“If I wasn’t in the trades?” General Foreman Cory Naranjo considers the question as the walkie-talkie affixed to his vest crackles to life. He’s stumped. “I never really considered it,” he concludes. “I’d probably be working an office job, hating life.” Laughter.
It’s true that Naranjo does seem incredibly suited to his leadership role at Hoffman Construction. He is currently working at the Intel building site Hoffman Construction has been developing in Beaverton and he has spent his entire career in construction at this very company, starting as a Carpenter Apprentice. “I guess that’s a big accomplishment,” he reflects somewhat modestly.
Naranjo had plenty of options when it came to jobs. He got good grades in high school, started working early, at 15 when he did a turn on a summer work crew for the city of Woodland, Washington, where he grew up with his dad, who worked for Weyerhaeuser (and who moved here from Jalisco, Mexico) and mom (who has Italian heritage) who is a registered nurse.
That first summer, he worked at flagging, cleanup, and weeding around the city. But in 2000, when he graduated high school, he was put to work right away in a leadership position as a lead man at General Steel loading trucks.
“It was a lot of responsibility,” he recalls. Maybe that’s why, when he started dating his now-wife Kathleen and her father-in-law impressed upon him the earning potential and the benefits that could be gained from a career in the trades, he reconsidered his plans for higher education. In 2001, he joined a carpentry apprenticeship program at Hoffman.
“I was green – it was interesting,” he says lightly. “You don’t know what you’re getting into until you’re out there doing it. You’re working in all kinds of weather and elements as opposed to sitting in an office all week long.” He learned lots of skills in residential and house building, a big contrast from the large-scale work he’s engaged in when we catch up with him at Intel.
“Hoffman is a good company,” Naranjo says. “We’re like family here. Everyone’s mellow, takes into consideration what’s going on.” He counts as his biggest accomplishment his quick rise to Foreman with the company – his first job as a lead he spent learning alongside Amos Austinson, now working as a Field Superintendent, who Cory credits with teaching him a lot of what he knows. Naranjo’s first turn as foreman he spent working with his friend and teacher on the Waterfront Pearl condos in downtown Portland.
How did Naranjo manage his relatively quick rise up the building trades ladder? He reckons it has to do with being a hard worker and that, “a good leader has to be knowledgeable, willing to listen to the group of workers that you got, willing to admit when you’ve made a mistake.” Now his goal is to be a Superintendent like Austinson.
When asked if he has ever experienced challenges on the job as a man with Latino heritage, Naranjo shrugs. Not personally, he says – though he has seen the obstacles that can come to those for whom English is not their first language. “People kind of get aggravated, and it can play a role in who gets hired.”
But now that Naranjo is a father – Christopher was born to the couple in 2002, with Lily and Olivia quick to follow – the benefits of being in the trades are clear. “I was able to purchase a house when I was 21,” he tells us. His wife is able to be a stay-at-home mom, which he’s proud of. “We have a pretty nice lifestyle – the benefits of hard work pays.”