“One of the United States' competitive advantages over the rest of the world is the innovative spirit that enables us to develop new products and continue to lead the world in scientific discovery and technological innovation. The USPTO acts as the mechanism to protect those new ideas and ensures the system grows to be more diverse and inclusive. I wanted to be a part of an organization with such a critical mission.”
Legacy of service
Kennith decided in college that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. A Vietnam veteran and former CIA employee, his father didn’t talk about his service but told Kennith from an early age, “Do your part to ensure that flag never falls.”
Kennith smiles as he recalls that he originally understood his father literally, looking at the American flag in the house. “As I grew older, I started to understand exactly what he meant. He wanted me to always commit to my country and contribute in any way I could,” he says.
While attending Niagara University, New York, Kennith joined the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), balancing the responsibilities of military officer preparation with his studies in political science and criminal justice. When the time came to select his military occupational speciality (MOS) in the Army, he chose to become an armor officer (a tank platoon leader), although he was only ever in a tank in training capacity. Instead, he was designated a cavalry officer, focused in forward reconnaissance and surveillance on the battlefield.
Kennith was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom twice and served 15-month deployments each time. He held numerous positions during his deployments--scout platoon leader, executive officer, human resource officer, and civil affairs officer. After his second deployment, Kennith changed to a logistics role.
“I wanted to broaden my skillset in the military and [the logistics role] was my first opportunity in the military to work side by side with women, because when I served, combat arms units were only open to males,” he explains.
Kennith is quick to highlight the many Army experiences that influenced his professional path, saying, “The Army was instrumental in my development and who I am today. It embedded in me that taking care of people is paramount and dedication to mission is critical.”
He also appreciated the growth mindset: “Learning in an environment where you can make mistakes and learn from them is critical to personal progression and the military afforded me that.”
As he advanced and took on more leadership, Kennith says he had to deliver unbiased decisions, explaining that “the best thing I can do for leaders and employees is to give them my objective opinion and lay out how it’s going to help them solve their challenges,” a trait that serves him well in all his roles to this day.
Parenthood encouraged Kennith to make a difficult decision.
“When I had my first child, it changed my perspective on a host of things,” he says. “I wanted stability for my family and I wanted roots in Virginia, so I decided to leave the military service I loved.”
Kennith accepted a position as an operations manager and continuous improvement engineer at a commercial refrigeration and freezer system manufacturer. This new job helped him develop skills he would later leverage at the USPTO.
“After four years of manufacturing, I wanted the opportunity to serve my country again and I started looking for opportunities within the federal government,” he said, adding that he was attracted to the USPTO for three reasons—the role itself, the agency’s mission, and the campus.
First, the job opening in the Office of Process Improvement appealed to Kennith’s experience as an operations manager and continuous improvement engineer, allowing him to leverage his passion for helping others solve their business problems. He explains that he finds immense satisfaction in helping create better structured and aligned organizations, which allows for more efficiency and overall better value for the customer.
Second, the agency mission was also appealing.
“One of the United States’ competitive advantages over the rest of the world is the innovative spirit that enables us to develop new products and continue to lead the world in scientific discovery and technological innovation. The USPTO acts as the mechanism to protect those new ideas and ensures the system grows to be more diverse and inclusive. I wanted to be a part of an organization with such a critical mission.”
Lastly, the USPTO campus is “so beautiful, it sealed the deal,” he says, adding, “I knew I had to be a part of the USPTO community.”
Kennith quickly found success as a Senior Business Process Analyst at the USPTO, helping business units and offices with problem-solving using strategic management and Lean Six Sigma methodologies, leading to increased customer experience, productivity and employee experience. In his first seven years with the agency, he led more than 80 business improvement projects.
“I have added value to the organization during my time here, but I have learned so much more,” Kennith is quick to assert. “The organization allowed to me showcase my skills and help solve business challenges and allowed me to learn, grow, and develop professionally throughout my tenure.”
One of the ways that he has grown is taking a balanced approach to life and work, transitioning from “working as hard as you can and as long as you can” to a work-life balance that “improves performance and productivity, and reduces burnout. Working [at] the USPTO allows me the flexibility to commit necessary time to various portions of my life as needed and allows me to be as productive as possible.”
Kennith says what has kept him at the USPTO for almost eight years is the people.
“I’ve built some long-lasting relationships here and worked with some extremely smart and dedicated professionals,” he says. “The other critical piece that makes USPTO special is the agency’s commitment to supporting and sponsoring affinity groups. At the USPTO, we have a united purpose and strive to be a culture of inclusivity and diversity, and the integration of the affinity groups is a way the USPTO solidifies the culture.”
As a proud member of the USPTO Military Association (UMA), Kennith believes the agency’s continued support “is an emphatic sign to all potential veteran candidates that this is a place where you are welcomed and supported.”
In the future, Kennith hopes to continue to advance to positions that can add value to the organization and engage with leadership to solve problems.
“The USPTO is a special place and if you want to continue a life of service in an organization that is dedicated to its mission and people, then USPTO should be your next professional home.”