"My detail as a Regional Outreach Advisor helped me to develop a diversified skillset that prepared me to move to the next level of my career."
At first, it may seem unexpected that someone with a highly technical background in computer science, applied mathematics and applied physics who has been a patent examiner since 2008 would pursue a short-term, non-technical role to advance in their career.
But it was a strategic move for Matthew Fry to apply for a detail as a Regional Outreach Advisor (ROA) in USPTO’s Rocky Mountain regional office to develop intangible skills such as professional networking and public speaking that would complement his technical know-how and align with his career aspirations. Turning out just as he expected, the 5-month rotation in outreach was a perfect fit.
“I don’t shy away from activities that challenge me, expand my skillset and reside outside of my comfort zone,” he says. Matt was not only intrigued by the challenge of the ROA detail, he reveled in the opportunity to obtain a broader perspective of the USPTO and how it engages members of the IP community.
“Regional Outreach supports the USPTO’s mission by educating stakeholders about intellectual property (IP) listening to their ideas, and being able to suggest solutions and create programs that best address stakeholder needs and concerns,” says Matt. The position kept him extremely busy and engaged.
At any one time as a Rocky Mountain ROA, Matt planned multiple events across the nine states within the region coordinating with various internal and external stakeholders along the way. He actively investigated potential outreach opportunities and partnerships to connect the USPTO to states within the region that may not have had much interaction with the agency. Or if USPTO leaders were traveling to a particular city for a meeting, Matthew identified local innovation groups, bar associations, or IP organizations, with whom the leaders could meet to build strategic outreach itinerary that optimizes each touchpoint for future outreach and engagement.
In addition to increasing IP awareness, Matt also found ways to increase exposure of the various programs and initiatives that the USPTO offers. He worked with university schools of engineering, schools of law, and technology transfer offices to provide speakers and resources designed to enhance students’ and faculties’ understanding of IP and the patent system. He has also partnered with entrepreneurial organizations and participated in StartUp weeks to educate small business owners and inventors on the importance of building an IP portfolio. His role also entailed promoting the USPTO’s services including Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs), the Pro Bono Program, the Pro Se Program and the Inventors Assistance Center.
So what is the key to being a successful Regional Outreach Advisor?
“Consider the USPTO as a whole and what the agency means to various stakeholders.” Matthew believes that it’s important to read the agency’s public-facing documents, like the USPTO Strategic Plan 2014-2018, news clips and blogs, and attend town halls and quality summits. All of these mediums paint a big picture of how the USPTO fosters innovation and economic development in America.
That big picture perspective paid big dividends for Matt. Following his detail as the Rocky Mountain ROA, Matt transitioned into a new role as a Patent Review Quality Assurance Specialist.
“My detail as a Regional Outreach Advisor helped me to develop a diversified skillset that prepared me to move to the next level of my career,” he says. Adding to that outcome, Matt also says that USPTO offers so much more than just employment. Yhe agency is diverse and provides a comfortable, flexible work environment while setting employees up for success. According to Matt, the USPTO also has a very healthy work life balance where an employee’s professional life and personal life complement one another perfectly.
“Every Friday, I’m excited for the weekend, but by Sunday night, I’m looking forward to the work week.”