Own Your Journey: No One Is Going to Plan Your Career for You

12:30-1:30 PM ET – Lunch Keynote Session

The only people who might care more about your career than you do are your loved ones. That might sound harsh, but it’s true. Your manager, as good as they might be, is more likely to focus on your performance than on your professional development. You must do it yourself. In this keynote, you will hear how to own your career journey and learn what steps you can take to map it out.


Ms. Jessica S. Palatka is the Director of Human Resource Management and Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) and a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES), responsible for providing leadership, developing policies, and directing programs in all aspects of human resources and human capital management and administration for all bureaus of the Department of Commerce (DOC), covering nearly 52,000 employees located in all 50 states, every U.S. territory, and more than 86 countries.

Concurrently, Ms. Palatka is an Adjunct Associate Professor for the University of Maryland, Global Campus, where she teaches undergraduate courses in Human Resources and Business.

Ms. Palatka earned a Bachelor of Science cum laude in Management Science and Statistics, Decision and Information Technology in 2000 and a Master of Science in Human Resources Management in 2006 from the University of Maryland. Additionally, she earned a post graduate certificate from Cornell University in Human Resources in 2007. Ms. Palatka is a 2019 graduate of the Department of the Navy Bridging the Gap (BTG) Leadership Development Program, a 2018 graduate of the Navy Senior Leader Seminar (NSLS), a 2017 graduate of the Federal Executive Institute (FEI) and a 2012 graduate of Leadership Southern Maryland (LSM).

Previously, Ms. Palatka served as the Chief of the Human Resources Operations Center (HROC) for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Ms. Palatka also served as a Senior Leader (SL) while working as the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) and Director, Human Resources Directorate (HRD) for the National Defense University (NDU). She also served as the Director of Human Capital Strategy for Sustainment for the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). Additional roles Ms. Palatka held at NAVAIR include Business Intelligence and Data Analytics Division Head and Recruitment and Retention Program Analyst for the Total Force Strategy and Management Department (TFSMD). Prior to her time with NAVAIR, Ms. Palatka held the titles of Director of Recruiting, Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) Manager, Operations Manager, College Recruiting Coordinator, and Systems and Software Engineer.

Ms. Palatka has received numerous honors and awards, including an Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration (CFO/ASA) Bronze Medal Award in March 2023, Joint Meritorious Civilian Service award in April 2021, Meritorious Civilian Service awards in August 2019 and July 2017, the Human Capital Management Government (HCMG) award for Best Workforce Development Program in December 2017, and the 2014 Department of the Navy (DON) Civilian Human Resources Community Awards for Excellence (Command).

Ms. Palatka holds the Human Resources Certification Institutes’ (HRCI) certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) license. Ms. Palatka also holds a Level III certification in Life Cycle Logistics, a Level II certification in Program Management, a Level I certification in International Acquisition, and a Green Belt Lean Six Sigma Certification.