In Their Own Words: Alex Martens’ Nike Internship
As I sit elbow to elbow with two strangers on my five-hour flight back to Kentucky, I finally have time to reflect on what I actually did this summer. It’s been a summer full of growth, learning, acceptance, new friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. It’s easy to overlook the unique opportunity that I had and it’s easy to take it all for granted. But now that I’m able to really dissect this accomplishment, I wanted to share my adventures and what I learned. This is going to be a long one — this is my summer at Nike.
It took six months. Six months of resume prep, interviews and planning. After the fourth month had passed and I still hadn’t heard back, I started losing hope. But, in late April I finally got the call, I was going to be working at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, for two months as a Global Employee Communications Intern. I had to be there in June which left me with only two months to plan travel, living and all the logistics, as well as finish school and play postseason softball.
Once the season ended I started packing and moved myself across the country to Portland, Oregon. I lived in a two-bedroom apartment downtown with a diver from University of Florida and we instantly hit it off. It’s crazy how the world brings people together and you never know why, but it always seems to make sense in the end.
I was immediately submersed into this dynamic and cultivating work environment. Let me remind you this internship was my first real job. I knew I was qualified but it’s still an intimidating situation when everyone around you is talking about ROS, EOD deadlines and every other acronym I had to learn. My time at Nike was on a two-month timeline and I had to jump in head first. Isn’t that what taking risks is all about though?
Ambiguity is a strange thing. You have no way of knowing what will happen tomorrow, next week or even within the next hour. But how you handle that ambiguity says a lot. Every day at Nike was different, I never knew if I’d be writing a story for the employee website, or sitting in meetings to discuss JDI Day. What I did know was that I was going to be learning more than I ever had before.
So what does a Global Employee Communications Intern do? Great question. During my interviews I asked the same thing and my boss just told me “everything.” How ambiguous of a word. Everything. Looking back on it now, I really did do everything! My department was the editorial and experiences function of GEC. So we wrote for the employee website — zero — produced employee experience and events and basically everything that touched NIKE Inc., employees globally. The employees were our consumers. You might think that sounds boring compared to working in footwear, apparel design or strategy, but let me assure you that there were no days off. GEC holds this company together by its choice of words. You can imagine how intimidating it may be to be the intern that sends out a weekly newsletter to all 30,000 employees on WHQ campus. One time I accidentally capitalized an extra “A” in the subject line and I thought my career was over. That was fun. But in all seriousness, I was involved in amazing opportunities and even got to plan my own campus event.
My summer project was the Made to Play Field Day which was the most successful employee event of the summer at Nike. Being able to see my project through and talk with employees about their experiences was one of the highlights of my summer.
This summer wasn’t all work though. My work relationships and memories will last forever, but there were two pivotal aspects of this summer that I can contribute to a life-changing two months. I left Lexington in hopes of finding myself. Yes, that’s super cliché but in all honesty, I needed it. Spiritually, I relied on too many people to fire my faith. FCA and my closest friends in Kentucky have and always will be part of my spiritual backbone. But I needed to expand on my own. I needed to see if I could grow my faith alone and find new communities to share His word with. That was scary at first, but on my first Sunday in Portland I visited a small church that welcomed me with open arms. This church family was made up of what I like to call “the misfits of Portland.” Let me share that I moved to the least religious state in all of America. So this church of discipleship was just what me and so many Portlandians needed. I was able to grow in faith through the solitude of being 2,000 miles from home and through the gracious people I met along the way.
The people that I met along the way… I don’t think they know how important they were to me and how big of an impact they made. Imagine freshman orientation when you started college — and if you haven’t experienced that let me fill you in. Freshman orientation is basically a bunch of socially awkward 18-year-olds who want friends but don’t know exactly how to go about it. Nike Orientation was similar, except it was a bunch of 21-year-olds who moved to Portland from all over the country to pursue their dreams of working for the biggest athletic company in the world. They were hand-picked from the most prestigious universities with the ability to succeed anywhere in life. The friends I made this summer are some of the brightest and most driven people I’ve ever met. We came from all different universities, sports backgrounds and departments. We all brought something different to the table, which means the diversity of ideas and personalities did not lack. This was special because I was able to learn so much more than I could have imagined from each of them. We covered all regions of the country: Florida, Penn State, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Duke, Michigan, North Carolina, Washington, Oregon, Alabama and Stanford. But some how, we all ended up in Portland, Oregon.
Our summer motto was “work hard, play harder.” We worked our tails off 8 a.m.-5 p.m. everyday. But we all wanted to have the summer of a lifetime. In just two months I went white-water rafting; hiked; visited the coast; went to Seattle, two minor league baseball games, six professional soccer games, and Bend, Oregon, for the weekend; kayaked through downtown Portland, floated down the Deschutes River, as well as sitting floor for both Khalid and Mumford and Sons. I explored downtown Portland like it was in my job description, and I tried all the amazing food it had to offer. Food trucks are an under-appreciated virtue in Lexington. But in between all these fun and exciting experiences, I made some of the best friends I could have ever imagined. We built our friendships on music and each others presence. My favorite memory of the summer, aside from being floor for Khalid and Mumford, was when me and my closest girlfriends rented a Kia Soul and drove three hours to Bend. The drive took seven hours because we stopped so many times for pictures and to take in the amazing scenery. As we drove through the evergreen forest straight towards Mt. Hood’s snow cap top during sun set, Quinn XCII was playing over the speakers and I know that I will never forget that moment.
Even though I’ll never forget that moment, it’s still just a memory. Two months went by too fast. It feels like just yesterday I was introducing myself to hundreds of new people and trying to remember faces. But that’s how life works. It moves fast and if you don’t take advantage of the small opportunities or if you turn away from the ambiguity, you’ll get left wondering: “what if?”
I gave a lot to Nike this summer… Including half my paycheck. But I took even more away. Things that will last a lifetime: playlists of songs that remind me of each person I met along the way, experiences that will give me an edge at any career path I choose to follow, the connections and friendships that won’t fade and the knowledge I gained about myself. I stepped out of my comfort zone and entered the ambiguity of the real world. College provided me with a safe space, cornered with four walls and familiar faces. But as soon as I stepped outside those walls, I was greeted with more than I could have imagined.
Before leaving Portland, someone asked me why I was so passionate about Nike. My response: This summer I learned that Nike is so much more than just a sports company. Nike is the young boy who got cut from his high school basketball team and became the best player to ever live. Nike is the young girl from Compton, California, who grew up to win 23 major tennis championships. Nike is the little girl at the end of the bench, waiting for a chance to prove her ability. Nike is you and me. The dreamers. The believers. The achievers. Nike has taught me that through sport, we are able to change the world. Nike showed me my value outside of softball or school and it pushed me in directions I didn’t know existed. Nike is a movement.