Search & Replace Episode S01E25: Darla Powell

It’s never too late to reinvent yourself. After nearly two decades, Darla Powell left a secure job with a pension in law enforcement for entrepreneurship. Everyone around her thought she was crazy for leaving, but she believed in herself. Today, she owns a successful interior design company and a marketing agency—and she’s following her passion. Listen in as Darla shares her experience making the leap into a second career on Search and Replace. 

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialist at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode. 

[00:00:09] Joe Taylor, Jr.: What if you invest a few decades into your career and you start wondering if everyone you know, just hates that for you, including yourself. I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace.

Darla Powell spent more than 17 years working in law enforcement, eventually reaching the post of Sergeant with the Miami Dade police department. That’s a pretty risky job when you think about the day responsibilities and entails. But it’s also the kind of job that typically comes with a lot of financial security and professional recognition. Even so, it wasn’t exactly the career that Darla planned on. 

[00:00:52] Darla Powell: So I was floating around and lost. I didn’t have a lot of formal education and I was going from job to job and I saw that in the Miami Herald down here, where I’m from, that they were hiring for a job called wildlife officer. And I still remember seeing that in the paper and thinking, that sounds pretty cool. I can go out and pet the deer and go bird watching and get paid for it. And it wasn’t until I was knee deep into the processes that I found out, it was actually for law enforcement for game warden. So I went up and I did the whole academy and I hated it. I really didn’t like it. But I had this certification for law enforcement and I was homesick and I wanted to come back home to Miami. And I saw the Miami day police department was hiring. I said, I guess this is what I’m gonna do for a while because I don’t wanna waste it. 

[00:01:37] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So a while turned out to be the better part of two decades. Moving up through the ranks and achieving recognition and promotions along the way. For many law enforcement professionals this is the ideal scenario. For Darla, something didn’t sit quite right 

[00:01:54] Darla Powell: 18 and a half years later, after hating that career, I was 47 years old I said, life is short. Spending my life the way I would like to, it’s not fulfilling me from a passion standpoint. It’s not challenging me. And I had always been interested in decorating and design, ever since I was a kid as a side hustle.

So I started a side business, Darla Powell Interiors, and was able to really successfully market super well on social media started getting clients right away. And just decided, Hey I can’t do both. I can’t be a cop and be good at that cause I was a Sargent at the time, which is a lot of responsibility. And I can’t be a part-time interior designer and do justice to my clients. And then decided, all right, law enforcement’s not really been my thing. It’s not been my calling in life. I, I took the leap and decided to give my Lieutenant two weeks notice and jump off the cliff for the interior design industry. And I haven’t looked back since. 

[00:02:55] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Even as Darla questioned her role in the law enforcement community, she says some of her friends and colleagues worried she was trading the stability of a predictable career for a bigger risk as an entrepreneur.

[00:03:07] Darla Powell: Most everybody said I was crazy to be giving up such a secure job with the pension. But there were a few romantic believers who thought I could do it and pull it off and saw the possibility for me. 

I’ll tell you what, what did factor in was the thankless part of the political climate. And then it’s just how everybody seemed to hate cops. And it was just miserable and depressing. 

I like to tell people now in my current career as an interior designer, and a marketing professional with my marketing agency that I get shot at a lot less. Sorry I think with so much less stressful, it really is. 

I think it’s because I do have that experience with life and death situations, and I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been in shootings. I’ve seen life or death, people dying in front of me. I’ve been on everything you can name as an officer, as a field training officer, as a detective and as a Sergeant at the end of my career. So now when I’m dealing with clients, either on the marketing site or the design side, and something goes wrong my first instinct is nobody’s dying. Nobody’s getting shot at. We’re safe. It’s a sofa. The vendor will fix any defects and materials, or we can always alter this caption it’s gonna be okay. So it really allows me to be a calming influence on my clients and put everything into perspective for them.

And I just, it’s definitely been helpful in that area. I’m very good under pressure. I don’t lose my cool. I can’t imagine anything at either industry, that would be so stressful as to what I had to deal in is law enforcement. So even the hardest stuff coming at me is, by comparison, is pretty smooth sailing. 

[00:04:49] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Running an interior design firm and a marketing agency must feel smooth when your previous job involves daily stress and bodily peril. And yet Darla discovered her years in law enforcement provided her with skills that translate quite well to her new career. 

[00:05:04] Darla Powell: I’ll tell you where the law enforcement actually strengthened me as a business owner and both is my problem solving skills. A design standpoint, even, because it’s more than just making things pretty. You’re going in and you’re actually problem solving functionality for space on the family, on how they live or what they wanna accomplish; their kitchen or their home office. It’s just a lot more fun type of problem solving. 

[00:05:29] Joe Taylor, Jr.: If you are considering taking your own problem, solving skills into a new career, Darla’s got a few ideas for you.

[00:05:35] Darla Powell: We all have this intuition that speaks to us. Listen to your intuition, but don’t just jump off the deep end. Make sure that if there’s something you want to switch careers, or if you wanna follow your passion, start it as a side business first. Even see if you like it. Just don’t quit. Have some savings, have a plan, have a business plan.

I would recommend if you have, if there’s someone in the industry that you can talk to, be a mentor. Listen to your intuition, have all your ducks in a row, and there’s no guarantees. You could fall on your butt. It just, you have to- I would rather dare greatly and fail than have stayed with the police department and had it slowly killing me every day. That would be it. Who knows it’s there’s risk. It’s called risk taking for a reason, but I think you can mitigate a lot of it by doing some of those things I said. 

[00:06:24] Joe Taylor, Jr.: That’s Miami interior designer and marketing consultant, Darla Powell. We’ve got links to all of Darla’s projects on the show notes page at our website

Also in our show notes, we’ve got a few more resources for career shifters, including a note from life coach Leah Masonick, reminding us that being a quitter isn’t always bad. We’ve got all that and more in our show notes and on our website at 

Search and Replace was produced by Nicole Hubbard. With support from Christine Benton, Connie Evans, Amelia Lohman, April Smith, and Executive Producer Lori Taylor. Our theme music was composed by Alex Refire. I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. 

[00:07:05] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production. Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor. User experience specialists, serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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