Celestine M. Pressley is the Chief Information Officer at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) leading Information Technology for the agency’s foreign and domestic offices.
Ms. Pressley was born in Kentucky and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. She received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. She also earned an MBA from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina as well as an MDiv from Howard University.
Ms. Pressley joined USTR in December 2018, after nearly a decade at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). She received several awards for her innovative thinking and outstanding work managing several teams responsible for all aspects of Enterprise Information and Data Management. Before transitioning to public service, Ms. Pressley worked as a federal consultant for 10 years.
“I’m proud of providing solutions and helping others do their job efficiently,” Pressley says about her work.
Her passion for helping others doesn’t stop there: Ms. Pressley is also a certified Federal Executive Coach. She uses her coaching skills to help other federal civil servants reach their professional goals and full potential.
She draws inspiration to help others from her grandfather, late Rev. Dr. J.D. Dash. Before becoming a minister, Rev. Dr. J.D. Dash owned a successful construction company and worked with the state of South Carolina. That contract was rescinded when he supported a petition to end school segregation for his children. That’s when he got the call to be a minister.
He became a Baptist preacher on the frontlines fighting for Civil Rights, and was a founding member of the Denmark chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAAPC). He saw the fruits of his work when, some years later, his children (including Ms. Pressley’s mom, Jacqueline Dash) were the first kids to integrate then Orangeburg high school in Orangeburg, SC.
“His story tells me that I can do anything in life regardless of the circumstance, and that I shouldn’t settle for less,” Pressley added. “Black History Month represents a time of painful reflection on the atrocities my family experienced during the Civil Rights Movement.”
During Black History Month, Ms. Pressley says she’s reminded of their sacrifices to make sure she had more opportunities to excel in life. “It also inspires me to keep striving for greater accomplishments while opening the door for others to grow as well. The entire lineage pushes me to continue to fight for equality not just for myself but for others, because when we have a diverse workforce, we have diversity of thought and that produces the best work product. I really believe in it.”
Pressley concluded by saying, “I am grateful for the opportunity to share my journey. Everyone has a story to tell and it’s important to acknowledge and recognize every employee as a whole in addition to their professional accomplishments.”
Ms. Pressley lives in Washington, DC and is the mother of one phenomenal son, Joshua Aiden Pressley.
Editor note: this blog post is part of our Black History Month series highlighting the accomplishments and contributions of Black employees at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.