Phyllis B.

Project Manager

The leadership training I received in the military prepared me for this role at the USPTO. This is a great place to work – the opportunities for growth are endless.” 

Open to opportunity

Phyllis Black wasn’t actively searching for a post-military job when she attended a career fair the month before her military retirement in 2014. However, after 25 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving in four different states and another four countries, she was looking for more stability for her family.

Black attended a job fair in Fort Belvoir to see what types of jobs were available, and when a USPTO recruiter approached her to ask what she wanted to do after her military retirement, she said she didn’t know. She’d served as an administrator and career retention specialist in the service and earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration but hadn’t considered next steps yet.

“The only preparation I actually did was get my resume together,” she said. “I knew that I had marketable skills from my military service and that I had the ability to do whatever job I set out to do. I think the skills we learn in the military set us up for future success.”

USPTO experience

The USPTO agreed that she was set for success; two weeks later, they called to schedule a job interview. Two days later, they called with an additional interview for a position in a different department. Black accepted a role as a program analyst with the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer. Later, a special project turned into a career pivot and a promotion. 

“The Chief Administrative Officer asked me if I’d be willing to take on this project of moving 10 million patent and trademark files from one of our warehouses,” she explained. She accepted the task, completing it in 18 months and discovering that she really enjoyed managing large-scale operations.

Her success at managing the project spurred her to request training as a project manager, leading to her current role.

As an Office of Administrative Services project manager at the USPTO, Black is responsible for a wide array of projects throughout the agency. For example, “I have overseen construction, furniture replacement, clearing of buildings, and relocating large numbers of employees. In a typical day, I am tracking large amounts of data and resources,” she said. “I like the independence of project management, and every day is different.”

The transition from military to civil service

Many of the skills fostered in the military have translated to civil service, she said, citing adaptability, dependability, and leadership.

“The leadership training I received in the military prepared me for this role at the USPTO. This is a great place to work – the opportunities for growth are endless.”

Aside from the work itself, she has found the work environment at the USPTO to be incredibly positive.

“The quality of life, the work-life balance, and the opportunities to grow have been invaluable,” said Black. “Work-life balance is everything after coming out of the military, and the ability to work from home with the USPTO has allowed me to maintain that balance.”

One of the most difficult parts of leaving service, she said, was leaving behind the camaraderie and fellow service members. It’s no surprise, then, that her favorite part of her job is “working with many different people throughout the agency. I love my colleagues I work with and for. We have great diversity as an agency, too, with all sorts of people, from all backgrounds.”

Her advice to veterans interested in civil service? 

“My biggest piece of advice is to go to job fairs. Job fairs are where federal agency recruiters are, and they know what specific positions they are seeking for their agencies. They are able to refer your application to the hiring managers for that position, if you meet the requirements for that position and are eligible under one of the special appointing authorities for veterans.”