Administrative manager for Sonoma County’s Stony Point Rock Quarry wins North Bay Latino business leadership award
Evelyn Barragan of Soiland Company refused to be labeled and overcame challenges. She is a 2020 winner of the Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Professional background: 16 years of office professional experience in small businesses.
Education: Three classes away from an Associated of Arts in business administration.
Tell us your story and that of your organization: I am originally from Mexico City, a.k.a. Monster City. I come from a very small family … just my mom and me. During 1999 I joined the student movement at the National Autonomous University of Mexico UNAM, in which many students throughout the city united to maintain a free and autonomous university.
My mother decided to immigrate to California. I arrived in Rohnert Park and attended Rancho Cotati High School. I joined the MECHA club and helped its members showcase some traditions from the Latin culture, such as an offering for Dia de Los Muertos.
I attended Santa Rosa Junior College in 2012 as a part time student and started taking GED, ESL and Microsoft classes. I am currently in my final year and will earn an AA degree in business administration.
In 2018 I was invited to be part of The National Society of Leadership and Success and be part of an elite group of leaders locally and nationally. Even though it has been a long journey, I am still very inspired to continue with my education. I believe the sky is the limit!
In 2013 I joined Soiland Co., Inc. to work as a weighmaster and remain excited and happy to be part of such a great company. After four years, I became part of the sales team and several years later I became the administrative manager for Stony Point Rock Quarry.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
In the past year, I became a single mother due to an unanticipated circumstance with my partner. This happened right when COVID -19 had just hit our county.
During this time, I had to relocate my family, which consists of my teenage daughter, my two cats, and my betta fish. I was also taking two classes at the junior college and working 40 hours per week. This was a very tough time for me and my family, for everything changed in a matter of hours.
To this day, we are still trying to recover and adjust to our new home and circumstance, but I am happy that I didn’t mentally or emotionally break, and was able to make the best decisions for me and my family.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
When I came to this country at the age of 17, I left all my friends and memories behind, and I fell into a deep depression. I did not want to come to this country, what was required and obligated to follow my mother. Coming to a new country with a different language, scenography, and where people had a different ideology than mine was a big obstacle.
I did not know how to cope with it. I did not fit in the stereotype of how an immigrant teenager coming from Mexico should look like or act.
Fortunately, at high school there was a group of exchange students coming from Europe, we became friends and that is how I started my immersion in the English language and the American culture.
Later on, as I learned English, I felt more confident to communicate in English. I started to participate in school programs and outside the school. I was a member of a Danza Azteca Group, now called Coyolxautli.
Three students from Sonoma State University, and a professor and I, would meet to bring back the dances and traditions from our Indigenous culture. I started meeting more people and getting more acclimated to the town, the people, the laws, and even the winter! I had survived one of the biggest changes in my life.
What is your biggest challenge today?
One of the biggest challenges I am facing today is that of being a Latin woman in a white man’s industry. Many times, I have been underestimated, and it has been a challenge to stand out in this business.
However, throughout the years, I have seen this industry expand and provide opportunity to women. I still remember the first time I saw a woman driving a big truck!
Also, meeting the controller of our company, who is a well-educated, smart, and strong woman. Women in various trades have cleared the path and set the standard for future generations.
What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of the area Latino business community and what are the greatest challenges faced by that community?
Working in the front lines of the rock quarry, I have been able to meet many people. My first year, working as a weighmaster, I was not able to spot the Latin community.
Little by little, people started to show up. I called it, “coming out of the shadow.” They would come to the scale and speak their native language or throw out some Spanish on the CV radio. I remember this one person in particular … he came into the quarry in this old truck that he had bought used from another party.