Martha - Roadmap to Immigration Office Director
Updated: Aug 12, 2020
What do you do for a living? I recently retired as the Field Office Director for the Chicago Field Office, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security.
What does a day at your job look like? Managing the day to day operational activities in the office, meetings, utilizing resources, personnel actions and making sure that the mission of the Agency is carried out in a professional manner. Making sure individuals applying for Immigration benefits are entitled to them in order to protect our nation. Some days might include a time sensitive or high profile case that has Congressional and/or media attention. Other days consisted of administering the oath to candidates who applied and were eligible for naturalization and granting them United States Citizenship.
What path did you take to get here? Secretary with legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service -->Promoted to an Immigration Inspector at O'Hare Airport after having to pass a 16 week course in Georgia -->Left the position due to my mother being diagnosed with Alzheimer's and making the decision to spend more time with my son -->Returned as a temporary Adjudications Officer and eventually converted to a permanent position -->Promoted to a first line Supervisory position, second line Supervisory position and then to Field Office Director.
What are the Challenges of your job?
1. Balancing resources to ensure a work-life balance while meeting the goals set forth by Senior Leadership.
2. Generational differences.
3. Ensuring your staff has the training and tools to perform their job in an efficient and effective manner.
4. Handling difficult situations with professionalism.
What are the blessings of your job?
1. Having a great staff that understand priorities change at a moment's notice and willing to work through those challenges.
2. The impact you have on the individual's life applying for Immigration benefits.
3. Being the person authorized to administer the oath - which is the final step before the individual becomes a United States citizen.
4. Being a part of your employee's career path and seeing them grow professionally.
What 3 characteristics do you have to possess or develop to do your job well?
1. Respect for everyone regardless of their position.
2. Ability to know your employees and building a relationship with them. They need to trust you and believe in you as a leader and know you are sincere. Be able to engaged.
3. Accountability - Employees and the public need to know you are going to be responsible for your mistakes. They need to know their leaders are human.
What 3 steps would you recommend to someone if they’d like to do what you do someday?
1. If you enjoy interacting with people and are not afraid to make decisions, go to www.usajobs.gov. There are numerous government agencies waiting for someone like you.
2. You should always have a positive outlook on life, take a chance on opportunities you are afforded and don't be afraid to network.
3. Believe in yourself and share your knowledge.
4. Respect, listen and be kind to others.
I was fortunate and blessed to have several people believe in me, guide me and give me opportunities to achieve the position I retired from. I was a woman who did not have a college degree and I'm a single mom who left a career and returned to it.
I will always be proud that I was the first Hispanic woman to hold this position in the Chicago Field Office and it was my honor to serve the public and employees as a Federal employee for over 30 years. They were my success.
Good luck and thank you for reading my career path.