Non-Traditional Women Lead D&P to Excel / by Liz Maurer

An exhibit fabricator builds and installs each of the individual components from an exhibit design. Fabrication and installation is a highly technical field. Jobs include carpenters, welders, CNC programmers, CAD designers, lighting technicians, audiovisual technicians, computer systems engineers, project managers, and graphic project managers. Like most technical and manufacturing businesses, exhibit fabrication has been and still is male dominated.

As a fabrication and installation company, D&P brings an array of skills and experience to the museum exhibit project. Research has shown that diverse teams perform better. They attack problems more creatively. They execute more efficiently. That’s why D&P is proud of being an employer that has brought women into the field. And we’ve included women since the company’s founding in 1949.

Our commitment to diverse project teams ensures that our clients’ exhibit projects are served by the best available talent. We embrace the #Non-Traditional women in our field.

Let’s meet a couple.

Michele Jones joined D&P in 2006.

What is your job? I am a Computer Aided Design (CAD) Detailer. I produce detailed construction drawings from designer concept.

Our software generates 3D assembly views, produces automated bills of materials, and can export drawings directly to CNC programming software. Carpenters and metal workers in our production shop use the drawings to build the different components of a museum exhibit.

What do you like the most about your job? I have always like figuring how things are built, which lead me to study Industrial Design in school. I like how to build things. This job allows me to fulfill my dream.

What do you find the most challenging? I find it challenging figuring the best way of building a complicated exhibit structure such as an educational interactive exhibit with buttons and gears. But it’s satisfying to figure it out.

Sue Lepp joined D&P in 1985

What is your job? I am the Senior Vice President and a Project Executive for D&P Exhibit design/build projects. I have direct oversight of D&P’s Technology Systems Group.

What is the Technology Systems Group? The Technology Systems Group designs, fabricates, installs, and provides field support for audiovisual environments and delivery systems. Our Group also provides lighting systems and equipment for museum exhibit and theater projects. As a dealer and distributor for all major commercial product lines appropriate to museum work, we can provide hardware as well as installation and integration. In addition, we complete hundreds of projects, and we often are contracted to provide support and maintenance long after the initial project is over. Our group diversified in the late 90’s to merge AV and IT technology and to include Lighting System components and programming to respond to the turn-key user control that our market needed.

Who are your clients? We work with government and commercial interoperability centers, themed public attractions, and museums all over North America.

Are there many women in this area of the field? No, there are not. There are many who are experience designers. But there are very few who work on the hardware, integration, and installation side. Historically, I could count on one hand women working outside of sales and business administration in the AV systems industry, certainly not in project direction roles. That has grown slowly but the AV industry remains a male dominated industry.  Infocomm, the international Association for the audio-visual industry developed the Women of InfoComm Network Council to support women in the AV and technology industries in 2015.  Back in the 80’s and 90’s I’d be typically the only female in training classes, bid meetings, or on a job site.

How did you become interested in this job? Very long ago, I was working for VSE, which was then the parent company. I requested a move to D&P, which was a subsidiary at the time. I had the opportunity to work in nearly every department including administration, the exhibit shop, art department, project management, and sales. Once in sales, I was asked to focus on business development for the Audio Visual Systems Division.

What do you like the most about what you do? The diversity of daily work and projects.  Every museum is different; therefore, every new project has a new set of criteria and challenges. There is something to be learned with every project, both professionally and topic specific. The people we work with are extremely committed to the projects – both our staff and the clients.