How did you arrive at the decision to go to grad school?
I’m super passionate about topic. I was applying to law school, stepping into the way things go in African families. My siblings are doctors and lawyers, but I realized that isn’t what I want to do. So, I had to figure out how I could break into the sports industry. To do that I needed to go back to school, become an intern and network my way to where I wanted to be. Something about students and interns disarm people and they are more willing to talk to you. I was in a revolutionary program called the Sports Industry Management Program at Georgetown. To teach, professors had to have a nine to five in the sports industry. That was a game changer because as I developed relationships with my professors, I had people that could vouch for me when I pursued opportunities.
How has the pursuit and attainment of your graduate degree impacted your career?
I tell people all the time that I love being a Howard man but Georgetown changed my life. During my time at Georgetown, I took on a burden to represent Howard exceptionally well and treated it like a competition. I sat at the front of class, engaged with my professors, volunteered and interned. I was very thorough and in turn, doors opened for me. I was able to go to China with Georgetown’s basketball. I was also able to go to London with a small group of fellow students and our dean, who I knew I needed to get closer to. Not only did those opportunities teach me to be global, in London I met someone that connected me to a volunteer gig with ESPN and Gatorade. They offered me a job when I graduated. That set in motion a series of small wins that got me to where I am now.
What skills have you found to be necessary for success in your role but were challenging for you to develop?
Being an exceptional storyteller is key. I have always been a solid storyteller but elevating my craft to the next level was challenging at first because it’s a process and it did not happen overnight. It was something I had to work on every day. Something I still work on.
Another thing for me coming from Pepsi was transitioning to a more visual way of relaying information. Pepsi was a very “metrics” driven company and that came through in presentation materials. At Nike, I’m challenged to use as few words as possible and instead use photos and video to tell the story
How do you think having territory in New York makes your job different from counterparts in other parts of the country?
Context is very important to why people do what they do and buy what they buy. With all of the diversity that New York has to offer, I gain so much just by being outside. I don’t have to rely on Instagram to hip me to emerging trends. I immerse myself in the culture to understand which ones are truly taking hold because New Yorkers are the trailblazers. What makes you really good at your job here, and how I separate myself, is by turning observations into insights. A key for me has been taking what I see at the Hennypaloozas and Afropunks and pulling out something actionable that I can take back to a product, design or brand team to help guide them.
What are your thoughts on current sneaker culture?
Sneaker culture is the strongest it’s ever been. We just created a self-lacing sneaker! Amazing! There's tons of heat out in the marketplace, in addition to people literally having all types of amazing jobs now from the culture. You can write about sneakers, become a designer, create an app. The world is literally your oyster in the sneaker world.
What do you think is drawing people who were never big on sneakers to them now?
Sneaker collaborations are really helping bring people from the fashion world into the sneaker world. Secondly, the athleisure trend and wanting to be “cozy at all times” has also played a major role in drawing people into sneaker culture.
What is next for you?
Building a solid foundation in consumer mindsets is most important now. Talk to as many marketing gurus as possible and take their wisdom in addition to my previous experiences to climb the corporate ladder in a marketing capacity.
What keeps you motivated as you strive to achieve your goals?
My family in the sense that being able to give back to my parents in the way that I always imagined is very important to me. My friends keep me motivated too. I’m in a circle of people that sat in rooms at 19 and dreamed of doing things we are accomplishing now. Lastly, my community. I’m from Far Rockaway, Queens, which isn’t a sexy place in New York. I envision going back and being able to inspire pride in others by saying I’m from there.