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Spotlight on Commerce: Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, USPTO

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.

Guest blog post by Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

As the Chief Administrative Officer for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) I am responsible for the delivery of all administrative service support functions for the USPTO including human capital strategy, human resource management, telework policy and programs, facilities management, safety and security, transportation, asset and records management.  I am fortunate to work with a team of nearly 200 professionals in the delivery of these vital services to our colleagues at the USPTO.  My team and I pride ourselves on being a customer-centric and service-oriented team.  

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and when I was nine years old, after one particularly bad Cleveland winter, my mother, grandmother and I moved to Boca Raton, Florida. So I really grew up there.  I am a proud graduate of Boca Raton Community High School.  

After high school, I attended Duke University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in economics. Growing up near the water led to being interested in a career with the U.S. Navy. I was a member of the Duke Navy ROTC battalion and upon graduation was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. My first station was as part of the commissioning crew of the USS Vandegrift (FFG-48). I later went on to serve as Second Company Officer at the U.S. Naval Academy and Executive Assistant to The Commandant of Midshipmen. I left the Navy in 1989 and went to work as a junior consultant for Coopers & Lybrand and while working earned a Master of Business Administration from The George Washington University. Today, I am married to my partner of 20 years, Robert Murphy, and we live in the District of Columbia with our black lab, Sammi Jo.

I have been very fortunate in my life. That has made me believe strongly in giving back, doing what I can do to help others and to help make this world a better place. During the AIDS crisis of the '90s I joined the Board of Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry (NOVAM), a local non-profit dedicated to prevention, education and direct services to those living with HIV/AIDS, and to helping their families. I took over as Executive Director of NOVAM in 1995 and served until 1997. 

Having been forced to end my Navy career prematurely because of being gay, equal service opportunities for all of our servicemembers has always been a passion of mine. I was a member of the Board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and was privileged to work for and witness the repeal of "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell." I am currently serving as the president of the Duke LGBT Network, a university alumni affinity group engaged in the university’s efforts to create, sustain and enhance a fully inclusive environment for LGBT students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends of Duke University. I am also a member of Foundry United Methodist Church which is a reconciling congregation leading the fight for full equality and inclusion of LGBT members.

The variety of experiences in my life and career so far have provided many lessons, wonderful mentors and a variety of perspectives on life. As a child I was inspired by my single mother, grandmother and great aunt moving into uncharted waters as we forged a new life in Florida. I will forever be inspired by my step-father who was a deeply faithful person, overcame adversity and dedicated his life to the service of others. 

One of my life mentors, a former commanding officer, taught me his philosophy of command: “safety, training and fun.” He emphasized the importance of remembering fun at work, in addition to getting the ever-important basics right. From my private sector experiences, I will always be mindful of competition and that customers and clients will walk if you aren’t the best and the best value. These experiences and more had significant influence on my life and have made me what I am today and I apply them all the time to my work at the USPTO.

My role at the USPTO deals directly with the attraction and retention of top talent to our agency. I truly believe that there are few places that offer more responsibility and opportunity than in the federal service. As I reflect on my duties at the USPTO, I have been influenced by many books and other studies. One of the most profound for me is elegant in its simplicity. FISH, by Stephen Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen, is about a fish market in Seattle, Washington that has become a guiding light in employee engagement and customer satisfaction. Their four timeless tenets are: Choose your attitude, Play, Make their day, and Be present. 

To me, Pride Month is a time to celebrate the amazing strength and resilience of our LBGT brothers and sisters and our straight allies and friends. It is also a time to reflect on where we have come from, the struggles and trials that we have overcome and a call to action to rally and defeat the remaining challenges to full equality.   

To those considering a career in public service, know that the government is a great place to begin a career.  The Department of Commerce and the USPTO are organizations where you can make a big impact on our country and the world in so many ways. Even if you aren’t considering public service, find a place and a career where you love the work and can be yourself. At the USPTO, and throughout the Department, we not only embrace diversity, we celebrate it. Diversity is a key to our success and a very real part of our business strategy. Work hard, ask questions, listen, think, learn, be resilient, have fun and choose to have a great day and great life.

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