Freedom to Fly

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To honor American independence and July 4, CircleAround is collaborating all month long with NAWBO (the National Association of Women Business Owners) in a series of posts exploring the following prompt: "What do liberty and independence mean to me as a woman business owner and female entrepreneur?"

Freedom to me has always meant the opportunity to pursue my passions. I fell in love with biology in college. I learned to hike and fish while working as a student intern for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and then to ride and pack horses and mules when I was hired full time by the U.S. Forest Service after graduating college. After 12 years with the federal government, I attended law school to study environmental law and start my own environmental consulting firm. Two years later, my husband, a professional land surveyor, joined me. We grew our business by combining the environmental and surveying professions to map habitat and animals, advise on construction projects, and more.

In 2003, we saw advances in surveying technologies that led to our investment in 3-D digital data collection. Moving forward with this new technology allowed us to master LiDAR (light detection and ranging) and eventually move into drone work. I became an FAA-licensed commercial pilot. Flying drones gives me the freedom to move around above the ground and observe animals and habitats from a new perspective.

We have worked in six countries, surveying and mapping. Most of our travels involve the digital-transformation movement, replacing paper blueprints and maps with 3-D digital data.

The early days of my career were difficult because size and strength mattered when carrying heavy survey equipment. Women were not encouraged to work in the field. However, I won respect with my tenacity and willingness to work as hard as everyone. Today, with drones and 3-D scanning, knowledge and skill matter more than brute strength. Younger women no longer have the same physical hurdles. 

"The ability to be free to pursue my passions has led to a rewarding career, a happy family life, a son who follows in our footsteps, and more."

With COVID-19, we now offer virtual construction meeting tools for remote workers. We provide the digital data to plan, design, and monitor construction from anywhere, anytime. We collect our data with drones and LiDAR to keep our employees and customers safe. As the world evolves, so do I.

This post is part of a series produced by CircleAround and NAWBO. Founded in 1975, NAWBO is the unified voice of over 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States.

Mary Darling, 64 (feels like 21), is the founder and principal owner of Darling Geomatics, a global award-winning high-tech land-surveying firm in Tucson, Arizona.

Tags: NAWBO, Adventure, Courage, Empowerment

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Mary Darling, NAWBO Member

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CircleAround is owned by One GS Media, a subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA, and we make financial distributions to benefit the next generation of Girl Scouts. We strive to make the world a better place by supporting each other today and emboldening the women leaders of tomorrow.

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