I am a native of Columbia, South Carolina and a graduate of Benedict College with a BS in Business Administration. I also received a Masters of Business Administration from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. After college, I began my career with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2000, I joined the MBDA Atlanta Regional Office and have been with the Department of Commerce for 14 years.  I began my career with MBDA as a Business Development Specialist and was eventually promoted to Chief of Business Development for the Southeastern Region. My next promotion relocated me to the MBDA National Headquarters in Washington, DC in 2012 where I currently serve as Chief of the Office of Business Development. In this capacity I oversee the Office of Business Development and serve as the lead federal program officer for the nationwide network of MBDA’s 44 Business Centers.

I lead the effort within the agency to promote economic opportunities that expand the growth and competitiveness of minority business enterprises (MBEs) across America. I am responsible for the creation and implementation of strategies for business development in the areas of: access to capital, access to contracts; access to emerging domestic and international markets and global supply chains.  We also actively engage strategic stakeholders like national chambers of commerce and trade associations in collaboration on policy and programs. 

For three consecutive years, I have served as Conference Director for the National Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week Conference, the nation’s largest federally sponsored conference on minority business enterprise. This conference is held annually in Washington, D.C. and attracts over 1,000 attendees. Traditionally, we have hosted officials from the White House, including the Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of Commerce, Cabinet Secretaries and a host of CEOs from MBEs and Fortune 500 firms.

My role at the Department of Commerce has a direct impact on improving the U.S. economy and expanding opportunities for all Americans. Through MBDA’s programs and initiatives, more than $6 billion in access to contracts, capital and export transactions have been generated over the past year - resulting in 30,000 jobs created and retained. This economic infusion contributes to the expansion of the middle class and growth of the American economy.  

My personal leadership philosophy and core guiding principles are:  vision, courage, teamwork, and a commitment to excellence; accountability, clear mission, faith and a relentless work ethic rooted in integrity.

Spotlight on Commerce: Tommy Wright, Chief, Center for Statistical Research and Methodology, U. S. Bureau of the Census

Tommy Wright, Chief, Center for Statistical Research and Methodology, U. S. Bureau of the Census

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to building a middle class economy in honor of Black History Month

Guest blog post by Tommy Wright, Center for Statistical Research and Methodology, U. S. Bureau of the Census

Since joining the U. S. Census Bureau in January 1996 as a research mathematical statistician, I have provided the overall technical leadership for the Center for Statistical Research & Methodology (formerly Statistical Research Division). The Center for Statistical Research & Methodology is the Census Bureau's statistical and methodological research and consulting facility.  CSRM researchers are engaged in collaborative work applying known statistical methods and in research for new and better statistical  methods motivated by practical problems using tools from two key areas: mathematical statistics and statistical computing. Our statistical methods include: (1) methods that can link hundreds of millions of records in one data set with hundreds of millions of records in another; methods to bring better modeling to the internal processing of data from sample surveys and censuses, including data visualization; methods to compensate for missing data when respondents do not answer all questions on a questionnaire; methods to make inferences about finite populations (e.g., of people or of businesses) using data from probability samples; methods to produce reliable estimates of characteristics for small levels of geography or small subpopulations when the sample sizes for these areas are very small or zero; methods to seasonally adjust economic time series; and methods to test new or improved operations using computer simulations or designed experiments.

A key aspect of my role is helping the Census Bureau define statistical problems and finding excellent researchers  to work on them.  My colleagues and I work in collaboration with other Census Bureau staff as well as through interaction with academic, industrial, government, and other researchers. I recruit, develop, and maintain a core staff of researchers with expertise in statistics, statistical computing, and mathematics. The problems and collaborations in my work are a constant source of stimulating challenges that are especially rewarding when research results are used and published.

Between 1979 and 1996, I was a research staff member of the Mathematical Sciences Section at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where my research focused on probability sampling and estimation, the design of sample surveys, and elementary applied probability and combinatorics.

Spotlight on Commerce: Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico

Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Guest blog post by Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico

My name is Jose F. Burgos. My nickname is Pepe and I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. My mother was from the town of Aguadilla in the west part of the island, and my father was from Humacao on the opposite side of the island. I was raised in Aguadilla by my mother and brothers after my father passed away when I was four years old. When I was 13 years old, my mother and older sister passed away in a car accident. Then I was raised by one of my cousins and their family. I have one brother who lives in Baltimore and we are very close. I was blessed to grow in a very family-oriented environment surrounded by my cousins and friends.

