Assistant Secretary for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service: Who Is Ray Jefferson?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

President Obama has nominated an injured veteran to head the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), which provides resources and services to help veterans locate grants, training and employment opportunities, and to assure their right to return to a job after completion of military service. Born circa 1970 and raised in Guilderland, New York, Raymond M. Jefferson has considered Honolulu, Hawaii, his home since 1995. Jefferson graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1988 with a major in leadership. He served as an Army Officer with leadership positions in the Presidential Honor Guard, Army Rangers and Special Forces. In 1995, while attempting to protect his teammates from the premature detonation of a hand grenade during Special Forces training, he lost all five fingers on his left hand. After recuperating in Honolulu, Jefferson attended Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, earning an MPA in Strategic Management in 1998. He then earned an MBA in 2000 from Harvard Business School. Upon graduation, he was selected as a White House Fellow and worked as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Commerce in 2000 and 2001. In 2001 and 2002, Jefferson used a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Singapore, where he focused on how public sector leadership is exercised in that city-state’s multicultural environment. 

 
Jefferson began his career in government in 2003, when he was named as the Deputy Director for the State of Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). He was the first person of African-American descent to serve in a cabinet-level appointed position in Hawaii. Serving at DBEDT through 2004, Jefferson co-led a major reorganization for the department, which had more than 230 employees and an operating budget of $182 million. In 2004, Jefferson left public service for private sector work as a leadership consultant, culminating in his work for McKinsey & Company in Singapore, from 2006 to 2008, where he created and delivered leadership training and development programs for clients and offices throughout Asia. His focus areas were organizational change, inspirational leadership, top team development and peak performance. He is a member of the Asia Society, the Fulbright Association, the NAACP and the Special Forces Association.  
 
Jefferson is conversant in Mandarin, French and Arabic. A Democrat, Jefferson donated $2,500 to Democratic causes in 2004 and 2008, including $250 to Democratic National Committee in 2004 and $2,250 to Barack Obama in 2008. 
-Matt Bewig
 
Raymond M. Jefferson, Leadership on the Line (by Mary Ellen Gardner, Harvard Business Bulletin)

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