"Never allow a disability to interfere with your professional pursuits."
There’s no such word as “can’t.”
Just ask Annette, an Administrative Patent Judge at the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) who has been in the federal service for nearly 20 years. It’s a mantra that her parents taught her as a child. And as she grew, it became more of a mission.
“I have cerebral palsy on my right side,” says Annette. “But as I’ve done my entire life, I’ve kept that mantra in mind and it’s motivated me to always try to do things, albeit, in my own way,” she adds.
So when Annette decided to join the USPTO in 2004, she knew right away that her can-do attitude and personal approach to excellence would serve her well.
Annette is a proud member of the USPTO’s thriving community of employees with unique abilities. There’s nothing ‘disabled’ about her. Throughout her career in science, medicine, and now law, she has always adapted to any kind of requirements vital to a job’s success – whether they were fine motor and dexterity skills, or drafting volumes of responses to patent applications and appeals.
“I type only with my left hand,” she says.“ Over the past 13 years at the PTAB, I’ve built an adequate collection of prior written decisions that I can use as templates to draft new decisions."
When she is not reviewing cases, preparing written decisions, or participating in collaborative meetings with PTAB colleagues or colleagues from other USPTO business units, Annette dedicates her time to supporting existing mentorship and diversity programs at the USPTO.
Annette is the Vice President of ResponsAbility, the USPTO’s disability affinity group, and the Chair of the PTAB’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Committee. She appreciates the USPTO’s dedication to DEIA initiatives. As an example, she recently served as the moderator for a ResponsAbility event that included as panelists the Commissioners of Patents and Trademarks and the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity. The event focused on Agency contributions of USPTO employees with disabilities, reasonable accommodations, Schedule A hiring authority, and USPTO opportunities for inclusion.
According to Annette, the USPTO is a place where employees with different types of abilities can succeed without limitations. Her goal is to make sure that never changes.
Her advice to candidates with disabilities seeking a job at the USPTO: research the agency and available job openings, attend a USPTO career fair, and prepare a set of questions (including questions regarding reasonable accommodations) to ask a USPTO representative at the fair.
“Above all, never allow a disability to interfere with your professional pursuits,” says Annette. “As a young person,” she says, while adding another nod to the importance of mentorship and representation, “it would have been helpful to speak to professionals with disabilities, i.e., those similarly situated to me, about career and life experiences.” She adds, “as an equitable workplace that promotes the talents of persons with disabilities, the USPTO can provide that very opportunity!”
So, you now have clear and decisive instructions: 1) pursue a job at the USPTO, 2) bring your can-do attitude and unique abilities in tow, and by all means…once you land your dream job here, 3) be sure to seek out Annette as your mentor.