Born with pen in hand.
One of the earliest moments of consciousness I had in my life was when I was 9 years old. I had gotten a new green rollerball pen (rollerballs were new technology in the late 70’s). I was sitting at the gold gilt rococo inspired Sears desk in my bedroom writing a story on college ruled paper. I don’t remember what I wrote – but I was responding to something that inspired me. I was lost in the words flowing out of my hand and lost in time. I still have flashbacks to that moment in my life – as it was the time when I realized that I have a creative urge that I can’t ignore.
I am blessed to say that I have been in the flow my entire life. As a first generation American, born to Filipino parents who immigrated to and met in the United States, I have been set up for a life of creativity whether intentional or not. My parents’ priority for my older brother and I was for us to get a good education. We were raised in what still remains one of the top public school systems.
I didn’t know that art school was an option or a career in art was a direction after high school. I was lucky to have a great art teacher in high school who told me to put together my portfolio for art school. She was instrumental in bringing in admissions officers from art schools around the country to tell us about their programs. It was at that point I knew with all my heart that I had to study design.
I was admitted to one of the oldest art schools in the country, the Rhode Island School of Design. I picked a major I knew nothing about until I got there. I majored in Industrial Design because I fell in love with the machine shop and the tools. It was a male dominated field, but I felt at home as I was always a tomboy with a knack for taking things apart and being able to put them back together.
My junior year at RISD I had a crisis of vocation. One of my mentors took our class to the largest landfill in New England, extolling to us the virtues of a conscience to look downstream from our drafting boards into the waste stream. In that moment I questioned the viability of being a designer – one who answers product briefs to make more stuff!
My professional journey began almost 30 years ago as a footwear designer in Boston. I have always been curious about business and considered getting an MBA. The best professional advice I ever got was to go and get a job in a company instead of staying in academia. I also had a knack for organizational development, as I was heavily involved in school politics at RISD. My first job out of school was in corporate America for a footwear brand, where in my first weeks I learned everything about all facets of the company, including working at retail.
In 1997 I answered the call to Nike World Headquarters in the Pacific Northwest. Nike is the design mecca of the athletic footwear industry. Nike reflects the spirit of its place in the trailblazing state of Oregon – a contrast to the industrial revolution era footwear industry in New England. To me Oregon was a new frontier.
I spent many years in Nike footwear design as a design leader working with teams to build industry-leading products. There was an opportunity to help build Nike’s Sustainable Business and Innovation team in 2005 – combining my passions for design, business and sustainability. It was there that I honed my sensibilities for systems thinking and enterprise leadership. The experience opened my eyes to the entire value chain of delivering consumer goods. From the oil well to where chemicals are derived for the making of polymers, and everything in between to the end of life of a product after consumer use.
I went back to Nike Design in 2011 and joined the Brand Design team and learned everything about the creativity that goes into consumer facing experiences. I had a first hand view behind the curtain of Nike’s marketing machine. In 2013 I was called back to product design to manage the design studios responsible for the lifestyle and Actions Sports businesses.
After 18 years behind the Nike berm, having traveled all over the planet to meet the needs of consumers, retailers, and work with manufacturers in the Asian supply chains – I retired my number. No professional athlete can play straight without taking a time out.
From 2014 to 2016 I took a time out in Paris with my family. The city of Paris is one of the few places on the planet that I’m sad to leave whenever I visit. It’s stunningly beautiful in its art and architecture. Paris is a place to reclaim my creativity, given that I have been in management positions over the last several years. I’m putting the pen back into my hand.
I have published articles and given many talks on design and sustainability, and aim to focus on how design and writing about self-realization as a path to a healthier future for the planet. I also am following my creative urge to respond to the infinite amount of inspiration found in the museums and art galleries. The world feels full of options where I can channel my skills and talent. There is so much inspiration – anything is possible right now.