Erika Baeza-Wisdom, Deputy Manager of NNSA’s Los Alamos Field Office, has spent a lifetime breaking down barriers and disproving cultural and gender stereotypes.
She is only the second Latina member of the Senior Executive Service in NNSA’s 21-year history. Baeza-Wisdom credits her parents with teaching her that a job worth doing was worth doing well and worth doing right.
“I grew up on a farm in the Texas Panhandle as the youngest of six kids,” she said at a recent DOE Hispanic Heritage presentation. “We were a Mexican family that grew up with very humble means. We were poor but we never went without. And even though we were poor, we were generous, humble, and grounded in our heritage. It was always important to my parents that I remember where I came from and that I embrace my heritage. I’ve always carried it with me and it’s something I try to keep alive for my daughters.”
Baeza-Wisdom serves as Deputy Field Office Manager of Business, Security and Missions for the field office. She oversees three top-level organizations: Safeguards and Security, Business and Contract Management and Mission Assurance and Infrastructure. The field office provides oversight of the $3.9 billion management and operating contract at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Her parents were uneducated, working-class people from large families – each had eight brothers and sisters. Her father, a farmer and rancher, came to the United States on a work visa and became a naturalized citizen at age 21. Her mother was a truck driver and homemaker. Growing up, Baeza-Wisdom said she and her siblings helped at home and in the fields. They drove the tractor and cut weeds in crop fields by hand with a machete. She learned to make tortillas by the age of 10 – an enviable talent in the Southwest. Although she often butted heads with her mother, Baeza-Wisdom said she got her persistence, independence, and stubbornness from her. Though both parents have passed away, family continues to be her anchor.
“My siblings are a link to my past and my children are the future. Because of my parents’ hard work and sacrifice, I take every opportunity I have to continue their legacy of perseverance, persistence, humility, and kindness to others. My work for NNSA is how I continue to honor my parents’ sacrifices and their pride in the country they made home. I think my brothers and sisters and I have become my parents’ American dream realized.”
Prior to becoming deputy manager, Baeza-Wisdom served in various roles at the Los Alamos Field Office, including deputy assistant manager for nuclear safety, engineering and readiness; emergency management program manager; and nuclear safety specialist. She has also supported the Radiological Assistance Program as a federal team leader for Region 4 and worked as an invited technical expert with the International Atomic Energy Agency, teaching emergency management in Spanish to responders from Latin America. She is a senior technical safety manager and the field office’s federal technical capabilities panel agent.
She has 13 years with DOE/NNSA and previously worked at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina, as a nuclear accident analyst performing design basis accident calculations for DOE’s Office of Environmental Management and NNSA’s missions as well as an emergency planning hazards assessment analyst. She also worked as an authorization basis analyst at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, and was a member of the consequence assessment team within the emergency response organization.
She holds a master’s degree from Texas Tech University and graduated with honors with a double bachelor's degree from West Texas A&M University.