Mariya Cameron’s career has followed an unusual path that lead her to her current situation. Graduating in 2004 from the University of North Texas with a degree in Psychology, Mariya went on to work in a genetics lab at UTSouthwestern for 6 years. She was then recruited to start a national silicone fabrication for an upper limb prosthetics company. With that background and enthusiastic support from her peers she launched her own business, 14th Element Fabrication. Her game plan moving forward is best summarized by this quote from Mariya.  “My passion is serving the amputee population with functional, beautiful and innovative prosthetic limbs. Empowering clinicians with the best choices in customization for each unique limb brings me enormous gratification. In December of 2019 I opened my business, 14th Element Fabrication. Two months later the country shut down due to the global pandemic. Now, two years later I am hiring and expanding to create the workplace I have always dreamed of for myself and employees.”

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have discovered in life two passions for technology and helping people. I was fortunate in my background to have rigorous lab training at the UTSouthwestern neuroscience department and a career with prosthetics company, Arm Dynamics to put me in a position to grow my own business and ideas.
The Orthotics and Prosthetics industry is the perfect marriage between engineering and artistry. Silicone brings physical comfort to the patients and from a technical standpoint it’s cutting-edge material. Silicon is extracted from quartz crystal and synthesized with other constituents to make silicone… so it can be thought of as modified glass. How cool is that? Furthermore, silicone is said to be the missing link between organic and inorganic chemistry giving it properties of both.
I would say I am on a journey to leadership. The first part of that journey is building something notable in an industry. I would like to take lead on this technology and where it’s going in Orthotics and Prosthetics.

What brought you into the world of silicones?
It was kind of fate. The reality is a friend who was aware of my work in the genetics lab thought I might be a good fit for the job of silicone specialist at an upper limb prosthetics facility. I came in, interviewed for the position, got hired and found out this is something that really fascinates me.

What have the highlights and challenges been as a Founder of 14th Element Fabrication?
The biggest initial challenge was stepping into the unknown and entering an environment where I no longer had any guaranteed workload. Never having set up a business myself this was all new. Adding to this challenge, after 1 month of being in business the country shut down due to a global pandemic.

The highlight for me after being in business for the last year and half is that 14th Element Fabrication is succeeding and currently expanding with a new hire and department. Although personally challenged with time, I am more able to realize my current vision of expanding the scope and types of services offered. I am more enabled to fully explore technology, address a broader group of clients/collaborators and begin to tap into or create a network of contributors/technologists to make the products of tomorrow.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I am fortunate to be in a business where I am judged by the product I produce. I work hard to be among the leading silicone fabricators in the world… quality being my main objective. My sex has been a non-issue. I get judged and receive orders based on what I am turning out.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I am fortunate to come from a tribe of very strong, successful women in my family. Looking on the exterior I admire women who despite obstacles have the grit and the ability to carve out a successful life or business.

What advice would you give an aspiring female in the silicone industry or any business?
Silicone fabrication is a complicated business. Here are 6 critical factors to success as I see it:
  1. Quality of the product.
  2. Empathy for your clients and end users. This is the foundation for successful customer service.
  3. This business is rapidly changing and morphing with new technology. You need the creativity, determination and flexibility to facilitate continued innovation.
  4. Capital. I saved for 15 years to build sufficient capital for the business.
  5. Business acumen.
  6. Hire only the best people and give them an inspiring space to create in. When you find the best you create positions around them.