Spotlight on Excellence: USDA Frontline Supervisor Wanda Fuentes

Have you ever considered employment with USDA? Do you have misconceptions about the necessary qualifications to become a food inspector? This week, I wanted to spotlight an extraordinary woman I met while increasing my leadership skills. If you are employed in the Philadelphia district, you may already know her. If you have ever met her, you can definitely never forget her! She has a winning personality, a warm smile, and a get-it-done spirit. Allow me to introduce to some, and present to others, Frontline Supervisor Wanda Fuentes.

I submitted the following 10 questions to Ms. Fuentes, and she answered each candidly:

1. Are you a college graduate?

No, I have a GED. (Number two was left blank since it referenced college and major)

2. If so, what school did you attend and what was your major?

3. If not, how did you hear about Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)?

I worked at a large federally inspected facility that produced a variety of Ready-to-Eat (RTE) and raw products where I worked beside consumer safety inspectors (CSIs) who rotated to the facility every six months. The CSIs were my recruiters.

4. What was your first assignment? How long were you in that position before promoting? Were there any organizations or offices held that contributed to your ability to promote?

My first assignment with FSIS was in the Philadelphia District as a GS-5 food inspector in a large swine slaughter and processing facility in Hatfield, Penn. A year later, this facility was introduced to HACCP Inspection Models Project (HIMP), and I was transferred to a cattle slaughter facility in Souderton, Penn. I was in this position a little over five years (from 1999-2004) before promoting. No, I was not involved in any other organizations within the government.

5. How long were you employed in private industry before becoming a federal employee? What positions did you hold in private industry?

I was with private industry about three years (from 1996-1999). I began on the third shift as a quality control and sanitation technician and, within a year, I was bumped up to 1st shift as a floating supervisor for QA and production.

6. Are you a mentor? Were you mentored?

I am a mentor, but not officially. I was not mentored, officially. However, I believe everyone who’s crossed my path at one point or another during my career and has given me a minute of their time, has somehow mentored me, and for that I’m very grateful!

7. How do you maintain work/life balance?

This is a great question. Sometimes, I ask myself the same thing. I can tell you that I have a daughter who has taught me to maintain work/life balance very well. We practice routines that help, too, such as no phones while eating at the dinner table, coffee time, reading time and, my favorite, cuddle time.

8. Is/are there any training opportunities you would suggest to govies looking to further their career?

Yes!! Any and ALL the training and opportunities available via Center for Learning, AgLearn, Wednesday NewsLine, conference calls, emails, or our own agency team members and other agency team members, etc. There is so much information out there and available training opportunities that we can learn from; we just have to be receptive to the information and willing to learn!

9. Are there any organizations (outside of the government) that helped your career growth?

I’m thankful for my industry experience.

10. What advice do you have for incoming millenials?

Love anything and everything you do. Anything and everything you do, do it with love and never give up!!

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Dr. Dawn Walters, EIAO/SPHV

This is a excellent article Adrienne! Thank you so much for sharing as I agree Wanda is a great candidate to feature and I wonderful person that I enjoyed meeting as well. Congrats Wanda! You are an awesome inspiration.