Spotlight Q&A with Dana Nunn of Bettisworth North Architects

With graduation just around the corner, what advice would you give designers about to embark on their journey in the workforce?

By: Dana Nunn, NCIDQ, ASID, NCIDQ, LEED AP, CCS, WELL AP, RID (Texas),  Interior Design Director   I   Bettisworth North Architects

Beyond the designer

  • Originally from Texas, but Alaska is my forever home. I met my husband here and we intend a long stay in the Great Land!
  • Studied chemical engineering and interior design at Texas Tech University
  • Hobbies: dahlias and peonies, jamming and pickling, golf, endurance sports and hiking, and hoping to get back to a consistent yoga and Pilates practice this spring
  • Started my career in high-end residential and boutique hospitality in Texas, then moved to AK to join Kumin Associates for commercial and institutional interiors, where I worked for over 13 years.
  • Joined Bettisworth North over 3 years ago. I love working with the talented folks in our Anchorage and Fairbanks offices and am so proud of our growing interiors team.
  • First joined ASID as a student member in 2000
  • 2x past Alaska Chapter president, finance director, many times as committee chair or member since 2005. Currently serving as Alaska’s chapter administrator & member of our government affairs committee.
  • At the national level, I’m a past Chapter Support Team member and current member of the ASID standing committee on construction codes & standards (CCSC), as well as a volunteer site visitor with CIDA, participating in the accreditation process for interior design programs throughout North America.

Words of encouragement as graduation approaches

When I graduated almost 17 years ago, the market was great for mid-level and senior designers but a bit bleak for a new designer. A dear friend and mentor, Bonnie, continually reminded me to not be afraid to put myself out there – to apply to the jobs that interested me and not be discouraged if/when I heard no (and it happened a lot). I was a substitute teacher to pay the bills but kept looking for the right fit in design. More than 100 applications later, I accepted the job at Kumin and moved to Alaska to start a grand adventure. I would say Bonnie’s advice was sound then and still valuable now. Be Bold and Daring. Make the ask, take the risk, and don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out right away. Sometimes a “No” is as much about the employer/opportunity being right for you as it is you being right for them. It seems terribly corny, but if an opportunity doesn’t work out, it is often because something better is yet to come.

Once you start a new job, I encourage young designers to dive in! Firms and hiring managers are looking for commitment, dedication and good fit with an established design team as much as we’re looking for someone with an impressive portfolio, strong design sensibility, and great Revit and rendering skills. Take every opportunity, no matter how mundane, as a chance to learn something and contribute to the team. Take the lead from the other designers around you. Get involved in the community and professional organizations. Demonstrate awareness and initiative and step up to do things you notice need to be done. See your work through to completion and do it well. Ask questions – lots of them. And listen. You can learn so much from your clients, contractors, vendors and colleagues if you tune your ear.

Finally, don’t lose yourself. The early years of a design career can be grueling, with long hours and not much glory. Don’t lose sight of the things you love outside of work and make sure you prioritize your own health and wellbeing while you’re establishing yourself in the field. Keep a hobby or two, don’t skip lunch or skimp on sleep, and get outside – sunshine, fresh air and a new perspective are what keep us sane when deadlines seem untenable.