Was this page helpful?

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. John Cortinas, Director, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory

Guest blog post by Dr. John Cortinas, Director, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory

My name is John Cortinas, and I am the director of NOAA's Atlantic and Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) within NOAA Research. The laboratory is a world leader in conducting oceanographic and meteorological research in the areas of oceanic and atmospheric observing systems, tropical storms, marine ecosystems, and ocean chemistry, particularly in the Atlantic ocean. In this position, I am responsible for leading approximately 70 federal employees who work with another 70 employees from the University of Miami and other universities across Florida at a facility in Miami.

I was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, but grew up in Omaha, Nebraska with American parents of mixed ethnic backgrounds, proudly representing previous generations from Mexico, Spain, and Germany. I received a BS degree in meteorology from Metropolitan State College of Denver, then went on to complete a Ph.D. in geophysical sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1992.

I am a member of several national organizations, including the American Meteorological Society and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science in which I am actively engaged in activities that focus on underrepresented racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities. These activities often focus on helping students and early career scientists, who are members of underrepresented minorities, learn about career options, networking opportunities, and advice for a successful career.

There are three books that are part of a series that have influenced my life significantly. The series "Conversations with God", books 1, 2, and 3, by Neale Donald Walsch, profoundly changed my life. These books helped me recognize opportunities for creating change that have led to success and happiness in my life and helped me to appreciate my interactions with others.

To me, LGBT pride month is an opportunity to celebrate the importance of diversity within our society and the workforce. Using this month to highlight accomplishments in the LGBT community helps those in the community feel accepted and those outside feel more comfortable with others that are not like them. Highlighting LGBT issues during this month can also improve broader acceptance of sexual minorities.

When preparing for a federal service career, I recommend that anyone who is interested in such a position try to talk to a federal employee about their position to learn more about it and what skills are necessary. Focus on building such a skill set to ensure you are well qualified for the position you want. In addition to meeting specific education requirements and having experience with specific skills associated with the position, anyone considering federal employment should practice their oral and written communication skills to ensure you communicate extremely well. In addition to communication, any experience that shows motivation and the ability to manage your work, including good time management, is critical to being successful. Lastly, having a positive attitude and exceptional people skills will help anyone do well when applying for federal service.

Being a career civil servant, to me, is a privilege that provides an amazing opportunity to serve and improve the lives of the American public. A career in federal service is an honor that is not easy to obtain, but worth the investment in time and effort to secure such a position.

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during LGBT Pride Month.