Chief of staff, Associated General Contractors of California
This story is part of our July 2021 Young Professionals issue. To subscribe, click here.
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
“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
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