“My favorite part of the job is the great people--continuing to learn from them and being able to help them succeed each day; it's similar to taking care of soldiers. The USPTO has an inclusive culture and a culture of providing growth opportunities.”
From Army JAG Corps to IP law
After more than 29 years of Army service, Troy satisfied his desire for continued public service at the United States Patent and Trademark (USPTO), where he has worked for the past nine years.
Troy joined the Army as a private and retired as the Judge Advocate General’s Corps Regimental Command Sergeant Major, overseeing more than 4,000 paralegal specialists. After initially being hired as the USPTO’s first Chief Clerk for the Patent and Trial Appeal Board (PTAB) and later serving as the PTAB’s Administrative Officer, he now serves as the Board Executive, a position in the Senior Executive Service.
In his current role, Troy is responsible for PTAB operations and administration—everything from hiring and training to budget and data management—for nearly 400 judges, law clerks, paralegals, and support staff in five office locations as well as many remote and teleworking employees all over the United States.
Troy says he had plenty of exposure to various fields of law as an Army paralegal specialist but was initially attracted to the USPTO because of its focus on intellectual property (IP) law. Military law professionals rarely work in IP, but the new field wasn’t the only reason Troy stayed at USPTO.
Culture of growth and inclusivity
“My favorite part of the job is the great people—continuing to learn from them and being able to help them succeed each day. It’s similar to taking care of soldiers,” he says. “The USPTO has an inclusive culture and a culture of providing growth opportunities.”
The agency’s inclusive culture extends to more than 40 voluntary employee organizations, like the USPTO Military Association (UMA), which provides fellowship, mentorship, and support for veteran employees and others who wish to participate. “The UMA teaches people about veterans and what they bring to the table,” says Troy. “It gives non-military members an opportunity to learn about military service from veterans.”
The importance of team and work-life balance
Sometimes transitioning service members aren’t certain if their skillsets translate to roles outside of the military, but Troy cites three key skills that the military fosters that translate to civil service: resilience, team building, and leadership. Troy has had to use all those skills at the USPTO.
“When the pandemic began, I was in a leadership role [at the USPTO] and had to keep people together as we reacted to the crisis. We went from in-person trials and hearings at all of our locations, including the regional offices to max telework overnight, but we transitioned to virtual within less than a week without missing a beat,” he says. “My military experience—dealing with adversity, focusing on the mission, and bringing teams together—set me up for success.”
The USPTO, he says, takes the time to train and mentor junior employees. “It’s a culture of collaboration, rather than a culture of competition here. Whereas in the military, you might be competing against your peers for a promotion, here people are promoted based on their own merit. It’s a different mindset.”
Troy plans to stay at the USPTO until retirement for many reasons, including the work-life balance, which is “absolutely critical, especially after military service and the pandemic,” he adds. “Work schedules are flexible, so you can fit your work around just about any family schedule. This an amazing agency with a tangible mission. You can go as far as you would like in your career and you can also have a life.”