Builders at our Core: Juan Salazar

Drywall Superintendent
Drywall Superintendent Juan Salazar stands out because of his positive attitude and love of teaching others. Courtesy of Tyler Wilson

Dallas Drywall Superintendent Juan Salazar has been building in the Lone Star State for more than two decades. He consistently stands out because of his infectiously positive attitude and helpful spirit. Since coming to DPR Construction two-and-a-half years ago, he has worked on a North Texas healthcare facility, two phases of a large financial campus, and earlier this year, he was instrumental in a Community Initiatives project, stepping in to build desks for students transitioning to home school during COVID-related shutdowns. A natural teacher, he regularly offers training courses to other members of DPR’s craft team, describing his efforts with the simple phrase, “I love to teach people.”

*The recording and photos used were captured at different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.*

Q: What is your role at DPR and describe the path you took to get there?

Salazar: I came to the US from Guanajuato, Mexico, 34 years ago and got my start in construction as a carpenter in South Texas. After moving to Dallas, I worked as a carpenter for about four years—but I really wanted to do drywall. I started working for drywall companies, working my way up to drywall foreman, when a former coworker told me what a great company DPR was. So, I made the move to DPR, and I am so glad I get to work for this awesome company—it’s totally different from all of the others. DPR really takes care of people.

Q: Why do you think being a self-performing general contractor makes a difference on a project?

Salazar: It’s an advantage for DPR and for our customers because we are all on the same team. Whenever someone says, “I need you to do this for me,” we can take care of it right away with no problems. We don’t have to wait for layers of approvals, which can take days or even weeks. Working for DPR—the general contractor who is also running the entire build—makes things easier and more streamlined. It saves us a lot of headaches.

Q: What have you learned from your teammates?

Salazar: Right now, we’re running about 50 drywall people. When we work together, we learn that the people on the crew have different levels of knowledge. Those of us who are more knowledgeable teach the others how to do things right the first time. Every day you learn something new, especially with different designs, different types of structures, and I think that’s the fun part. It’s not always the same thing.

One of my goals is to teach people. When you do that, you feel good. Whenever you see people succeed and do great things, you think to yourself, “I played a part in that.” I’m thankful that somebody took the time to teach me. Here in Texas, we do drywall, framing, ceiling grade, aluminum door frames, hardware, and a lot of acoustical ceilings. We do a lot of training classes at our SPW Workshop—from teaching crew members how to build a wall to how to read and interpret drawings.

Ceiling grid
Salazar recently conducted a ceiling grid class for team members at DPR’s Dallas SPW Workshop. Courtesy of Trevor Satterwhite

Q: What is one thing you think everyone can do to make the industry as a whole safer for everyone?

Salazar: We absolutely must follow our safety procedures. I was once on a jobsite where one of the team members didn’t feel he was in a dangerous situation, so he made the decision not to tie off. But EHS is so important to us, and each of us makes a commitment to say something if you see something wrong, so we intervened pretty quickly. It makes us more mindful that we have to take care of ourselves and at the same time take care of DPR. When you do something wrong, it can affect everyone—and everything can go downhill before you know it.

Q: We heard you took part in a Community Initiatives project recently where you did some furniture building.

Salazar: Oh, it was really good—we were so excited. A group of 16 of us, DPR team members, worked with Girls Inc. in Dallas. We built desks for students who were forced to do school from home because of the pandemic. After we were done, they sent us pictures of some of the girls using their new desks. It felt so good to contribute to the community, working to help people. DPR really takes care of its communities.

Q: How does your current project compare to others you have worked on?

Salazar: I’m working on Phase Two of a large financial campus outside of Dallas. Phase One consisted of three buildings and a parking garage. Phase Two is two buildings with a connector and one parking garage. Phase One was a little more difficult for me because I had just come to DPR and we were working under a pretty aggressive schedule. We worked hard to stay on track. It was challenging, but our team was excellent and we were committed to delivering the project on time. I love to be challenged. It encourages me to work harder to get the job done, which involves a lot of personal satisfaction.

Q: To be successful in your role, what skills does a person need?

Salazar: First of all, you need to love this trade. You need to be sincerely interested in doing it, in learning it and putting it into practice. And you must always stay on top of things, like change orders, RFIs—any changes that happen on the job. Relationships are important, too. We all have different personalities; it’s important to try to understand other mentalities and different ideas. A key to this trade is being able to work with and respect others.

Juan Salazar profile
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Salazar believes it’s important to stay on top of changes and to work aggressively to meet schedules to keep projects on track. Courtesy of Trevor Satterwhite

Q: What would your advice be for the next generation of builders entering this field?

Salazar: I always tell people if they have any questions or don’t understand things, they need to ask for help. When you ask, you’ll learn, but if you don’t ask, you’ll probably do something wrong and cause some rework. If you pay attention and learn, next time you'll do things right. I tell people to come to me with whatever questions they have, and if I don't have the answers myself, I will find them.