Florida Construction News special feature
From an entry level data entry position, Yahaira Parrales learned the industry, and the business of Miguel Lopez Jr. Asphalt Maintenance. Today she is the company’s chief of staff and an indispensable member of the team.
Parrales attended South Miami High School and then went on to study at Miami Dade College. She spent some time working for law firms before finding her way to Miguel Lopez. Over her 10 years with the company, she learned various aspects of the business, becoming office manager and the go-to person at the company before her most recent promotion earlier this year.
“Whether it was clients, employee issues, paperwork….I had a handle on it all and wanted to be sure I would provide what people needed and that nothing fell through the cracks,” Parrales said.
She says she enjoys the diversity and the challenges of the role she now currently holds. While she says drive, hard work, attention to detail, organization, and the ability to communicate have gotten her here, patience has also been key.
Understanding from the beginning that as a woman entering a male dominated field she would be challenged, she says: “The men in this industry aren’t used to dealing with women in higher roles. I can name only a handful of companies that have women in top executive positions.”
Understanding that, Parrales says in the early days, she took a sit back and observe approach, learning as she went along and ensuring that when she had something to say, it was of value and accurate. “Once you walk into a meeting and the others there understand your role and that you know what you are talking about, you can see how quickly the room changes and they will pay attention.”
Parrales says construction is a tough field for a woman and that you must have a thick skin and be willing to put in the work in order to succeed. She says, for instance, that can mean long hours and structuring your time to be able to manage the demands and hours the industry requires.
She says she is proud to have achieved her current role, to have the responsibility of the job and to be counted on. While most of what she has learned to date has been on the job, she is also taking continuing education courses in bookkeeping and accounting to further develop her skills, and her role within the company.
Andy Abbate, public relations executive with the company, says Parrales is easily third in her ranking in the company, preceded only by owner brothers Miguel and Eduardo Lopez. “When the company relocated after 28 years at our previous location, Yahaira was in charge of coordinating the entire move from packing to permitting and guaranteeing we were up and running on day one,” Abbate said.
He says her gentle manner, patience, and attention to detail are key in keeping the company running and ensuring staff are happy in their roles and that she is indispensable to the company.
Parrales says the industry has been good to her. While it isn’t for everyone, given the work that is required and the ability to look past gender issues where they exist, she says there are great opportunities for those who are up for the challenge.