When Joan Barton launched her Los Angeles firm, Dirty Girl Construction, in 2008, she never expected things to take off quite like they did. Nor did she expect to become such a sought-after mentor in the field. But that’s what happens when you’re brave enough to take chances. Because Joan is as much a helper as a doer, in true Dear Abby fashion, she volunteered to take questions from MOB readers. What’s more, Joan and her partner, Dan Turner, are in the process of launching Shespoke Studio, “a collaborative design platform and consultation company for both direct-to-homeowners, as well as peer-to-peer clientele—architects, makers, designers, etc.,” says Joan. Ultimately, Shespoke’s goal is to cultivate and share ideas, bring fresh inspiration to the field, and simply connect talented people. “It’s been lovely!” says Joan, “And in the next year or so—Covid-dependent, of course— we hope to cycle in a mentorship program.” M.O.B. will share mentorship details as they develop. In the meantime, see what Joan has to say about focusing your interests, apprenticing, and what she loves most about the design-build field.
Q: I’ve recently taken a break from school to figure out what I really want to do as my career and I’m leaning toward working in construction/design. I’ve always been into interior design, and I was in the STEM program in high school, so I love doing things hands-on. Do you have suggestions on how to narrow down what I should focus on to get started?
Q: What was your first job and how does it compare to the projects you take on today?
Q: I'm interested in working for a company like yours to gain experience in the areas of designing, building, renovating, repairing, and just working for/with a general contractor, in general. How does that work, exactly? What are you looking for in someone you hire? What kinds of things might you have them start with? How do you help them determine a path, both with you and hopefully into their next stages?
Q: Have you ever experienced discrimination for being a woman on the job site?
Q: I'm looking for someone to take me under their wing and then push me out of the nest at the right time. How long does it typically take to get trained, or to get the experience I need for eventually going out on my own?
Q: What is your favorite part of what you do?