When you combine a passion, ground-breaking technology, and a selfless drive to provide for underserved communities, what do you get? You get just a few parts and qualities that make up this month's Woman in Control. We are honored to introduce you to Dara, an Industrial Designer and co-founder of Field Ready, rebuilding humanity one 3D-printer at a time.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Hobbies, passions, experiences?
Traveling, designing, solving problems, I love working in teams, taking on lots of interesting projects, "making", exploring new cultures. I’m passionate about working with underserved communities, sailing, applied anthropology, making friends, doodling, and unfortunately, fixing 3D printers. Meeting new people, figuring out what excites them, exploring people and life, listening, hugging, dancing, playing, hanging out in maker spaces, surrounding myself with people more talented and smarter than I am. I love learning. I have an intense curiosity. I am constantly searching for new ways to apply technology to support the other 90% of the planet. For example flying drones in Nepal post-earthquake for search and rescue missions.
Tell us about the work you do and what you’ve created...
I focus on working with vulnerable populations. My goal is to empower people at the fringes from outer space to the edge of disaster. I’ve worked, studied, and lived in over 37 countries. Upon recognizing a common denominator - supply chain challenges in disaster struck areas - and machines, constantly broken for lack of a screw, or simple disposable medical devices missing completely, I deployed the first 3D printer to Haiti and then initiated the first Maker Lab run by Haitians. However the real impact to be had in my life was when we cofounded “Field Ready.” To create a humanitarian organization comprised of engineers, designers and real experts in humanitarian aid to focus completely on on-demand manufacturing during the onset of disasters. Beyond manufacturing, Field Ready is really about collaborative design and building resiliency through co-creating solutions in the field with those that need and know it best. We then trained locals in Haiti to use 3D printers to create their own solutions such as simple medical devices like umbilical cord clamps. We were able to teach them to manufacture these at a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the time to traditional methods. In essence on-demand and as-needed solutions built using co-creation by and for locals.
"I’ve worked, studied, and lived in over 37 countries."
During this time I was also part of the team that created the first off-planet manufacturing facility. Essentially we designed and launched a gravity independent 3D printer to put on the International Space Station. Allowing us to deliver solutions to the astronauts via email instead of the traditional approach involving rockets. Our approach reduced the time to send a solution from months or years to days or minutes .
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CHOOSE THIS CAREER? WHAT CONTINUES TO DRIVE YOU?
When I discovered industrial design, I was like “What?” I can make things for a career? I’m in! I have always wanted to “be of service” since I was a child. And design enabled me to find practical ways to do this. I feel that generally not enough attention is given to the other 95% of the population. People are remarkably industrious in various parts of the world. So how can we amplify this? What tools can we create to give them the power to help themselves? It is with Industrial Design that I am able to explore tangible solutions, work with a variety of cultures, and most importantly learn new things everyday. Great joy comes from the fact that I am constantly working on 15-20 different projects any given time. This keeps life invigorating, frustrating at times, and remarkably addictive.
I am incredibly grateful that I have been able to choose my path and find others that support the same initiatives. It is not only the “need” or “greater good” that drives me, but the support system that keeps me going. I am exceptionally blessed to have such amazing friends and mentors in my life. I absolutely could and can not ever do any of this alone. Nor would I ever want to. The best part of my career is that I get to work with truly phenomenal people every day. For example, this past fall I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing woman named Lisa. She is without a doubt the most badass woman I have ever met. She is a true HERO. She left her leg in Afghanistan 4 years ago and since meeting and working with her my obsession has only grown to humanize prosthetics. Not just in personal expression, but mostly in fit.
Engineers and designers always want to make super cool prosthetics, but forget about the end user and how it actually fits the human. For women in particular sockets are uncomfortable and painful. Our weight fluctuates monthly, and more things most men don’t consider or even understand. Lisa once said to me “I don’t care if its a rocketship you strap to my leg, if it isn’t comfortable I’m not going to wear it!”- Now daily, I am constantly researching new composites and smart textiles - hunting for an adaptive responsive solution. These are things that drive me. If we don’t do it, who will?
What does being a woman in control mean to you?
Sticking to it. Doing what you know to be right. Following one’s beliefs whether or not others believe in it or you. Make your decisions, letting things just happen is a decision on its own, to not be active or responsive in your own life. That is giving away your own power. Taking risks, although taking calculated ones. Giving yourself permission to learn, forgive, and move on. Whether that’s with someone else, or more importantly, yourself. Being strong on your own two feet.
