Lorena Alvarez, QA General Inspector
Since 2021, AFG’s General QA Inspector / Sr. CAD Manager Ana “Lorena” Alvarez has brought more than 25 years of experience as a Healthcare Designer, Planner, Architect, and Project Manager working with Health Facilities, Community Outreach, and Emergency Infrastructure Projects.
Lorena has engaged in projects around the world for US-based engineering firms and non-profits, and was appointed to the Latin American Interior Designers, Engineers, and Architects DC Chapter (LA.IDEA AIA|DC) Board of Directors as the Education Advisor in 2022. In that role, she drives programming initiatives that further the mission of LA.IDEA, and continues to inspire and work toward the education of fellow Latin Americans in the AEC industry.
Tell us a bit about your experience as a woman in the construction industry.
I started my career in the nonprofit sector in my native country Guatemala, where I was working on the repatriation of Guatemalan refugees in Mexico. It was very fast-paced, hectic work. In a couple of weeks, we needed to have the emergency infrastructure ready to resettle 75 to 130 families in rural areas with limited access to material and personnel.
Liaising and coordinating with other organizations was essential to successfully accomplish this project within the given timeline and budget, and I always deliver on time and on budget.
In Uganda, I was involved in monitoring and evaluating the biggest clinic at the time for HIV treatment to 300 people per day. I had to monitor the construction and make sure that it was being done according to the budget and drawings.
This project was done in two phases; passing from one donor to a second donor to give continuity. This meant the project didn’t stop and was not easy, but I managed to be a mediator to negotiate between donors/contractors and hospital staff.
What advice do you have for other women looking to excel in the AEC industry?
If you like construction, don’t be afraid or intimidated by our male counterparts, even if they are the majority, we can do it. When we propose to achieve something, we will find the tools to succeed; don’t be afraid to fail, for every failure is a valuable lesson we take with ourselves as we grow in our careers and personal lives.
We have the same knowledge, same education, and we can do it. Sometimes we are not as strong physically as they are, but we find the way to get the work done. Always go at your own pace and don’t rush.
Describe a moment/event in your career that you were incredibly proud of?
Last year, I was inspecting a project and two young girls working in construction approached me to ask about my origins, it just so happened that we were from the same country. They asked me how I managed to get that job, and if I spoke English. I answered, and they told me: “Then it isn’t true that you cannot work as a professional here” and that they were “so proud of me and that I made all Guatemalans proud”.
This moment warmed my heart and made me feel proud, being a role model for these young ladies.