Spotlight on Commerce: LaRita Jones, Division Chief, Office of Human Resources, USPTO
Guest blog post by LaRita Jones, Division Chief, Office of Human Resources, USPTO
LaRita Jones, Division Chief, Office of Human Resources, USPTO
Black History Month is a time to honor and show gratitude to African Americans who have made contributions – whether extraordinary or minute, well-known or untold – to better humanity in some way. It is a time to express pride as we reflect on a heritage full of triumph over the harshest of adversities and celebrate innovations we have made in the arts, science, and technology and our achievements in politics and business. It is a time to remember the Black heroes of the past while uplifting our heroes of today.
A personal hero of mine is my father, Carl Ross. He was a career Army soldier who served two tours in Vietnam and retired as a master sergeant. He performed his duty with the highest work ethic and took so much pride in defending his country, even when fellow soldiers and officers did not treat him as their equal. I admire him for leading a life of bravery, honor, and integrity despite all the barriers to equality that he faced.
I remember him meticulously pressing his uniform and polishing the toes of his combat boots so perfectly that I could see my reflection. My father taught me that education was the top priority and that hard work starts with showing up and ready to work hard every day. He said that being a committed, responsible individual who can be trusted is important, particularly when things are not fair or favorable. I have leaned on all that my dad taught me about having integrity and dignity, showing up every day, working hard, and treating others with respect – even when I did not receive the same in return.
That advice was especially relevant when I attended the University of Washington to earn a degree in Sociology. There were few African Americans enrolled here and it was not always easy. As a way to connect with other students of color, I joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and volunteered in communities with other Black sororities and fraternities.
It was through this sisterhood that I gained a deeper understanding of, and reverence for, my African American heritage, which is filled with heroes who continue to break barriers still today. With immense pride, I have witnessed the election of the first female, and first African American vice president Kamala Harris, who is also a member of our illustrious sorority.
Seeing my father give his entire career in service to his country and then joining an organization rooted in service to humanity, a career in public service was a natural fit for me. Currently, I serve as the division chief of a high-functioning team of human resources professionals responsible for recruitment, classification, and staffing consultation in support of the Patents business unit.
I extend my father’s advice to my employees and I can see in their work ethic that they share the same passion as I do for connecting top Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) talent with fulfilling careers at the Commerce Department’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Careers in government are more progressive, inclusive, and agile than ever before. Opportunities today seem limitless compared to when I started my own government career. And I am proud to work at an agency that champions diversity and inclusion in the way that the USPTO does.
We are constantly striving to increase recruitment and retention among underrepresented populations as part of one of our agency’s key strategic goals to “recruit, enhance and sustain an engaged workforce.” As we continue to build deeper and more meaningful relationships to attract, hire, and retain talent from historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic serving institutions, tribal and community institutions, and women in STEM organizations, it is my hope to see the USPTO significantly boost each of these employee groups in the years to come.
I also hope that my work in some way—whether extraordinary or minute—inspires students at those institutions who may not yet grasp that their personal and professional opportunities are indeed limitless, thanks in large part to the contributions of African Americans in this country.
Each celebration of Black History Month means that there is another opportunity to celebrate African American heroes. Hopefully, it also motivates and encourages future generations to value themselves and fully appreciate all they can become.
Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce African Americans during Black History Month.