Maza’s nuclear energy career almost didn’t happen. But, thanks to a recession, she found her true calling.
During the summers while attending The Ohio State University, Maza interned at a petroleum company in Louisiana and was one of the first women to work on an oil rig. This supported her academic major in chemical engineering and minor in petroleum engineering. After graduation, Maza was elated at receiving an offer to work for the oil company and was excited for this unique opportunity, but the company rescinded its offer shortly after extending it – blaming the recession.
Maza returned home to New Jersey and sent resumes to several oil companies, while working a few temp jobs, including as a substitute teacher. The Hope Creek Generating Station was under construction in Salem County, N.J. and Maza met a few of the construction workers at one of her temp jobs. One offered to take her resume to the new nuclear plant, and that’s when she landed her first job in nuclear energy – a chemistry technician at Hope Creek.
Maza enjoyed the hands-on application of science and was drawn to chemistry in high school. Growing up in New Jersey in the shadow of a large chemical plant whose employees were actively engaged in chemistry classes hooked her on chemistry, and then chemical engineering.
While in college, Maza realized she needed to be tenacious in learning and not let any course or grade define her. She threw herself into the engineering program and decided not to let detractors who thought engineering was not for women take her energy, rather she was determined to let her accomplishments speak for themselves.
She used that energy and determination to work her way up to leadership positions at Hope Creek in both the chemistry and radiation protection groups by focusing on the things she could control. She ensured she was prepared for meetings, remained focused on all aspects of work assignments and contributed something of value to interactions.
She also learned that balance is important both professionally and personally. Maza saw her parents successfully commit to their family, as well as their careers. They showed her that while family and career can co-exist, some things may end up less than perfect. Maza shared her house wasn’t always meticulously clean (unless the in-laws were visiting), her children could help with laundry (and survive an unexpected pink wardrobe) and healthy meals could come from cans. In fact, less than perfect in some cases allowed her family to make great memories.
As Maza’s three children grew and thrived, so did her career. She left Hope Creek to join the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), whose mission is to promote the highest levels of safety and excellence in nuclear operations, where she held senior leadership positions over workforce training, education and proficiency, and performance monitoring. She supported operational excellence programs at nuclear power plants across the nation, while also engaging with employees and advocating for nuclear energy.
Maza joined Duke Energy four years ago, first as an on-loan INPO employee and then a Duke Energy employee. She has responsibility for nuclear fleet training, nuclear protective services, nuclear operations support and organizational effectiveness.
Her dedication to the industry has not gone unnoticed. Maza recently received the 2019 U.S. Women in Nuclear Leadership Award for her distinguished career in the nuclear energy industry, where she has been a champion not just for women working in the industry, but all employees.
Maza is very thankful for her opportunities in the nuclear industry and credits her family and mentors who have all consistently encouraged her to take positions outside her comfort zone. She says that while no one can really have it all, you can have what is most important in life – a family that is happy and thriving, and a successful career.
Even if it’s a career that almost didn’t happen.