“My mantra for success is to do good by people. I am a firm believer that success comes to those who are dedicated and genuine to their craft, career, or life. Being pure with your intentions allows others to feel more comfortable, trusting, and secure in the service you provide them—which goes a long way in a position like HR Specialist."
Meet John E., a Human Resources Specialist in the Executive Resources Division (ExRD) who is known for the high value he places on customer service. Originally from Washington, D.C., John is local to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) headquarters and enjoys photography in his free time. He also grew up with seven siblings—so he knows a thing or two about working with others.
From study to public service
After graduating with an undergraduate degree from Towson University, John learned about the Pathways Program and participated in its Internship Program, which provides students with paid opportunities to explore Federal careers and work in agencies while completing their education.
Through Pathways, John obtained his first public service role serving as a Clerical Intern at the Department of Justice. As an intern, he was able to rotate through business units such as Finance, General Counsel, Information Technology, and Human Resources (HR).
John’s communication, understanding, and ability to listen—all pivotal to excellent customer service—naturally inclined him toward Human Resources. He believes the quality of these interpersonal skills served as a critical foundation for learning a wide range of other HR disciplines, such as agency policies, training, position management, processing, benefits, and systems management.
Learning these new skills increased his confidence. “It pushed me to further pursue opportunities as they came up,” John says, “So I soon developed the goal of becoming a full-time HR Specialist.”
Joining America's Innovation Agency
After gaining nearly five years of HR experience, John was ready to apply that knowledge to an innovative agency. When he learned about the USPTO, the impact on worldwide intellectual property excited him. “I realized I would have the privilege of providing service to those whose professional reach is far beyond the local area,” John shares.
Once at America’s Innovation Agency, that anticipated impact became real. “I’ve now been fortunate enough to work with so many brilliant individuals from diverse backgrounds. In the process I’ve also grown, due to the agency’s culture of empowering and challenging team members to provide the best possible customer service,” says John.
He considers the best part of his work to be the exposure to the different areas of intellectual property (IP) as well as individuals deeply involved with IP. “Prior to working at the USPTO I gave little thought to how the creations we use are made,” explains John, “Now, I look for the patent number on an item at the store, knowing someone at my agency contributed to it!”
But to John, the USPTO’s innovation isn’t limited to IP. “The USPTO’s employee culture is also much more innovative than any other company or agency I’ve been part of. My needs are considered, and I am able to comfortably contribute because of the resources put in place around me. That makes a huge difference in the trajectory of a career,” he says.
John describes the USPTO’s workplace culture as flexible and progressive. “I say flexible because the customer’s and employee’s needs are near the forefront of most decisions,” explains John, “I also appreciate the career growth opportunities.”
Working in the Executive Resource Division (ExRD)
As an HR Specialist in ExRD, John is responsible for providing great customer service and support to the executive workforce, specifically in the Patents business unit. That includes staffing, position management, performance management, onboarding, offboarding, processing, auditing, developing and implementing HR policies, research projects, and special requests.
“I have the privilege of communicating and providing solutions to our most senior staff. Our customers have goals, but aren’t always familiar with the best course of action to reach them,” John describes. “My job is to think creatively to satisfy those goals and ensure we’re operating within the rules and regulations of the Federal Government.”
John frequently draws upon soft skills such as emotional intelligence, communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution in the course of his work. “In ExRD, our goal is to provide the best service possible to everyone we interact with—but what that looks like can differ based on the group or individual you’re servicing. That takes skill to identify and it’s important to learn that as fast as possible,” he notes.
John also identifies ExRD’s culture as one of flexibility and transparency. There are only six professionals in the division. “The flexible culture allows us to be our most comfortable selves while positioning us to be as close as possible to our best when serving our staff,” John shares proudly.
“Leadership also considers everyone’s interests when deciding on missions or changes. In other workplaces, I was never exposed to the ‘whys?’ behind agency changes. However, here at the USPTO, leadership always seems open, honest, and considerate, which goes a long way in maintaining quality employee morale,” says John.
Soft skills you can work on every day
In his role, John has discovered that he possesses a strength in serving and meeting the needs of others. When asked what energizes him during the workday, John immediately replies, “Satisfying our customers. My goal every day is to understand what’s needed and work together to go above the customer’s expectations. I’m always excited about any opportunity I get to display what I consider to be my strengths.”
Still, his work is not without challenges, such as attempting to maintain continuity when teammates move on. “That kind of constant change can be difficult when the work is consistent. However, some of that speaks to the promotion opportunities our agency has and the knowledge employees gain in short periods of time, which are strengths of the agency,” John says.
It’s no surprise then that John’s advice to anyone looking to get into his same area of HR is to work at mastering interpersonal skills. “How you communicate and treat people goes a long way. Those are skills you’re able to refine every day without having to be in a specific career field,” John notes wisely. “Having those skills as a strength will allow you to make an immediate impact while you’re preparing yourself to contribute on a more technical level.”
Overall, John feels fortunate to work at the USPTO and to have built community at work by continuing relationships from work assignments. “Fortunately for me, these relationships have happened naturally. I’ve been able to build a community of resources all over the USPTO just by listening, providing great service, and being transparent,” he says. His colleagues, leadership, and customers couldn’t agree more.