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Women at work: Isis Ward, Product Lead at Nike

Women at work: Isis Ward, Product Lead at Nike

Ever wonder what it’s like to walk a day in someone else’s shoes (or spend a day in someone else’s job, as the case may be)? Us too! In our “Women at work” series, we’re talking to some of the most accomplished women we know about how they got to where they are in their careers, what advice they’d give their younger selves, and any tips & tricks they’ve picked up along the way.

Name? Isis Ward
Job? Nike, Young Athletes Apparel, Product Lead
Age? 33
College major? Political Science & Economics, Smith College; MBA, Wharton

What does your typical work day look like?
I just moved from a role as Director of Apparel Strategy for all of Global Apparel at Nike to Product Management in the Young Athletes (Kids) category where I manage strategic direction, line plan, and product creation for the business. I set the product direction and then work with a large cross-functional team to build the product — Design, Development, Materials, Sourcing, etc. I love the blend of creative, business strategy, and planning I have in my current job. Each day is very different depending where we are in the season — we could be approving color and prints or fitting garments on models, or planning the three-year growth plan for the category.

Were you an athlete yourself before working at Nike? What’s your workout of choice?
Nike’s founder, Bill Bowerman, is famous for saying “Everyone with a body is an athlete” — so yes! I ran track in high school and played field hockey. I got really into yoga after college and recently got certified as a yoga instructor. I also love working out with the Nike Training Club app, Barre3 (Portland-based barre studio), and SoulCycle when i’m traveling in New York or LA.

How has the rising popularity of workout culture and athleisure as a fashion trend impacted Nike?
It’s so amazing to see fitness at the forefront of lifestyle and fashion and more and more people embracing a healthy, active lifestyle. The biggest impact has been a shift to delivering high performance product that is trend right, meaning that people want to wear it from the studio to the street. At Nike, we work two years ahead of market, so we are setting the trend and direction of the industry in so many ways.

What’s the best part of your job?
I love the team and people I work with – that is number one. It makes coming to work every day fun. Nike is such an inspiring place to work. We move fast and are constantly focused on innovating which is an environment I thrive in. I also love coming in every day to create product with a mission: to help athletes perform better.

What advice do you have for other women who are just starting out in their careers?
Find what drives you and makes you excited to work. I started my career in Marketing Brand Management at L’Oreal and loved creating product that delivered on consumer needs and insights, but always had bigger questions of how strategy was driven at a higher level. After business school, I worked in Strategy at Nike which answered those questions, but I felt a pull back towards product. Sometimes your career can take unexpected twists and turns, but always keep a north star pointed towards what inspires and drives you in your life.

What’s something you know now that you’d tell your 25-year-old self about navigating your career?
Work hard, always focus on learning more, be curious, ask questions, find great mentors. Constantly evaluate what aspects of your job you love and get you excited and do more of that.

Who have been your mentors through your career?
My first boss in my first job at L’Oreal was an incredible mentor who really pushed my development and gave me the right amount of guidance and space to grow in my job. I have several mentors at Nike who I meet with regularly who help me manage my career at Nike and develop as a leader.

Favorite female athlete?
Serena Williams – she is so powerful, dedicated and talented. She is one of the best athletes of all time, full stop, female or not.

What did you want to be when you grew up as a child?
I really wanted to be a marine biologist! I had this huge book about Jacques Cousteau that I would take with me everywhere. There is something about this whole world under the sea that fascinates me.

Top 5 favorite follows in Instagram?
I just bought a house so i’m following a ton of interior designers right now: Mydomaine, Homepolish, Design Sponge, Hypebeast for streetwear/sportswear trends; The Coveteur to get inside scoops on fashion.

Best book you’ve read this year?
Shoe Dog by Nike founder Phil Knight — such a great read! I’m also re-reading “Multipliers”.