AEC Industry Community Leader of the Year – Donnia Tabor-Hanson


Could you please introduce yourself? How did you first get interested in 3D software/CAD?


Hello, my name is Donnia Tabor-Hanson. As a child, my sisters played with Barbie dolls while I built toy furniture and houses for them. I wanted to take Drafting in my sophomore year of high school, but I was told I needed more Math credits to enroll. I eventually got in during my junior and senior years. During my Senior year, my instructor recommended me to a local architectural firm that needed some drafting. I went on to the local community college and graduated with an Associate of Science in Architecture. I was the first girl to graduate with that degree, and it was a big enough deal to be written up in the Women's section of our local paper.


Eventually, I got married, stayed home, had two children, cooked, learned to sew, quilt, and had the typical housewife life for eight years. But then my husband was killed in an automobile accident. I had to get to doing something to raise my children. 


I returned to school to get my Bachelor's and Master's in Technology Education. I figured I could teach high school and be on the same schedule with my children. During one of my semesters teaching, an instructor introduced me to MATC CAD on an Apple computer. I learned to program and soon took on four students to teach it to. I even found a way of saving corrupted files that was not yet documented. The MATC CAD team eventually put me in touch with a local community college, which is where I was introduced to Versacad, CADLInc, Intergraph, and Computer Vision. I spent a week with the instructor, giving me free rein on my work, and completed my final project on all four software within the week. The college ended up offering me my first job teaching CAD.


How did your career eventually lead you to your current role as a Senior CAD/BIM Analyst? 


My career has taken several turns over the years. I have previously taught college courses and ran an Autodesk Training Center. I also had my own consulting business for several years. I have worked for architects, a software reseller, food service consulting, and log home design, and now I am in Design Technical Services.


My current job involves helping people. One person I met over twenty years ago called me last year and offered me my current job at Nelson. As a certified professional in Revit and a member of Autodesk's Expert Elite program, I can answer most people's questions about Revit. I did what most that go into architecture say they would do, and I actually designed my house. I am living in my first Revit project. 


What are you most looking forward to about this year's AU?


For the last several years, I have been mentoring speakers for Autodesk University, several of my mentees having reached Top Speaker status. I was awarded Speaker of the Year during AU 2000, and working with new or returning speakers is always rewarding. With AU 2023 looming, I am excited to do the same thing I love every year: meet up with the friends I have made through the years. I always have to stop to give a hug to my friends at AU every year.


What motivates you to be such an engaged member of the Autodesk community?  


I first got engaged in the Community when I was elected to the North American Autodesk User Group, which has since become AUGI. I served all offices for the group and worked part-time, helping with all aspects of that group. I helped out with proofing their handouts and rehearsing their presentations. This has proven to be one of the most helpful activities for the mentees. Giving them feedback on a presentation can help them with their class before they have to teach it. 


During the pandemic, I was the first AEC Industry Community leader to ask to do a Community Conversation. These one-hour live events allowed me to train on my favorite topic, Revit. These events, as well as contributing to the Community Blog and mentoring potential AU speakers, are great ways to support one another in the Community. 


What does being part of a community of like-minded 3D creatives, professionals, and hobbyists mean to you? 


I have been working from home for several years, and the Autodesk Community means a lot to me. The Autodesk Community Forum is where I can always get help from other users. I want to hear what someone has learned about how to fix what I am going through. I like finding answers to my questions quickly and from someone who has gone through what I am going through. I may have answers for someone at times, also. Being able to get answers, help, support, and fun sometimes is what keeps me coming back to communities. I have many personal friends that I have met through the community interaction I have had. 


Do you have any advice you'd like to offer for others considering a career in AEC?


Over my career, I have learned a lot. I have worked in a variety of fields and loved each one of them. I am currently in the job I love the most. I did not become a licensed architect. I realized that they did not get to play with the software like I love to do. I saw them going to meetings and doing budgets. The variety of work that I have done has constantly challenged me. Nothing has challenged me more than my current job, though. I like to think back to that girl in high school who would not take no for an answer. I just kept trying.


*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity*






Congratulations, Donnia!


Look for @donnia.tabor-hanson to see Donnia's contributions.

Community Manager

Congratulations @donnia.tabor-hanson 


I'm so happy and proud to see you recognized for this. Amazing work as always. 


Congrats on your award, Donnia,

Your story is inspiring, and you know you are doing the right thing when you love your work (and it doesn't feel like work!). Job well done. Keep on sharing!