As she stepped up to the employee store counter to pay her bill, LEGO® specialty products manager Katie Regan’08 pulled out a credit card bearing Washington State University’s famous logo. Jordan Paxton ’04, behind her in line, let out a shout of recognition. “Bumping into Cougars on the East Coast is a big deal,” explains Paxton, a consumer service specialist at LEGO. “It rarely happens, so when you come across a Cougar, you’re instant friends.”

Regan and Paxton soon learned they had more than Cougar pride in common. The two attended WSU at the same time, then both accepted jobs with The Walt Disney Company, but it wasn’t until they joined the LEGO team at its main U.S. office in Enfield, Connecticut—Regan in 2012 and Paxton in 2013—that the two actually met. These days, they both spend their days working with the famous LEGO play materials that have entertained and educated children for over 80 years.

Regan oversees in-store displays and works directly with designers at company headquarters in Billund, Denmark to create unique sets for top product retailers like Walmart, Target, and Toys ‘R’ Us. “Designers come to Denmark from around the world to create new products, and it’s fascinating to see such a mix of cultures, backgrounds, and educational experiences coming together in the service of play.”

Jordan Paxton and Katie Regan at LEGO
Jordan Paxton ’04 and Katie Regan ’08 at the LEGO company store in Enfield, Connecticut (Photo Peter Morenus)

“We try to recreate our entire portfolio every 12 to 18 months, which translates to roughly 400 new sets or products every year,” notes Paxton. “Not every LEGO set interests every kid, so new offerings help to keep kids engaged and also allow us to reach new audiences.”

Among the latest offerings that delight Paxton is the LEGO Group’s new set of minifigures honoring four women of NASA: computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, astronaut Sally Ride, astronomer and executive Nancy Grace Roman, and astronaut Mae Jemison. “It’s a very exciting set for us,” he says. “We’re honored to be able to create these groundbreaking women in minifigure form to recognize their accomplishments and promote STEM programs.”

Regan also appreciates the constantly evolving mix of learning and fun that LEGO sets offer. An educator at heart with a bachelor’s degree in human development and a master’s degree in higher education administration, she is happy to work for a company she admires and knows well. “I grew up in Enfield and worked for LEGO in high school, and my mom worked for the company for 21 years,” she says. “When I decided I wanted to come home to Connecticut, LEGO was a natural choice.”

A sociology major from Olympia, Washington, Paxton says he came to work for the company because being around LEGO makes him happy. “I played with LEGO bricks as a kid, and when I was in college, my mom and dad used to send me LEGO sets during finals to provide a diversion and keep me calm.” Now as a consumer service specialist, Paxton keeps others calm, overseeing child safety and consumer escalations and acting as a liaison to the advisors who staff the company’s customer service lines. “Our team builds and tests all the products so that we’ll have firsthand knowledge of what kids will experience when they use the sets. We then share this knowledge with advisors so they’ll know how to respond when kids call with questions or problems.”

Whatever your role, the company is keen on engagement, Regan notes. Most meeting rooms have buckets or bowls of bricks sitting around that you can play with during meetings, she says, and her department hosts “Snack-n-Build” events where everyone gets together and makes something. “It gives us all a break and reminds us how fun—and sometimes difficult—it is to build,” she observes.

“The company encourages us to use the toys, not just sell them. Every day we focus on play.”