Growing up below the poverty line, Melissa Mowbray-D’Arbela, the founder of Filligent Technologies, learned to be resourceful at an early age.

Raised by a single mother of four, Melissa started her own business creating hand-made greeting cards at age 12. “Early on, I learned a lot about self-sufficiency and the importance of being empowered and empowering others,” Melissa told The Story Exchange.

She went on to become a lawyer on Wall Street and later an investment banker before starting Maven International, which she describes as an ethical investment fund.

Today, Melissa runs Filligent Technologies, a cutting-edge biotech firm based on ethical principles and disruptive ideas.

“I wanted to run a company that was based on ethical and business elements — the way that you treat your employees, the way that you do your corporate governance — the way that you treat your shareholders, how you treat the environment,” she said.

One of the company’s main products is the bio-mask — an anti-infection face mask designed along “intelligent-filtration” principles — that has been used in the aftermath of major disasters, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, as well as in HIV hospices. Her bio-masks are now available at Walgreens co-branded with Curad.

“The idea is that high technology shouldn’t have to be exclusive to high end customers,” Melissa told The Story Exchange. Filligent donates many masks for disaster relief, she adds.

Melissa says to succeed as a woman in male-dominated industries — and she’s worked in a lot of them, architecture, law, corporate finance, investment banking, private equity and now science — you have to be meticulous and strategic.

“I’m sort of like the terminator in that movie that just keeps getting up and going, and going. And yes he does get killed in the end but I’m not focusing on that.”

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This post first appeared on The Huffington Post