Front Desk to Boardroom: Maria Alvillar’s Bilingual Journey of Influence

Maria Alvillar grew up in a bilingual English-Spanish household as the daughter of a restaurant owner. Hard work and dedication were basic expectations in her home growing up. “If it has my name on it, even if I have to work until midnight, I’ll get it done.” She began her career at the front desk of a small manufacturing company in Garland, Texas. Soon after starting as Receptionist, her bilingual abilities were noticed by the CEO, and she was asked to translate for her monthly town hall meetings. Maria began advising the CEO on better ways to communicate with Spanish-speaking employees. Other departments observed her bilingual skills, so Maria began to translate documents for the Benefits Administrator and HR Generalist. Maria was quickly promoted to be part of the HR team, managing benefits, payroll, recruiting for the company.  


Because of her bilingual abilities, Maria was introduced to the world of Human Resources and Recruiting. She found that she loved working with people. She moved on to spend the bulk of her career within the staffing & recruiting industry, a field predominantly run by women.  In 2015, a friend told her about a Human Resources role at Osburn Contractors. By taking the role, it meant leaving a female-dominated industry for a position where she would be surrounded by men. While many would be intimidated by making the leap, Maria had a practical approach.


“I always said that on day one, I would set the tone from the beginning and respect everyone, and that’s how I would gain respect from others.”


Since joining Osburn as Human Resources Manager, she has been promoted to Director of HR & Payroll and recently she was promoted again to a role created uniquely for her: Vice President of Human Resources where she oversees payroll, all administrative support and Human Resources. Maria partners closely with the leadership team to ensure they always “Find A Better Way”. She knows that it takes good leaders to invest in people. Her favorite parts of working as a Vice President are embracing change, promoting trust, and providing employees opportunities to grow. Employee development is a huge source of pride for Maria. One example of her influence on development is with employee Jessica Herrera. 


Jessica started the same week as Maria in 2015. Jessica was hired as an HR Coordinator and under Maria’s development and guidance, has been promoted to Payroll Supervisor. Maria describes Jessica as an “exceptional human being” who is hungry for more. Her goal is to prepare Jessica for the next job, whether it’s at Osburn or another company. Jessica says about Maria:


“From that first day, she took on the role of a mentor. She believed in my capabilities and always challenged me by giving me opportunities that were beneficial to my professional development. She’s a team player and such an asset to this company. It’s been a pleasure to have been working with her at Osburn for the past 5 years.”


Together Maria, Jessica and their team steer Human Resources for Osburn. They help employees understand the overall mission, and how their individual contributions impact the company.  


“From day one, my approach was to be a present leader, learn from each group I was collaborating with, and take care of our employees.” 


Maria takes her responsibility of caring for others and puts it into action. She and her team regularly speak with foremen, equipment operators and drivers. Many of these employees are only able to read and write in Spanish. Maria personally assists them with their performance reviews, instructing employees to write the review in Spanish and translating it for them into English. In these conversations, Maria has heard the same struggle repeatedly: employees miss out on opportunities at work and in their personal lives because of their barrier with the English language. Only knowing Spanish keeps them from realizing their personal and professional dreams. 


We have employees who have been with the company for many years but have not progressed in their careers. I have seen them give up because they cannot communicate. My philosophy is that if you have a passion, we can get you the resources. I found that we have people hungry for learning.” 


In response to this need, Maria generated a partnership with Excel English Institute to host ESL classes in the Osburn office – creating what we call Osburn University. The Operations team layered on support for the program’s success by ensuring managers would allow employees to get to class on time. This is an incredible example of living out purpose to empower Osburn’s employees to live lives of significance. 


“Maria has a great connection with our people. So many people don’t have an advocate or the opportunity that have obstacles that keep them from building significance in their lives.” – Daniel Harris, Chief Operating Officer


Maria just celebrated her 5 year anniversary with Osburn. She believes that in 2015, she was brought to Osburn for a purpose. 


“My favorite Guiding Principle is “Called to Serve”. It is a huge personal satisfaction for me to know that I have made a difference in someone’s life: by helping them land a job, or coach them on how to be more successful.  I love seeing people grow. When you make a difference in someone’s life, you know you have done something right.” 


Maria’s life was undoubtedly changed by being born into a bilingual household. Her dual language skill set massively impacted the trajectory of her career. In turn, she has leveraged her bilingual ability to positively impact those around her. Her compassion for people, ability to communicate with every employee, and genuine care for others have culminated in her position today where she impacts the lives of 1,400 people. 


“My number one passion is people. People are what makes companies great. People are what makes Osburn great.”