I am DOL: Verlencia Somuah Serves Workers With Disabilities

In our “I Am DOL” series, we’re highlighting employees who work in a wide range of roles at the Department of Labor but who all share a passion for public service.

Verlencia Somuah, a policy advisor in the Office of Disability Employment Policy, serves on a team that manages the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) and is currently on detail in the Office of the Secretary. Through EARN, employers learn how to accommodate workers with disabilities and create a more inclusive and accessible workplace for all. We caught up with Verlencia to ask her a few questions about her career path.



Q. What does public service mean to you?

Working for and with people with disabilities has always been the dream. Public service means I get to do that on a scale larger than I ever thought possible especially because the Department of Labor serves America's workforce.

Q. Were there any events or life experiences that helped prepare you for this role?

Being diagnosed with my vision disability at 14 kickstarted the work I wanted to do and how I wanted to impact the world.

I was able to use my passion to fuel how I learned and tailored my education for that goal. My grad program gave me both the education and the work experience, and then I interned at ODEP through the Workforce Recruitment Program after I graduated. (The WRP invites students with disabilities to join a portal and then employers from the federal government can look for qualified candidates to fill positions.)

The internship offered me the opportunity to transition into a full-time federal position at ODEP – and it’s the perfect job.

Q. How would you describe your experiences to help get the role you wanted?

I wrote my personal statement on how we can better include people with disabilities in the workforce and how the intersection of both race and disability impact how people move through the world. I always wanted to be working in the realm of the world of work, so I made sure to tailor my education, activities, and work experience around that to better prepare me for my career and future goals.

My goals aligned with ODEP’s mission. I truly believe and hope we will see an abundance of people with disabilities in high level and high paying roles one day. ODEP's mission to implement and influence policies and best practices to create more opportunities for America's workforce with disabilities resonates with me. I have a vested interest in that as a Black woman with a disability.

Q. What would you say to others about bringing your whole self to work at the Labor Department?

I believe a good team will make you feel at home. The team that I have has been so supportive. I get to show up every day to do my best work and work at my fullest potential with no fear and no struggle that I'm not going to be accepted.

Q. What else do you want people to know about federal employment or applying to federal jobs?

People think you have to stay for 20 years and do the same job, but there's so much opportunity for growth. I would encourage young people interested in federal service to leave your assumptions at the door – you’re not just a cog in the machine! Every day looks different for me. I’m currently serving on a detail as the equity public affairs coordinator for the Chief Diversity & Equity Officer Alaysia Black Hackett, and it’s a huge career and learning opportunity.

Also keep in mind if you see an open position you’re interested in, the job description might not mention the focus area you really want. But go ahead and apply if you’re qualified because it may open the door to a role that is a great fit.

Lastly, undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities should definitely consider the WRP. The point is not to just post a job announcement and hope that qualified candidates will find it – the point is to help employers find the right qualified and talented candidate for the job.


Editor’s note: Interested in a career at the Labor Department? Learn more about what it means to be part of our team at dol.gov/careers, and then view current openings and apply via USAJOBS.

Please note that you must meet the minimum qualifications outlined in the position description. We encourage you to describe any life experiences in your application that are relevant to the position and the mission of the Labor Department.