At first I wanted to be a doctor, but when I start studying and got to physics and organic chemistry, I realized medicine was not for me. I decided to study business, but I was not sure what kind of business. I decided to study international business with the main purpose to obtain a job to travel around the world.

Eleven years into my career, I realize how big international business can be – that it is more than traveling and is a daily learning experience. I worked three years in the Puerto Rico Trade Company and I have been currently working for the past eight years as Director of the U.S. Commercial Service in Puerto Rico. 

My passion for international commerce grew during my academic years, ultimately leading to my earning a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in International Business & Marketing from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico and a professional development certification from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in International Trade Policy.

It has been a rewarding and amazing opportunity to be able to do what I always wanted to do and work in the field that I studied. 

Since 2006, I have been working as Director of the US Department of Commerce for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. I have assisted companies from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in exporting to countries around the world, and provided advice with all the logistic components, including market intelligence, trade counseling, business matchmaking, and advocacy/commercial diplomacy support.

My support has helped companies survive difficult economic times and helped them be among the companies that are creating new jobs for residents in the islands.

Spotlight on Commerce: Aaron Trujillo, Associate Director For Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Spotlight on Commerce: Aaron Trujillo, Associate Director For Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Guest blog post by Aaron Trujillo, Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Commerce

As the Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Commerce, I carry two responsibilities; handling the issues of Economic Development, Skills Development, and Manufacturing and serving as the Acting Senior Advisor for Native American Affairs Policy. The Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs (OLIA) supports the Secretary on all matters pertaining to the Department’s relationship with Congress, state/local elected officials, territorial and tribal governments.    

Before coming to Commerce, I worked in the U.S. House of Representatives for five and a half years. There I served a Member of Congress in his capacity on the House Natural Resources Committee as Ranking Member of the Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee, and later, as a distinguished member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. During my time in the U.S. House, I also served as Senior Policy Advisor on Rural Development, Energy, Environment, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and Native American Affairs policies.

While working here at the Department of Commerce, I have been given the great opportunity to utilize my expertise to assist the Department and the Administration in advancing initiatives to build a stronger American economy. Our work here at the Department truly embodies the notions of opportunity, action and optimism because we work daily with businesses, organizations, community leaders, and elected officials at the local and national level to find opportunities that will create the conditions for economic success. 

I was raised in El Rancho, New Mexico, a small farming community just north of Santa Fe, NM.  As a child, I was influenced by the time honored traditions of my rural community and developed a deep respect for diversity in culture, language and the inherent connection between agricultural communities and natural resources. My upbringing has always been a driving force behind my work and advocacy in government.

Spotlight on Commerce: Sara A. Rosario, U.S. Census Bureau

Spotlight on Commerce: Sara A. Rosario, U.S. Census Bureau

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Guest blog post by Sara A. Rosario Nieves, U.S. Census Bureau

As the Census Scientific Advisory Committee coordinator, I help determine Census Bureau operations and programs that need scientific advice. By working with the committee — established by the Secretary of Commerce as an advisory body to the Census Bureau director — I help engage some of the nation’s top economists, statisticians, researchers, geographers, sociologists, engineers, political scientists, demographers, and operations managers on ways to advise us on streamlining processes without compromising quality and use proper technologies all while saving taxpayer money.

The President’s State of the Union Address this year centered around three key principles: opportunity, action, and optimism. I too will use these three words to describe my 10-plus years as a federal employee.

Opportunity: While pursuing my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Puerto Rico, I noticed that years of specialized experience were required for entry-level positions on the island. I was astonished but continued studying and looking for work opportunities. Part of my studies included a semester-long industrial management internship with the master scheduler of Bristol-Myers Squibb pharmaceutical in Mayaguez. One of my professors then told me about a summer internship opportunity with the Department of Commerce, which led me to Washington, D.C., in 2001. Upon completion of my MBA, I accepted a job with the Census Bureau. Though I was eager to learn new things and yearned to hear fresh ideas, this geographical move was not an easy decision but thinking back now on the incredible experiences I have had and the professional growth I have gone through, I know I made the right decision. While at the Census Bureau, I have completed the DOC Aspiring Leaders Development Program and obtained a Masters Certificate in Project Management from George Washington University. In 2011, the Department of Commerce honored me with its Gold Medal Award for helping lead the 2010 Census partnership program, which engaged 257,000 national and local organizations with $1.2 billion in value-added contributions to the overall census effort.

