"Coaching and mentoring is one of 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 Vazquez left her home and her family in Puerto Rico just two months after graduating from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaquez 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.
Now 12 years later, Arleen is 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. 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 "life line," 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 is one of 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 was 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.”