As Deputy Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, I serve essentially as the Chief Operating Officer of the agency. Though much of my time is spent on management, I also work on public policy, especially the challenges of expanding broadband Internet use in underserved communities and improving communications for the nation’s first responders. I am honored to play a role in addressing issues that are so vital to our nation’s safety and economic future.
My career path began early. I was born in the United States but spent most of my childhood in Bogota, Colombia, where my father’s family lives. I knew since childhood that I would one day become a lawyer because my mother always told me so. (I would like to think that she recognized in me a precocious talent for logic and deduction, but she was actually commenting on my willingness to argue a point!) I returned to the United States as a teen and did indeed go to law school. I am glad that I did because the law is a good foundation for a career in public service, though it is certainly not mandatory.
My first full-time job was in the litigation group of a law firm. I enjoyed it but wanted to practice communications law instead. While at the firm, I ran the D.C. Hispanic Bar Association’s mentoring program for Hispanic law students. It brought me to the attention of a partner at the firm, who soon went to work at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). I joined her at the FCC, where my communications policy work began.
I worked at the FCC for 12 years, serving in various management positions, including Senior Legal Advisor to former FCC Chairman William Kennard. In between positions at the FCC, I served as a staffer on Capitol Hill and at the National Economic Council. Before returning to government in 2009, I also worked several years in the telecommunications industry.
The communications policy field is interesting because it is dynamic and it affects so many aspects of daily life. When I started at the FCC, I handled issues involving payphones, new area codes, and toll-free numbers. Now I deal with broadband and Internet policy. In another decade, we may be grappling with a new set of challenges.
One challenge that I am determined we overcome is the Internet adoption gap, which persists along historic demographic lines. It has been roughly 15 years since the term “digital divide” gained national attention, but more than 28 percent of people in the United States still do not use the Internet. The situation is even worse for Latinos, who significantly lag the national broadband adoption rate. NTIA is active on various fronts to address this problem, and that is one of the most rewarding aspects of working here. The Obama Administration is committed to increasing broadband access and adoption in the U.S., which is a key ingredient for job creation and sustainable economic growth.
My career advice to young Hispanics is to pursue your passion and work hard. Volunteer for assignments, and perform them well. Join professional associations where you can help others. If you roll up your sleeves and do a good job with a positive attitude, you will be noticed.
Last, when facing an obstacle at work, I often think of advice that former Attorney General Janet Reno gave in remarks before the D.C. Hispanic Bar Association. She told us, “Don't lose your idealism.” That is especially good advice for anyone in public service. What we do can be challenging, and we must remind ourselves of why we are here. But no matter what path you choose, I hope it is one that has meaning for you.
Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce  series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.