When Valeria Gama was growing up, she dreamed of designing buildings as an architect. But when she got to college and discovered that her strengths were in management and math, she switched her major to construction management.
“Earlier, I wasn’t aware that there is a professional side to construction,” she said. “It’s not a career that gets much attention, especially among women and girls.”
A west Long Beach resident in her senior year at Cal State Long Beach, the 20-year old San Diego native is the only woman to serve as a paid intern on the Jordan High School renovation project, funded by Measure K.
She was hired two years ago by the project’s construction manager, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., one of the largest construction contractors in Southern California.
Working full time during the summer and half time during the school year, Gama helps resolve construction issues while chronicling progress.
She said she is passionate about her work, comparing it to seeing a baby growing up.
“I started here when it was just dirt on the ground,” she said. “It’s exciting to watch the buildings coming up. I feel a sense of accomplishment, knowing that I had a small part in creating a new campus at Jordan.”
According to Gama, her bosses and co-workers have been encouraging and inspiring, giving her the support she needs in a field that is dominated by men.
“Both on the job and in my classes, there are still very few women,” she said. “I feel fortunate to have such great support from McCarthy and from my parents, who have always told me I can do anything I put my mind to.”
Gama said she would not only like to see more women, but also more Latinos in construction management.
“I’m in love with what I do, and I think many more people would be interested if they were aware of the professional track in construction,” she noted. “I would encourage students to look into opportunities in the future, since this is a growing field.”