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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Oscar Duran

September 29th, 2023

Leaving everything familiar to you to pursue your passion in a different country takes bravery. That is exactly what Oscar Duran did. He did not know where his journey would take him, but he persevered through cultural and industry differences to be where he is today.

Oscar Duran Hispanic Heritage Month FeatureOscar, an architectural designer, started his career during his studies at Universidad Albert Einstein in El Salvador. After working as a licensed architect on telecommunications projects for over eight years with Grupo LGB El Salvador and Costa Rica, he decided to follow his dream of living outside his country and moved to the United States in 2015.

Oscar has been working at Galloway for just over a year, further developing his craft and positively contributing to the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. At Galloway, he continues his love to start every project with a traditional hand-drawn sketch and appreciates Christian Arndt, senior architectural project manager, for mentoring him as he becomes a licensed architect in the States.

Q: What inspired you to work in your field?

A: At the beginning of my career, I was studying civil engineering, but after taking a technical drawing class, I realized I had chosen the wrong profession. I am good at drawing spaces, but the biggest inspiration that made me go into architecture was seeing blueprints come to life during the building phase and having to make modifications as construction challenges arose.

In my country, civil engineering and architecture are very similar. It involves structural, civil, and construction administration via the construction supervisor. Civil engineering is more specialized in the United States, and architecture is more focused on designing and creating spaces. I wanted to be behind the scenes, making the plans and drawing the spaces to bring to life.

Q: Describe your transition from El Salvador to the United States personally and professionally.

The first challenge was the language. I went to English classes in Costa Rica, but it is not the same as coming here and talking to someone. That was my first barrier, and I said, “Okay, I have to speak English no matter what. Even if I am saying the words incorrectly.”

When I arrived in the United States, I started working as a landscaper digging holes and trenches for irrigation systems. I went from being the general manager [of the Costa Rica branch office] to cutting the grass in the United States, but I did not care. I had to start from the bottom again because I was an architect from a foreign country.

I eventually got my first job in the construction industry as a project manager in environmental stonework. Through that job, I met superintendents at Richmond [Richmond American Homes] who invited me to apply for a position there as a superintendent. I worked as a construction superintendent for three years to learn the United States construction processes and got a job in the architecture department.

I transferred all my licensing papers from El Salvador to become licensed in the United States. I completed my hours and can now take the exams to become a licensed architect in the States.

Q: What brought you to Galloway specifically?

A: When I was with Richmond, I designed residential projects. I wanted to be able to design a variety of different buildings, like commercial and industrial. I saw that opportunity at Galloway and the diversity of people and jobs. I decided to come here, and I don’t regret it.

Q: What do you love most about your job?

A: What I love most about my job is being able to design new spaces and bring innovative ideas to life during the building phase. I enjoy finding solutions for people’s needs and visions.

Q: Do you have any favorite projects?

A: All kinds of projects that put your mind in crisis and challenge you to bring the best you.

Q: Do you have any advice for people in similar situations looking to enter your field?

A: Work hard towards your career dreams because they come true with time and effort. Nothing comes easy! Coming from a third-world country makes you work harder than anyone else, but it gives you the courage to keep going and fight for what you want.

Q: Who inspires you?

A: My parents. They have worked so hard here in the United States to give us everything we need to have a successful life. And my wife. Without her, I would not be here. She is the one who is constantly pushing me to do things I think I cannot do. She tells me I can do it. She is a fantastic woman.

Professionally, Santiago Calatrava inspires me. His designs are crazy. He designed a building that looks like it is moving.

Q: How has your Hispanic heritage shaped who you are today?

A: I am proud of my Hispanic heritage. Coming from a third-world country to a first-world country, I worked twice as hard to communicate and learn the U.S. construction process despite English not being my first language. When I worked in the field, it was great to communicate in my native Spanish language and push others toward their career goals. My Hispanic heritage made me work harder and did not let me feel defeated under any circumstance but made me see everything as a learning experience.

Q: Does your family have any traditions that are especially important to you?

A: Yes, on the weekends, I wake up early, and I am the breakfast chef. I make a traditional Salvadorean breakfast for my family. [Oscar has a wife and three daughters – 26, 13, and 4 years old]. The traditional Salvadorean breakfast is refired beans, sweet plantains, queso fresco, sour cream, and a toasted warm roll with coffee. We celebrate holidays like Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve with family and close friends, having traditional Hispanic appetizers and dinner.

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