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Linda Alvarado: 1952—: Entrepreneur

Broke Through Construction Glass Ceiling

While a student at Pomona College in Claremont, California, Alvarado took on her first non-traditional job as a laborer with a landscaping company. She was the only woman on the crew but she loved it, recalling to the Albuquerque Tribune, "I got to wear Levis, be outside in the Southern California sun and get a tan, and work with all the guys, and you're going to pay me to do this?" However, following graduation in the early 1970s, she had trouble finding a job. Though she had majored in economics, she longed to work outside again. "I like to say that I have one of those great unplanned careers," she told American Dreams. She finally found a job with a construction company. Though she had grown up surrounded by boys, it was not always easy being the only woman on the construction site. "The restrooms were quite an experience," she recalled to the Albuquerque Tribune. "I'd find drawings there, of myself, in various situations of undress…. But always wearing my hard hat." Nonetheless, it was where she wanted to be. "I liked being on the construction sites … watching the buildings come up out of the ground," she told American Dreams. "When a super structure went up, it was to me a great sense of the creative process, that ended up with this structure of great permanence and beauty."

Because of her skill and commitment to hard work, Alvarado moved up from a support position to a project engineer role. She also returned to school, taking classes to further her new career, including blueprinting, estimating, surveying, and computer scheduling. "When I started in the industry, computers were just beginning to be utilized for estimating and scheduling," Alvarado told American Dreams. "One of the most important classes I took was in the early critical path scheduling, which enabled me to develop my niche." She eventually learned all phases of the construction business, from bid proposal to contract creation to final construction. She explained on the American Dreams website, "As I was on these construction sites, there were very, very large projects going on. I began to dream about building a project of my own. It was a pretty modest dream at the time, and I began to think of it as a possibility. I decided I would start a small construction management company." She later told the Albuquerque Tribune, "I saw the profit margins my old boss had, and knew I could do it."

Alvarado encountered resistance when she started to seek funding for her construction business. "I had this great little business plan, and had this blue suit, and went to several banks and was rejected by all of them, six banks," she told American Dreams. Fortunately her parents stepped in, mortgaging their house for a $2,500 loan. "It was the bridge money needed to get me over the gap until I was able to get a small business loan," she added. Alvarado Construction was incorporated in 1976. Its first contracts were simple paving jobs and small projects such as bus stops. However, as she recalled to the Denver Post, "At night, I dreamed of building high-rises." Although she encountered sexism for being a woman in a traditionally male field, she was inspired by it rather than dejected. "Being an optimist by nature, this gave me some sense of personal mission to show that women could succeed in this field," she told American Dreams. "You have to smile, because what people are looking for when [a contractor walks] in the room is somebody six-foot-five and burley. And in reality, I'm five foot five." Through her hallmark commitment to hard work, Alvarado began landing larger contracts, and Alvarado Construction became one of the fastest growing firms in the industry. During this time she also married Robert Alvarado and raised three children.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: (Hugo) Alvar (Henrik) Aalto (1898–1976) Biography to Miguel Angel Asturias (1899–1974) BiographyLinda Alvarado: 1952—: Entrepreneur Biography - Broke Through Construction Glass Ceiling, Expanded Business Skills Beyond Construction, First Hispanic Woman Team Owner