Reign FC Legend: Erika Wagner
The Legends campaign, a partnership between Seattle Reign FC and Avanade, honors women for their extraordinary contributions in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Prior to the match against Portland Thorns FC this Saturday, the club will recognize the Business Development Manager for Blue Origin, Dr. Erika Wagner.
In her current role, Dr. Wagner develops vehicles and technologies to enable human space transportation to better explore and understand our solar system. In her role, Wagner has worked to dramatically lower the cost and increase public access to spaceflight.
Previously, Dr. Wagner worked with the X PRIZE Foundation as Senior Director of Exploration Prize Development and founding Executive Director of the X PRIZE Lab@MIT. She also served at MIT as Science Director and Executive Director of the Mars Gravity Biosatellite Program, a multi-university spacecraft development initiative to investigate the physiological effects of reduced gravity. Dr. Wagner holds degrees from Vanderbilt University, MIT, and Harvard.
We sat down with Wagner to discuss the Legends campaign, her work, and more.
Seattle Reign FC: What kind of role do you think the Legends campaign plays in the community?
Erika Wagner: Our children strive to become the kinds of role models they see around them. The Legends campaign brings a wide range of women and their stories to the field so that our daughters and sons can see more paths forward towards their dreams.
SRFC: How did you get involved in your current field of work?
Wagner: When I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut. I guess I just never grew up! In college, I majored in biomedical and aerospace engineering with an eye towards astronaut health. Along the way, I found that I really loved translating between engineering, science, business, policy, and the public. Today, I work with researchers and educators worldwide to help them conduct their experiments on Blue Origin’s commercial rockets. I like to joke that I’m a used rocket saleswoman!
SRFC: What has your experience been like as a woman in STEM?
Wagner: I’ve had an incredible opportunity in life to follow my dreams and do what I love. The STEAM fields — science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics — are an incredible toolset to create, to understand, and to shape the world. Today, I have the great privilege to serve on the Board of Trustees at the Museum of Flight, and I work hard to share these tools with the next generation of dreamers and doers.
SRFC: What advice would you give to that next generation chasing their dreams in an industry where they may be underrepresented?
Wagner: Do what you love. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. And always look around to see who else needs a helping hand up that same ladder.
SRFC: Do you see any parallels between your work and sports?
Wagner: Game day and launch day actually feel very similar! Early wakeups…lucky socks…serious adrenaline…massive teamwork…and the importance of practice.
SRFC: What has been an inspiring moment in your work?
Wagner: In November 2015, Blue Origin launched our New Shepard rocket to space, then brought it back down, relit the engine, and landed it vertically like something out of a movie. That was the first time any company, or country for that matter, had ever done that. I couldn’t have been more proud of our team for all the blood, sweat, and tears that had gone into realizing that dream.
To learn more about the Legends campaign and read about past recipients, visit reignfc.com/legends.