Hold eye contact, meaning be in your power, don't hide it. Be fully present while interacting with others. I constantly make mistakes over and over again - my biggest downfall or cause of these snafus/challenges I have created myself because I didn’t listen to the little voice in my head saying “Mmm… not so sure about this one” and then talking myself out of this decision with “who am I to judge? I know nothing of this person or situation.” Without fail - this always led to chaos and danger. Being a woman in control means trusting your instincts - they are usually correct.
Can you share an experience where you have felt like a woman in control?
When everyone said I wasn’t smart enough to go to college - you know what? I did anyway. Being the first in my family to go to college - that feels good. It means that we are moving forward as a family.
I also felt this way when I was deployed to Texas with a team to help with an influx of child refugees. There were signs all over the walls that said, “Don’t touch the girls” because so much of these children’s lives had been in cultures and in scenarios where women and girls were seen as property or worse. We were brought in as part of a prototype edu-project to talk about technology; something only heard of and certainly not done by women.
It was when I began to show the boys about and how to build robots that I saw a dramatic shift in the perception of these young men. Literally slack-jawed. It was to put it simply - EPIC. Shortly after this, the girls that had learned to survive on the crossing to America by being wallflowers, were suddenly stepping up and leading class activities. Girls were becoming the Women they were meant to be. If we as women can show what can be done… imagine the permission we give to others to do the same.
Another time was when I had to woman up, face my fears, and do public speaking. This last summer I did a live TedX in front of 3,000 people. It was terrifying and everything in me wanted to run and hide. What drove me to do it against all survival instincts?
1) To prove to myself that I could face my fear
2) To show my niece. I wanted her to believe that “if she can do it, I can too.”
"I have an intense curiosity. I am constantly searching for new ways to apply technology to support the other 90% of the planet. For example flying drones in Nepal, post-earthquake, for search and rescue missions."
If you could say one thing to a young girl encouraging her to be a woman in control what would you say?
Choose your life don’t let it just happen to you. This is crucial. One day - you will ask yourself…how did I get here? This is not the life I dreamed of…or maybe if you are lucky - it will be even better than you ever imagined - and the choice is really up to you.
Stay curious! Do things that make YOU happy, not what makes others happy - or you will always be miserable. Answer your calling no matter how small or insignificant you might think it is to the rest of the world. There will always be naysayers, it’s up to you if they are right. Whether you can or can’t you’ll never know which is true until you try.
As my good friend Rich says, “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Learn from EVERYTHING. Celebrate failures, although it’s easier said than done. Amazing learnings can come from this. Self-reflection and personal accountability are rare skills. Hone them and you shall be the master of your own life. Unfortunately, bad things happen to everyone. The choice is up to you whether you are a victim or a survivor. This will dramatically effect how your life moves forward and unfolds.
Ask for help when you need it. Vulnerability is a strength. Trust me. Protect yourself, but stay open. Listen to your elders, they know more than a few things and have literally been around the block. Surround yourself with people you admire, eventually they will rub off on you. A sign of a good night out for me? It's when I know I was the most un-intelligent person in the room. Remember, luck is simply where preparation and opportunity meet. So get prepared for the life you have always wanted.
What are your favorite aspects or pieces from the LIA LARREA brand?
Lia’s line is truly a line for the independent woman. Sharp, flattering, feminine with a twist of power and “Say So.” I could wear it riding motorcycles in Haiti, flying drones in Nepal, at a cocktail party in SF, or presenting at TED. I absolutely adore the line of her clothes. Not just the sharp contrasting colors, or patterns of the cut. But how overall it flatters the body as a woman without too strong of sexual overtones. This is the line I had been waiting to find that celebrates the strong modern woman in a way that doesn't sacrifice femininity. I simply love the quality of the material, the attention to detail, and most importantly that I can wash it! Dry cleaners are in short supply in many places I go.
My two favorite pieces right now, are the Mila Dress, which I lovingly call “the Star Trek Dress” as I am a space geek, and the City Jacket because it makes me feel as though I can wear anything, walk into any room, and most importantly own it.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Photography - Quincy Stamper
Edited by Ashley Tateo
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