As of 2016, Latinos make up 16.8 percent – 26.8 million – of the workforce in the United States. While there are plenty of statistics about the industries (tech, legal, STEM, and many more) where our communities are sorely underrepresented and how the wage gap disproportionately affects Latinas (and other women of color), we wanted to learn more about what it’s like to pursue your career goals as a Latino today.
That’s why we’re launching Latinx Career Diaries. A few times a month, we’ll offer you a peek into what it’s like to work a certain job as a Latino. The goal is to give you an idea of what people with your similar experiences earn, help you pick up some negotiation tactics, and provide guidance if you’re embarking on your career.
These responses have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Background: Puerto Rican
Preferred Pronouns: He/Him
Job Title: Project Manager in the construction industry
Years at Current Job: I recently began working for the city’s only large-scale Hispanic-owned contractor. It’s been six months now that I have been bringing my prior experiences and skills to help them become the most reputable construction company.
Location: Buffalo, New York
Years of Experience: 4
Salary: $60,000, plus benefits
Negotiation Process: I reached out to the owner of this company and asked to meet for lunch. There was no negotiation, only a true conversation. Our values were very similar in that we want to help the Latino community build buildings and kick ass. It’s a great fit.
Benefits: Health/Dental insurance, company credit card for fuel, cell phone, retirement matching investments up to a percentage.
Cost of living in your city based on your salary: I can afford the cost of living in my city. My city is very affordable. I bought a beautiful 1905 home at age 23 while earning $14/hour. I rent that property fully and was now able to purchase another home bringing my total apartment holdings to six. The profits from these investments are valued at about a quarter of my work salary.
How I Broke In: I grew up in the City of Buffalo and many of the neighborhoods around my home were crumbling. I fell in love with the bricks, the steel, the stories that were covered up by plywood and graffiti and wanted to be a part of the solution.
I was in my final semester of business school when I began cold calling real estate development and construction companies to ask how I could be of service to them. It was a long shot, but eventually one agreed to allow me to intern and eventually employed me.
My first project was assisting the director of development in the pre-construction planning of a 300,000 square-foot former factory building into a mix of apartments, office and retail. It was blocks away from my parents house and I couldn’t have been prouder.
Why I’m here today: Passion. An honest love for what I do. Getting my degree and the experience that college provides has proven valuable. Besides the hard skills of your specialization, they teach discipline, etiquette, and communication. All are very important in the business world. I recommend joining clubs, entering competitions and attending workshops while in college. It shows you care and introduces you to like-minded individuals.
Responsibilities: I oversee construction projects from early development through finished construction. This includes land acquisition, design consulting, permitting, estimating, contracts, scheduling and project organization. Everything is over-documented in order to protect all involved parties and to make better decisions on future jobs.
What I like Most/Least: I love that I am able to meet, speak, and work with many different characters each day. We are problem solvers. Each day there are unique challenges that need to be resolved in order to complete projects. It can be a tough juggling act, but it is rewarding! My favorite is when the client and their employees enter a space for the first time and watching how they interact with all the different components.
I dislike that the industry is still dominated by older, white males. It is diversifying, but Latinos still need to work harder than others in order to get opportunities.
Diversity: I am so very blessed to be a Hispanic working for a Hispanic-owned company that strives to have a diverse work force both in office and in field. This is very uncommon as most construction companies are controlled by tight-knit families and friends.
I have been the lone tan face in too many business meetings and events. It’s discouraging that the opinions of people of color are not represented well. The blame can be placed on both business entities that do not care to do any outreach to communities of color and also the community members who do not strive to have their voice heard.
Growth Potential: I do feel there’s possibility for growth. This company allows us to share ideas, make decisions, and take risks. The staff is young and the company is growing tremendously. I’d like to have a senior position someday where I may oversee several ongoing projects and guide the younger project managers and engineers.
What I wish I Knew Before: I wish I knew how lonely it can be as a Latino in professional business. There are many offensive jokes and mistreatment in board rooms. It is up to us to change this old-time good-old-boys-club culture.