De Mujer A Mujer

Tanya Saldivar-Ali Business Development Director of AGI LLC.

This month, in our De Mujer a Mujer edition we are pleased to introduce you Tanya Saldivar-Ali, co-founder and Business Development Director of AGI Construction LLC.

Place Maker/ 2nd Generation Entrepreneur/ Speaker

Since the hub was purchased in 2017, Tanya has worked closely with local residents, students, and stakeholders to ensure they were engaged and learned about the development process. AGI wanted to demonstrate a model of how to enter a neighborhood respectfully. Tanya has successfully organized and hosted a number of community events and facilitated collaborations between local entrepreneurs, residents, city departments, academia and investors to enhance leadership from the center of the community.

Tanya is a Southwest Detroit native. She is the daughter of immigrants, she is the first American generation born of two immigrant parents from Nogales, Mexico and Calabria, Italy. Her personal inner city experiences have influenced her unique approach to the design built environment that is more than a career but a mission to develop healthy sustainable communities for the next generation. Tanya takes great pride in being a mother to her three sons, Xavier, Joel and Israel and believes that the home is the center of our well being. Tanya’s passion for her community is reflected in her advocacy for access to quality education, bridging employment to viable opportunities, and bridging minorities to the design built ecosystem.

Tanya answered the following questions for Latino Press 

  1. Who inspired you to get into the construction business? 

I was inspired by my mother, Giovanna and husband/business partner, Luis. My mother was a woman Detroit business owner for 42 years and I learned early on that business, real estate and ownership were key in building long term wealth. Luis entered the skilled trades as an electrician as a viable career path after active duty but waited for months for an opportunity through the union. In 2003 we decided to make that leap of faith and began our entrepreneurship journey. I would never have thought the construction industry was for me, but yet so much of our daily lives are impacted by the built environment. We evolved through many hostile markets that began in Detroit housing investments at a time when most still did not believe in Detroit’s value. We transitioned into foreclosure property management and residential construction through the housing crash to a full design build general project management firm today. It was watching my mom grow her own business and Luis’s trust in me to learn construction that led me on my unique path in the design build industry as a woman. Both of their resilience and courage inspired me. 

2. What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve had to face while being a career woman, wife and mother at the same time?

Balance and intentionality. My most valued possession is relationships; my personal relationship with God, my marriage, my 3 sons, my loved ones and clients. Beyond being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart and there is a daily grit and passion that is required daily to succeed. It is very easy to become consumed by the work, endless tasks and challenges in life. I think often as woman, wives, mothers, entrepreneurs, we begin with the different motives; to find our place in the world, prove ourselves, self-sufficiency, help provide for our families, but we can get lost in the grind and end up sacrificing the things that matter most. Guilty of all the above! As I get older, I have come to appreciate myself, and the value of time and purpose. If I don’t honor and care for myself physically, spiritually and mentally then I may never achieve my best potential in all these roles. In the face of pandemic, every day is a gift. I have learned to set boundaries, so I don’t lose one of the most precious gifts, which is time. I am so fortunate to have found purpose in my journey. Purpose gives me gratitude and strength to sustain through the pressures of all these roles, even when life is tough. Every day I try to remind myself that I have the power to choose how, where and why I show up daily. 

3. How do you envision the future of your career? 

The big vision is to use my career platform to influence and create equitable communities. My personal life experiences of growing up in the Southwest Detroit and being a 2ndgeneration entrepreneur has shaped and molded my evolving approach to my career in construction through the lens of urban planning and place making. I am always learning, and the vision continues to evolve one project at time. I envision expanding opportunities for minorities into the design-built ecosystem and create access that keep people excluded from benefiting from local development. We are so excited to launch our Design Build Green Hub located just a few blocks of the Michigan Train station – future home for the Ford Motor Co headquarters. The small, scaled development is where we will develop programming to provide workshops, training’s, consulting and advocacy for navigating built environment processes for minority contractors and local stakeholders.

4. How do you see the role of women in the construction field in this community? 

Women are natural builders. We build homes, families, communities, and businesses every day. We are natural project managers that have mastered coordination and understand the importance of execution and timelines to get it all done. I have had so many amazing and courageous Detroit woman role models that have been invisible forces in building Detroit way before the revitalization began. There is a national shortage for skilled trades and future demand for the white-collar design build positions, suppliers, project managers, estimators, engineers, and architects. I am a strong advocate beyond skilled trades but creating access to opportunities in design-built career fields. Statistics show that 90% of 11 million people working in construction are predominantly white males and woman make up less than 1.2 % from the construction industry. Woman in the construction field is an untapped resource to meet that gap shortage. 

5. And what advice would you give to the women of this community who would like to enter this field?

Be willing and confident to step up regardless of fear. Woman interested in this field will have to understand there is an industry culture that hasexisted for centuries. My advice is to not take things personal if you want to become a cultural change maker. My experiences and knowledge did not start in the office, but it was my willingness to learn and be uncomfortable with asking questions in a room of males. Be assertive in your approach to the field and realize there are many paths into the different construction industry fields. Trades, professional design build careers, general contracting, investor, developer. 

6. According to your experience, what are the obstacles that you have encountered and that affect all those who work in construction.

It is so critical to strengthen Detroit’s design build ecosystem so we can ensure that all Detroiters are part of the process. Honestly, I have found so many obstacles navigating the industry. It is a hard, high-risk, face paced industry. Construction requires a natural rigor, hence why it’s a natural male dominated field. Many of the solutions we are working on now have been birthed through those challenges over the last 17 years. Discrimination, gender bias, and nepotism exists very strongly within the industry. We must have clear pipelines programs for young people. Preparing them for basic skill requirements to pass the tests is only one aspect but I think it is equally important to prepare them for the culture. Construction and development require a vast knowledge of the build process. Development is not just about building but it about the people who has access, who is impacted, and ownership. As we learn more about the impacts of construction and development then we are able to make informed decisions about careers, projects and opportunities. 

7. What would be your advice so that this situation had a solution. Breaking barriers, overcoming those bias 

I believe we have to the best at whatever job or role we obtain. I am a major advocate for building from the center of neighborhoods, spending our dollars in local economies that create change with a bottom-up approach. We can choose to drive Minority Business Enterprises (MBE) to MBE by sharing opportunities, knowledge, and resources through mentorships and partnerships. We have to demonstrate ethics and integrity in our work and responsibilities in the face of hardships and barriers. I truly believe that integrity is a differentiator. When we use our sphere of influences and platforms to uplift others, we are able to shatters bias that prepares us for the next opportunity.

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