As Perini Building Company’s director of diversity, I am often asked how I started working in this field. Good fortune, hard work, and my background have all been factors. Growing up, I knew there had to be a better way of life than the one I was living. I also knew that given the opportunity—not assistance—I could succeed.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be in business, serving in a role that helped people improve their lives. From an early age, I wanted to make an impact. But perhaps most of all, I wanted to escape my childhood environment and make something of myself. I grew up in Oklahoma. My mother has always been disabled and never worked, my stepdad adopted me when I was four, and I have never met my biological father. Being part Choctaw Indian and Hispanic has not always been easy either. By the time I enrolled in junior high school, I had attended 11 schools. The only good thing about moving was I figured people wouldn’t recognize me as the kid who always paid with food stamps.

What motivated me were the strong females in my family. My mother, aunt, and grandmother were like a small army. They were the force behind our meager existence. They kept our family moving forward. They didn’t have money or high-powered careers, but they saw the possibility of what the next generation could do. They made me and my brother realize our potential. They gave us confidence and motivated us to tackle life head-on.

Experiencing a difficult childhood, having people believe in me, and hard work have all fueled my ambition and desire to empower others to progress in their profession.

Everyone has the ability to succeed; often all people need is an opportunity. It’s amazing what one person can do when given a chance. I am fortunate to work at a company that shares my vision and is willing to step out of what’s comfortable, and offer opportunities to minority- and women-owned businesses.

What I am most proud of is being able to work with aspiring women- and minority-owned companies. It’s inspirational to hear how people have thrived in their endeavors in spite of insurmountable odds. It’s gratifying and invigorating to work with individuals who are willing to help others in their journey to build a more prosperous life.

It’s a rewarding time to work in diversity development. I have seen attitudes change and stereotypes dissipate. We all know it’s a slow process. But with persistence, we will achieve our collective effort of creating a more diverse, dynamic, and talented workforce.