Chief of Staff, Associated General Contractors of California
This story is part of our Young Professionals issue from July 2021. To subscribe, click here.
Juliana Almanza, chief of staff for the West Sacramento-based construction association Associated General Contractors of California, was born in Le Grand, a point on the map in Merced County. Less than 2,000 people live there, mostly agricultural workers of Mexican and Central American origins. They tend the farmland that surrounds Le Grand on all sides.
“If you come from a small town whose parents are field workers, you feel like you have been left almost miles behind,” says Almanza, 33, whose parents emigrated from the Mexican state of Guanajuato in the 1980s. “One of my favorite parts of my whole story is that you don’t have to have all of these connections. You don’t have to have any money. You just have to work really hard, have the motivation and drive to keep going and take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. ”
One of her first defining opportunities was admission to the state of Sacramento, where she studied business administration and ethnology and developed a fascination for human behavior. She decided to break into the capital and worked in a number of retail jobs before joining AGC of California as a human resources administrator in 2014. After a brief series of promotions, she took up her current position in May 2019.
As a girl at Le Grand, Almanza never thought about working in construction. “But now that I’m in, I can’t think of any other career path,” she says. “The construction industry has so much depth and breadth. … The members are building a legacy, building these highways and bridges and tunnels and buildings that you can see and I think that’s very effective. ”
“My hope is that young Latino and Latina readers read this piece and see themselves in it and know that they too … can make it into the leadership.”
As chief of staff for the 101-year-old organization, Almanza oversees human resources, manages operations and serves as an extension of CEO Peter Tateishi’s office, representing one of the largest trade associations in California. She is also the treasurer and secretary of the Construction Education Foundation, a nonprofit owned by AGC, California that provides outreach, resources, and training to people entering the construction industry.
Her goal is to promote diversity and inclusion both within the AGC in California – by building a positive workplace culture and attracting diverse talent – and in the construction industry as a whole through the organization’s public relations and recruiting support for its member companies. “Diversity and inclusion are great passions for me, and I’m lucky enough to be able to live them in my role,” she says.
In particular, women (who make up less than 10 percent of construction workers) and people of color can benefit from the diverse career and leadership opportunities in the industry, says Almanza. Through her leadership role with the Construction Education Foundation, she is involved in outreach programs that increase the visibility of these opportunities, including Build California, a recruitment campaign aimed at attracting students and youth to jobs in the construction industry; the construction management council for young skilled workers; and several scholarship programs. She has carried her passion for inclusion beyond the organization’s borders by leading cultural training programs at national congresses.
“In the construction industry in particular, we have had an unprecedented level of commitment to diversity and inclusion,” says Almanza. “As challenging as it may be to be a woman of color in the industry, I think it’s all going in the right direction.”
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