Linda AlvaradoWe asked Ms. Alvardo:

What is a general contractor?

A General Contractor is a problem solver, someone who knows how to represent the interests of the owner and the project subcontractors and suppliers. A general contractor must have the ability to develop positive solutions to resolve design and construction issues between architects, owners and local building departments. She or he is responsible for the overall management of the project from start to completion and coordinates all the building trades to assure the structure is built according to the architectural blueprints and project specifications, and in compliance with building codes.

The general contractor manages the master schedule, workforce activities, subcontractors, quality control inspection and safety programs. Specific elements of the work include survey, installation of foundations and concrete, erection of the structural framing, as well as specialty work such as fire protection and security. The general contractor also hires all subcontractors including electrical, mechanical, excavation, landscaping firms and others to perform interior finish work including wood trim, flooring, paint and signage.

What is the most fascinating job you have accomplished?

It is hard to pick just one. Invesco Field (The Denver Broncos Stadium), Colorado’s Ocean Journey Aquarium, and the Phoenix Convention Center have all been large and challenging projects.

Recently I undertook the restoration of a historic landmark constructed in 1921. It was the original courthouse in Denver, a beautiful 3-story brick structure that had been abandoned for more than thirty years. Alvarado Construction redeveloped and renovated the building, designing and reconstructing it to provide office and meeting space for eleven community non-profit organizations.

The building was rededicated as the Bernard Valdez Hispanic Heritage Center. Alvarado Construction considers this project to be a “labor of love.” It is important that our firm is involved in projects like this that assist others in the community to also have an opportunity to succeed.

What kinds of jobs are available in construction?

The design and construction of a project takes a team of people with different expertise. There are many jobs available, such as architects, engineers, interior designers, project managers, carpenters, cement masons, surveyors, excavators, superintendents, electricians, plumbers, drywall installers, office engineers, scheduling engineers, safety officers and quality control managers, just to name a few.

Are the roles for women in construction growing?

There were no female role models in this industry when I started. If women were on construction sites at all, they were secretaries. Today, I have several women engineers and project managers working for me. I get great satisfaction from this, not just personally, but in the fact that women are now beginning to be involved in designing and constructing everything from landscaping to skyscrapers, hospitals, homes and manufacturing facilities. Knowing that women can succeed in this industry is an important step forward in providing more career choices to young girls.

What kind of experience is valuable in the construction field and owning a company?

Both formal education and actual experience on a construction site are very important in the construction industry. It is not just knowing the basics about building a structure; you must have specific knowledge of construction requirements. Math skills are critical, as are close attention to details and a focus on producing the highest quality work delivered on-time and in-budget. Operating a successful business requires an understanding of finance and control of cash flow, hiring, training, motivating, and supervising people, business development, risk management, marketing, insurance, community relations and many other aspects. Important work experience is also gained on the jobsite learning the day-to-day process, coordination and communication. There may be opportunities to work during college through internships with design or construction firms. You can also enroll in educational programs conducted by the building trades associations. Useful degrees include Construction Management, Engineering and Business.

What advice do you have for girls?

Even when you experience setbacks, you cannot let other people discourage you from focusing on achieving your hopes and dreams. Get the necessary formal education. Learn the basic skill sets in your particular field that are necessary to succeed. Take some risks, but also have some fun. You can achieve your dreams!

As a little girl, I dreamed of building high-rises, and today, I do.

GIRLS KNOW HOW® thanks Ms. Alvarado for telling us about her experience in commercial general contracting. Remember, these ideas are just to get you thinking about opportunities, and are based on one successful woman’s experience. So, if you would like to learn more, do some research in the library, search websites, talk it over with your parents, or ask a teacher or guidance counselor at school.