Chief of staff, Associated General Contractors of California
Juliana Almanza, chief of staff of the West Sacramento-based construction trade association Associated General Contractors of California, was born in Le Grand, a dot on the map in Merced County. Fewer than 2,000 people live there, mostly agricultural workers of Mexican and Central American origin. They tend the farmland that surrounds Le Grand on all sides.
“Coming from a small town with parents who are fieldworkers, you almost feel like you’re 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 those connections. You don’t have to have money. You just have to work really hard, have the motivation and the push to keep going, and take every opportunity that is offered to you.”
One of her first decisive opportunities was an acceptance to Sacramento State, where she studied business administration and ethnic studies and developed a fascination for human behavior. She decided to put down roots in the capital city and worked a series of retail jobs before joining AGC of California as a human resources administrator in 2014. After a rapid succession of promotions, she assumed her current position in May 2019.
Almanza never considered working in construction when she was a girl in Le Grand. “But now that I’m in it, I just can’t envision any other career path at this point,” she says. “The construction industry has so much depth and breadth to it. … The members are building legacy, building these highways and bridges and tunnels and buildings that you can see, and I think that’s super impactful.”
“My hope is that young Latino and Latina readers will read this piece and see themselves in it and know that they too … can make it into leadership.”
As chief of staff for the 101-year-old organization, Almanza oversees statewide human resources, directs operations and serves as an extension of the office of CEO Peter Tateishi, placing her second in command of one of the largest trade associations in California. She is also treasurer and secretary of the Construction Education Foundation, a nonprofit run by AGC of California that provides outreach, resources and training for people entering jobs in construction.
Her goal is to foster diversity and inclusion both within AGC of California — by building a positive workplace culture and acquiring diverse talent — and in the construction industry as a whole through the organization’s outreach and recruitment support for its member companies. “Diversity and inclusion is actually a huge passion for me, and I’m lucky enough that in my role, I get to live it,” she says.
Women (who make up less than 10 percent of the construction workforce) and people of color in particular can benefit from the variety of career and leadership opportunities available in the industry, Almanza says. Through her leadership role with Construction Education Foundation, she is involved in outreach programs that raise the visibility of these opportunities, including Build California, a recruitment campaign that works to attract students and youth to jobs in construction; the Construction Leadership Council for young professionals; and several scholarship programs. She has also taken her passion for inclusion beyond the boundaries of the organization by leading culture training programs at national conventions.
“In the construction industry specifically, we’ve had a level of commitment that we’ve never seen before around diversity and inclusion,” Almanza says. “As challenging as it might be to be a woman of color in industry, I think that is all moving in the right direction.”
Get all the profiles in our Young Professionals issue delivered to your inbox: Subscribe to the Comstock’s newsletter today!
To open the annual Young Professionals issue, Comstock’s president and publisher considers Capital Region innovation.
Women make up less than 10 percent of workers in the construction industry. NAWIC sees opportunities in that gap.
Gerardo Aceves and Amit Dhugga are CEO and president of Platinum Express, a Yuba City-based company with a fleet of 100 trucks.
Construction is one industry that has continued through shelter-in-place orders. Comstock’s spoke with Wendy Cohen, vice president of operations for the construction firm Kitchell, to learn how the industry has been impacted by the coronavirus and the role it can play in the recovery.