National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually from September 15 to October 15 to recognize the vital contributions made by the Hispanic and Latinx community in the United States, despite the various challenges and injustices faced along the way.
As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to an end, Intuit Dome and the AECOM/Turner Joint Venture are pleased to spotlight Natalie Vargas from Turner Construction, a project engineer. We got the opportunity to speak with Natalie about her background and experiences in the construction industry.
What is your background/ heritage? Tell us a little bit about your family.
Natalie Vargas: My mother was born in Colima, Mexico and my father was born here in Los Angeles. Both my parents were raised in East Los Angeles. My mom’s father worked in construction when he immigrated to the United States as a concrete trade worker to support his family of eight. My grandfather on my dad’s side was a landlord for rental units around East LA and was able to support his family of 10. I am a second-generation college graduate on my mother’s side and a first-generation grad on my father’s side.
What is your role for Intuit Dome?
Natalie: I am a project engineer managing the site trades (landscaping, fencing, street improvements, and site utilities) and structural concrete.
How did you start your career? What made you want to be an engineer?
Natalie: As a child, I was always interested in building and fixing things around the house. When I was in High School at Murrieta Valley High they had an engineering class and my mom suggested I take the class. I was part of the first graduating class to complete the engineering program for all 4 years of High School. The program was called Murrieta Institute of Technology. In addition, I was the only female to complete the program. During that program, I learned I had an interest in Civil Engineering. While going to College I found the Construction Engineering Technology program at Cal Poly Pomona and just knew that was my calling.
What advice do you have for young Latinos who want to get into the construction field?
Natalie: My advice would be for young Latinos to not be afraid to try things that interest them. Find a club like ACE (Architect Construction and Engineering Program) or take an engineering class at your school. Also, if you do not go the academic route look into your local union and start an apprenticeship. A big site that can help with getting into the field is Build California (buildcalifornia.com), they can help with getting you into a trade program or colleges that have construction degrees.
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
Natalie: Hispanic Heritage means the celebration of my culture and embracing where my family has come from. It means recognizing the struggle they had to endure while trying to make a better life for future generations. It also means celebrating the ones that have made this country better for our Hispanic community.
Thank you, Natalie, for not only sharing your story but for chasing your dreams. You and your family are what symbolize this great nation and represent proudly Nuestra Cultura! Muchas Gracias!