Action: One of the most enjoyable aspects of my civil service work is mentoring young individuals who are looking to expand their skills and for advice on how to reach their maximum potential. Last month, I was a panelist for the Paths for Success session of the Government Leaders for Tomorrow (GL4T), where nationwide selected science and technology students with diverse economic, social, academic and cultural backgrounds come to D.C. to learn about life as a federal government employee. The conversations with the mentees, along with recruits I regularly meet on campus, help me understand the vast capacity of the next generation to work alongside seasoned and experienced talent and contribute to the department’s innovation and reengineering goals. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Efrain Gonzalez, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer, BusinessUSA

Efrain Gonzalez, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer, BusinessUSA

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Guest blog post by Efrain Gonzalez, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer, BusinessUSA

I currently serve as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer at BusinessUSA, a Presidential Initiative and partnership between the Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration. Our mission is to help American entrepreneurs, businesses owners and executives successfully start and grow their business by making it easier for them to find and access the right government resources. Put simply, my role as part of BusinessUSA is to make sure people, money and strategy come together to achieve this mission.

From my first days at Commerce, I have been privileged to serve on initiatives and projects aimed to either directly serve the needs of businesses or assist the agencies that directly serve U.S. businesses. Prior to joining BusinessUSA, I served as Chief of the Office of Business Development for the Minority Business Development Agency where I worked on the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Recovery Projects and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. For me, it’s this type of mission-driven work that we do here at Commerce that connects me to my roots as a first-generation American growing up in East Los Angeles and Montebello, California, a suburb just east of LA.

My father was an entrepreneur who owned a service station. Like many kids of hardworking business owners in this country, I spent my weekends working with him to support the family business. I watched him succeed, and I watched him struggle. I saw his commitment to his employees and how the responsibility of making his payroll sometimes weighed on him. Later, when I took over managing the business for a short time, I felt the weight of that responsibility myself. But, I think that just like many Mexican immigrants to this country, my dad thought that all those long days and weekends were a fair price for the opportunity to build a better life for his family. His hard work gave me the opportunity to attend good schools and eventually graduate from the University of Southern California (USC). My years running the family business helped to build the foundation that my career at Commerce and before that, at USC, has been built on.

Spotlight on Commerce: Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to the Open for Business Agenda Strategic Plan.

Guest blog post by Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

I was born in Saigon, five years before the Vietnam War ended. My family made a tough decision, one that benefitted me for a lifetime. My mother, five aunts, one uncle, four sisters and I were airlifted to the U.S. as Saigon fell. When we arrived in Chantilly, Virginia, we had very little.  But, we had each other, the support of a local church and our public school. My mother and aunts taught us about our Vietnamese and Chinese heritages, which fortunately centered around great food. Just as important, they pushed us to learn English and become thoroughly integrated in the American experience. I’ve been given the opportunity in my lifetime to take the best from both worlds—from my Asian heritage and from the rich diversity that is America. The values I extrapolated from both backgrounds are so similar and are shared across the globe—dedication to family, hard work, respect of others and their cultures and faiths.  I’m as likely to watch a Washington Nationals game with either Vietnamese banh mi sandwich or a hot dog.

I graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in history, high hopes and no job.  I’d like to tell you that I’m here because I executed each element of my master plan perfectly or that I had good fortune. But, opportunities don’t just happen without context. I applied hard earned skills and landed an internship at the White House. I worked hard to perfect my technical skills, becoming expert on every administration department and agency.  I became a valued member of the team, in large measure, because no one else wanted to do the huge volume of detailed, non-political, technical work.  But I learned something else even more valuable—that leaders in politics are often in short supply, peace and prosperity don’t just happen and that enlightened leadership was more critical than the technical aspects of my work. I was genuinely willing to learn from those I believed were the best leaders, and they were willing to share their experience and wisdom with me. I got hooked on Washington and this inexplicable political world in which we operate.