Footwear Material Innovator II at Nike
Oak Island, NC
Say hello to Hilary Walker, a young alumna of the Wilson College of Textiles. Hailing from Oak Island, NC, Walker decided to stay in-state for college. Her student life included being a part of Greek life, attending NC State athletic events and enjoying her time as a member of the Wolfpack.
After receiving a B.S. in textile technology with a focus in design, Walker ended up finding her way to Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, OR. She works with the leaders in athletic wear to develop new materials for the company. We caught up with her to recall her time at the Wilson College of Textiles and how it played a part in her career.
Why did you choose NC State and the Wilson College of Textiles?
When I was in high school, I was best at math and science but I also loved art. I was unsure of what I could do that would integrate the two until a Wilson College of Textiles representative came and spoke to my AP Biology class about all the programs at the college. Textile Technology was the perfect balance because you had plenty of science labs and classes but also got to work in design studios.
What activities were (are) you involved in as a student at NC State?
While I was a student at NC State, I was a University Ambassador and had a blast giving tours of the campus to potential new students and sharing my experiences. I also was a member of the American Association of Textile Chemists & Colorists (AATCC) and a charter member of Kappa Delta sorority where I met some of my best friends to this day.
What are some of your fondest memories at NC State and the Wilson College of Textiles?
Some of my best memories are with the amazing friends I made. Of course, things like wins over Duke and Carolina are huge or the emotional graduation day stands out in my experience. But the great memories you realize later on are the “little things” you would do with your best friends, like pulling an all nighter at Hunt library,, having a giant snowball fight on the Court of Carolinas, getting ready together and all going out to tailgates and games, making those late night runs to Bojangles or Cookout and hanging out with a big group of friends. Those are the moments that stick in your head.
Who influenced you most during your time at the Wilson College of Textiles?
I would have to say Nancy Powell influenced me most while I was at NC State. She was my advisor but also gave me great feedback and advice; I felt like I could go to her with any concern.
How did your education at the Wilson College of Textiles prepare you for what you are doing today?
I feel that the Wilson College of Textiles really offers a well-rounded course load. I had a degree in textile technology, but because I had the opportunity to take some marketing and brand classes, it helped me understand the business. The best class I took was senior design. It gives students a taste of what product development really is like.
Describe your career path.
The April before I graduated I accepted a job with Highland Industries as a college graduate in training. The parent company owned multiple manufacturers around the globe and I spent five months traveling to ten manufacturing facilities in the US, Mexico and Germany. When I returned I was the process engineer for the lamination and urethane lines. In 2016, I accepted a job with Nike as a Flyknit Yarn Developer where I worked with vendors and the internal team to commercialize materials to verify they were production ready. Two years later I accepted my current position in Footwear Innovation as a material Innovator. The team I work with and the job itself is so interesting and fun. We basically create new materials to provide the best performance solutions and we often have to create new materials that are not currently in the market. Working for Nike has been a great opportunity not only to work for such a well known brand but just the opportunities I have had to travel and meet such interesting people and it’s pretty great to be casually walking around campus and pass a world renowned athlete.
Are there things that you know now that you wished you had known as a student that we can share with our current and future students?
I always say make the most of college! I would tell future students to go to every game you can, to join the clubs you’re interested in and to work hard but have fun. Don’t take college for granted. Also remember that the textile world may seem huge, but you end up seeing many of the same people throughout your career. It’s always a good idea to make connections with professors and other students and to keep them after you graduate.