Julia Salgueiro

by | Sep 16, 2022 | MotM, MotM - NorCal

Name. Julia Salgueiro

Company and position. Director of Operations Technology for Preston Companie

City you live in. Santa Cruz, Ca

Years of experience. 15 years

How did you get into the construction industry? I was preparing for life post-graduation in 2007; I had a B.S. in Mathematics w/ a Minor in Education but I was not too keen on becoming a teacher at the time (experiences during some of the practical course work for teaching taught me a lot about I could expect).  With some self-reflection and fond memories of Lego, Brio, and blanket/furniture/pillow fort construction with my brothers, I started my research.  While investigating the idea of returning home and attending San Jose State for a Post Bachelorette in Civil Engineering, my parent’s next door neighbor (Kevin Cooper, now retire underground foreman for Granite Construction) suggested to my father, presumably while they were mowing their front lawns, that if I am interested in Civil Engineering, I should reach out to Granite Construction for an internship. 

Knowing nothing of the construction industry, I pursued the internship with Granite for that summer.  I had a phone interview with Susan Rose of Granite’s HR team, and was hired.  Soon after graduation, I started working for Granite as a project engineer intern, working with another full-time project engineer.  My first project was repaving Green Valley Road in Watsonville, Ca from Hwy 1 to Main Street; I had what I know today to be a rare opportunity for interns, to see a complete job from start to finish… 

I fondly remember the preconstruction meeting with Construction Manager, Chris Sveum, Paving Foreman, Bob “Bobby” Bauer, and Safety Manager, Vicky Glum; reviewing the logistics plan, budget, and schedule. I remember when it came to discussing how to perform the paving operation, the rest of the group had been musing over the need to back up the paver, with running trucks next to it, how would that meet the required production every shift, etc… when Chris Sveum asked “Julia, what do you think.” Being put on the spot in a meeting with a direct question as an intern was exhilarating and intimidating… I offered a question in response (which in the early days of my career was a really effective method for learning), “instead of backing up the paver to make another pass on the same side of the road, why can’t we get to one end, turn around, and keep going straight down the other side of the road and avoid backing up all together.”  The team proceeded to discuss the pros and cons of that type of operation, called a “round robin.”  Ultimately, we did not go with the option I had offered up after equitable deliberation.  I spent the summer of 2007 supporting the project team, which ended as a success. 

At the close of the summer season, and not getting the D1 Athlete treatment from SJSU that I was accustomed to from my alma-mater, I had an epiphany… I don’t have to go back to school.  I LOVE managing construction.  THIS is the MOST FUN I have ever had working.  I WANT TO DO THIS.

The next day, I marched (respectfully) into the Branch Manager, Kurt Kniffin’s, office.  Proclaimed that I already have completed my bachelor’s degree, and I want to be a project engineer full time if he would have me. 

One group interview and two weeks later, I was a full time project engineer.  I wouldn’t change my path if I could.  I love this job.

Favorite thing about construction. Construction is a team sport.  For every team member playing their part, they have their own set of challenges every day:  Something to learn; something to solve; something to get done.  We all work hard to do our part to contribute to the team; pick each other up, back each other up, win as a team, lose as a team.  As an athlete, this is a big part of my passion.

Other affiliations or hobbies. I am a member of the DEI Counsel and Co-Chair of POWER (Preston Opportunities for Women to Excel and Rise), the first ERG at Preston Companies; I am on the HCSS President’s Advisory Board; member of WiOPS.  My Hobbies include playing slow pitch softball, CrossFit, painting, and figuring out how to entertain my kids in a productive way.

Is there someone who inspires you and why? It is hard to pick any one person.  I am so grateful to have the opportunities to surround myself with so many great people.  I would really like to take this opportunity to highlight my friend, Julia Ordahl.  Julia is a 5th grade teacher, beloved by her students (and anyone who gets the opportunity to meet her) and a staunch advocate for equity in every way.  Here perseverance to improve education programs for students, the education industry for teachers, and the rights for underrepresented and minority groups is unparalleled.  She has taught me so much about self-reflection, being an advocate, being a parent, and being a friend.  I recommend to all those reading this to find another woman in a different industry who is pushing the limits and effecting change – support and learn from each other.

A random thought you’d like to share. I want to solve the problem that is “less than 10% of the construction industry is women.”  In my experience driving efficiency by standardizing procedures and implementing technology, one thing that our industry does not welcome with open arms is change.  I challenge all construction leaders to take a hard look at your company culture; there are reasons women are not here… it is time for a change if you want your business thrive and survive.