"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). 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 nearly ten years ago, 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 can only type with my left hand,” she says. “Over the past six years at the PTAB, I’ve built a sufficient collection of prior written decisions that I use as templates to draft new decisions.”
When she is not reviewing cases, preparing to write a decision for a case or participating in collaborative teleconferences with her PTAB colleagues about patent cases, Annette dedicates her time to supporting existing mentorship and diversity programs at the USPTO – all the while paving the way for new ones.
Annette is currently working with the agency’s ResponsAbility affinity group to establish a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) mentor program between disabled professionals at the USPTO and disabled high school students from local school districts.
“Helping to establish this STEM mentor program has not only given me the opportunity to become involved with the community, but it has also encouraged me to pursue additional career opportunities that will enrich the USPTO’s culture of diversity and inclusion.”
Recently, Annette was accepted into Georgetown University’s Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Management Certificate Program, which is a six-month course that equips professionals with the skills, tools and insights to help them lead and support long-term, strategic diversity initiatives at their organizations. Annette was drawn to the program’s premise that “diversity contributes to [the] richness [of an] organization by having a variety of views, approaches, and actions to use in strategic and tactical planning, problem solving, and decision-making.”
According to Annette, the USPTO is a place where employees from all walks of life can succeed without limitation. 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, “it would have been enlightening to speak to professionals with disabilities about career and life experiences.”
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.