“A relaxed schedule, countless resources to succeed, and a genuine camaraderie amongst all employees really makes the USPTO a very enjoyable career choice.”
As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas, and that sentiment is especially true for the career aspirations of Hector Leal in our Dallas Regional Office.
After only two years as a patent examiner, Hector has his sights set on someday advancing into a director role or even jumping to the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board to practice law as an Administrative Patent Judge.
Hector’s career path and experiences have prepared him well to succeed. Following military service in the Air Force, he used his G.I. Bill funding to obtain a bachelor’s degree from Texas State University. While pursuing an engineering degree, he landed a job with the top semiconductor company in the world working on, among other things, patent applications and filings. Hector always wanted to experience patent work from the "other side,” so his plan was to learn the process of searching for existing inventions, called “prior art,” before returning to work in the corporate world.
He set out to make that plan a reality through two stints in the USPTO’s student volunteer, or extern programs. With his first summer opportunity in 2016, Hector researched statutes and case law and wrote legal documents for administrative patent judges in the Dallas Regional Office. And in the fall of that same year he returned for a second opportunity but this time as a participant in the Patent Experience Extern Program reviewing patent applications and searching for prior art. But spring-boarding back to the private industry never happened. As Hector explains, “the plan somewhat backfired because now, due to the great benefits and work-life balance, I don’t have any intention of ever going anywhere else.”
Hector transitioned into full-time work as a patent examiner in 2017, demonstrating the success of USPTO student programs that leverage students’ hands-on work in examining into a steady pipeline of candidates ready for full-time employment. Hector considers his education and those student program experiences as the cornerstones of his success. He says “attending law school and passing the patent bar were both very beneficial since it translated directly with the tasks and duties performed daily in this position. Moreover, my prior experience as an extern at the USPTO certainly helps as well because I was very knowledgeable in the USPTO programs that are used to search for prior art and write office actions (application status alerts to inventors).”
As Hector also shares, the benefits and work-life balance are very attractive: “The compensatory time accrued, the earned paid time off, and the ability to flex my work schedule allows me to take over two months off a year to travel around the world.”
With these benefits, Hector also finds time to give back to his community in Dallas. He does pro-bono work with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, and having a flexible schedule allows him to attend court hearings in the mornings before heading to work. It also doesn’t hurt that the Dallas Regional Office is only steps from Federal and Criminal Courts, which is convenient to his volunteer case work unrelated to his job at USPTO.
Hector shares that the Dallas office is a “small and close-knit community where everyone seems to know one another.” He says that “it is not uncommon to run across a regional director or administrative patent judges and strike up conversations.”
Since becoming a full-time patent examiner, Hector has already received one accelerated promotion and is on pace to be eligible for a second promotion in the next few months. From the looks of it, his work accomplishments seem to be living up to his Texas-sized career aspirations.