"Coaching and mentoring are the most fulfilling parts of what I do."
Let’s face it. It can be a bit scary to leave everyone and everything you’ve ever known to strike out on your own after college and start life anew. Beginning a job in a new city, finding a new place to live, and making new friends can all be daunting. And to do all of that – in a different area of the country no less—not only takes a leap of faith; it takes courage.
So in 2005, when Arleen left her home and her family in Puerto Rico just two months after graduating from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez to begin her electrical engineering career as a Patent Examiner at the USPTO, she fully expected that things wouldn’t be easy. But she also bravely recognized this decision as the biggest moment in her life.
“I was nervous about leaving at first,” recalls Arleen. “But then once the formal offer came in, I talked to my parents, friends, and professors about the opportunity and they all supported it – so I decided to go for it,” she adds.
Arleen then became a Supervisory Patent Examiner (SPE), which means that she coaches and mentors the next generation of entry-level Patent Examiners in the field of Semiconductors. She has now been a SPE for 10 years, with opportunities to try new things via details in between.
In 2018, she served on a detail as a Senior Advisor to the Assistant Deputy Commissioners (ADCs) for Patent Operations and the Office of the Commissioner of Patents. She provided management advice and assistance; conducted special projects and assignments, and analyzed data and results; and represented and coordinated activities for the Office.
Then, from 2019-2021, she served on a different detail as a Tech Center Operations Manager (TCOM) for the Tech Center (TC) 3700 Directors. As an advisor to the TC Directors, she fostered innovative ideas to support timely and efficient processes and the quality of examination products; and provided high-level technical and management advice for the achievement of patent examination goals and objectives for the TC.
After the details, she returned to be a SPE, but to a different art unit in the data processing area.
Arleen remembers her first few months at USPTO with only three weeks of examination training under her belt. She recalls how critical it was to have a built-in support system of Primary Examiners, who Arleen considers her "lifeline," coached and mentored her alongside two other new employees in the same art unit who also hailed from Puerto Rico.
She mentions how important those early stages of oversight, guidance and camaraderie are for new employees; and how meaningful it is now for her to pay it forward.
“We listened to what they taught us and then we were empowered to share our own perspectives and challenge ideas about our cases,” she says. “Now as a SPE myself, coaching and mentoring are the most fulfilling parts of what I do. I love being able to impart what I know to new examiners and to be the kind of ear to them that Nestor and the other Primaries were for me.”
Those kinds of sentiments to give back reverberate throughout the agency. New employees, especially those plucked from abroad, are instantly thrust into a challenging environment where expectations for excellence and quality are high. According to Arleen, those that can adapt, are ready to work hard, sacrifice, and bring with them an open mind to seek support and help – ultimately succeed.
“USPTO is the perfect place to help me grow,” says Arleen. “Everyone is open and willing to help regardless of who you are. It doesn’t matter if you are Black, White, Hispanic or Asian – or if English isn’t your first language – we are all one team. And for that, I’m grateful.”