“One of my career goals is to work in product development for an athletic apparel company, so Nike has always been a top choice for me,” said NC State Textile Engineering senior Carmen Davis, who spent the summer as an intern at Nike world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. “I knew that they offered an incredible internship program and that was something that I wanted to be a part of.”
Davis, also majoring in Chemical Engineering, spent the previous two summers as a process engineering intern at Procter & Gamble. We asked her to share her summer internship experience and advice for current and future internship seekers.
What was it like to intern with Nike?
The Manufacturing Innovation Team is working on developing new technologies and capabilities to disrupt current footwear manufacturing methods. Footwear manufacturing is an extremely laborious process — over 250 people go into the making of a single pair of shoes. The team that I was on was working to develop more responsive and sustainable footwear manufacturing methods. Over the course of the summer, I got to develop and execute a trial with an external supplier to demonstrate a new manufacturing capability in the construction of a prototype shoe. It was really cool to be able to utilize engineering principles to develop something I wear everyday.
My building was a combination of an office, lab and manufacturing environment. I was able to do a lot of hands-on lab work and then go back to my desk to analyze the results.
This summer I was so impressed with how generous employees were with their time. Everyone I met was approachable, kind, and happy to share their career development advice and expertise with me. The collaborative and team based culture is present in the constant flow of coffee chats in the Mia Hamm Cafe, cheering on Ronaldo Field at lunch during soccer games, and the buzz of excitement when celebrating a team success.
I had so many incredible mentors, many of whom were NC State Wilson College of Textiles alumni. It was amazing to see how NC State helped contribute to their successes at Nike. I also made a lot of very close friends among the Nike intern group. There were 250 interns from all over the United States, in a variety of majors including marketing, computer science, and engineering. Nike held several intern events, including a white water rafting trip on the Deschutes and a trip to watch a Major League Soccer game (Portland Timbers). These events allowed me to meet interns outside of my department and form close friendships.
How did you find out about your internship?
As an avid distance runner, I have always wanted to have a hand in working to develop and innovate the next generation of athletic apparel materials. I found out about my internship through one of my academic advisors. I emailed a contact at Nike, who recommended that I apply online and through ePACK. After applying online, I went through several rounds of phone interviews before receiving my offer.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I enjoyed every aspect of my time at Nike! The people were so incredibly welcoming, helpful, and passionate about their work. Everyone I met was willing to help me with anything I needed and truly wanted to see me succeed.
Another aspect I enjoyed about Nike was the company culture and events. The outdoor patio watch parties and live streaming of games in the office spaces were great opportunities for Nike employees from all over the world to come together in fun-spirited ways. Sport has historically been one of the most powerful influences in the world, and it was amazing to feel the energy and excitement translate into a work environment. In an often divided world, nothing brings people together like sport.
Can you describe a typical day on the job?
My day consisted of running tests in the lab, prepping samples for trials, and meeting with people relevant to my project. Toward the end of the summer, I traveled to downtown Portland where I was helping to run a trial at one of Nike’s vendors. I also set-up “coffee chats” with people in outside departments as a way to network and learn more about other areas of Nike. Throughout my summer, I attended a number of speaker series, professional development workshops, and happy hours set up by the Nike intern program.
What is your advice for fellow internship seekers?
If you are interested in a company, I recommend reaching out to an academic advisor or career counselor to see if they have a contact at a company you are interested in. It never hurts to reach out to see what kind of opportunities are available or what skills or experiences your dream company is looking for. A simple email could lead you to incredible opportunities!
I also recommend applying early and researching the company you are interested in. I got a few questions about Nike’s products in my interview, so it is always good to come into an interview prepared.
What did you learn from your experience?
I took away so many lessons from my summer at Nike. First, I learned the importance of engineering in an athletics company. It was amazing to understand and witness the impact that textile engineers can have on the future of Nike footwear and manufacturing. I also learned the importance of taking technical data and results and being able to present this information in a meaningful and non-technical way. A lot of the work my team was doing required buy-in from outside departments, so it was important for them to convey what they were working on in clear and concise ways.
How did you use your education in your internship? What will you take from your internship as you approach your senior year and life after college?
I was able to apply a lot of what I learned from my courses in textile manufacturing, fiber sciences and thermodynamics to my summer project. I felt that the courses I took during my time at NC State well prepared me for the projects I tackled this summer and allowed me to make technical decisions with confidence.
I am going to use the project management, time management, and communication skills gained during my internship this summer throughout my year-long Textile Engineering/Textile Technology Senior Design class and other clubs I am involved in on campus. Having the opportunity to intern at Nike this past summer truly solidified my desire to work for a company in the athletics industry.