“One of the things that I’m pretty passionate about is women being competitive and not having negative connotations around being competitive… I think that sometimes women don’t embrace that enough,” said Erika Taugher ’08, ’09, a star soccer alumna who earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and a master’s in international business. “Being competitive, I think it gives you an advantage and I think it helps to motivate you… For me it gives me some fire, and that definitely applied on the soccer field and…at NJIT in terms of wanting to get top grades.”
Taugher brings that same spirit — along with the confidence, passion, focus, determination and resilience that comes from being an athlete — to her job as lead contact for the U.S. Power and Gas Retail Business at the Macquarie Group, a global investment banking and diversified financial services group that has a very strong presence in the commodities space. On board at Macquarie for two years now, she works with both wholesale and retail clients, assists with structuring and origination of new deals, and takes care of some of the trading and execution. Before joining Macquarie, she spent eight years at JPMorgan focused on the trading side of the energy business.
It is her career achievements to date, as well as her background in athletics — she also played on the Portuguese national women’s team — that prompted her recent induction into the Women Athletes Business Network (WABN) Mentoring Program, a partnership initiative of Ernst & Young and the International Women’s Forum (IWF) Leadership Foundation. The program is designed to harness the professional potential of women athletes as they make the transition “from the field to the boardroom” or continue on their trajectory as rising business leaders. Since launching in 2013, the program has selected 25 elite women athletes each year, paired them with the top women business leaders in the country for one-on-one mentoring, and provided additional support and guidance for success.
Taugher belongs to a diverse WABN mentee class that represents 17 sports and eight nations. She learned about the program at an IWF conference this past October and was encouraged to apply by her manager.
“I was so impressed by the caliber of women there. It was a forum that included a lot of discussions around science and technology, and that played back into my NJIT curriculum and background,” she recalled.
While Taugher will meet her fellow 2018 mentees later this year at a WABN conference in Miami, she will soon connect with her mentor, Carrin Patman, chair of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. The two will meet regularly throughout the year in Houston, where they both work.
“I think that she’s going to be able to help guide me and help me figure out how I can probably best use my skills to be in a similar type [leadership] position at some point in the future,” she noted of Patman. “I’m really excited to hear her story.”
Growing up in Canada, Taugher participated in a variety of sports, from figure skating, skiing and dance, to basketball, swimming and, of course, soccer. “I was so fortunate that my parents put me in so many things… Soccer was just what I gravitated to,” she remarked. “Because I had that exposure, it gave me confidence.”
That self-assurance coupled with her athletic ability landed her a spot training with the Canadian team when she was a teenager, one of the youngest players to do so. Just a few years later, she was recruited by NJIT for its Division I women’s soccer team and received a full athletic scholarship. Ten years since graduating, she still holds the school record for most career points (47) and most career assists (15), and is tied for most career goals (16).
Soccer was not the only draw for Taugher to attend NJIT, however. She also loved the university’s proximity to Manhattan and Wall Street, and appreciated its focus on science and engineering. In addition to playing soccer, she was an Albert Dorman Honors College scholar, vice president of finance for the Student Senate, resident assistant, teaching assistant in physics and tutor for the Educational Opportunity Program. Today she is the co-chair of NJIT’s Houston Regional Alumni Club.
Taugher developed many critical skills for success from athletics, but attributes her aptitude for solving problems, being analytical and thinking on her feet to her engineering education. She feels her degree set her apart during her job search and encourages young girls to study engineering.
“You can pursue a lot of different careers from there,” said Taugher, who is clearly enjoying hers with the Macquarie Group. “It’s incredible how many senior women there are at Macquarie and how much they put a big emphasis on developing their talent.”
Apart from her involvement in the WABN, Taugher will be busy in the months ahead training for the New York City Marathon and planning her wedding to Scott Rietze ’10, also from Canada and a former soccer player for NJIT. When she reflects on her own soccer experience at the university, she says she enjoyed the competition, as expected, and singles out Assistant Vice President/Director of Athletics Lenny Kaplan for his support and encouragement.
“Being an international student and being so far from home, knowing that you could count on somebody like him…I was able to walk into Lenny’s office and talk to him about how my week at school was or what I was thinking for a soccer game. He was just so approachable,” Taugher remembered. “He really cares about the athletes.”