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Former CWU Student-Athlete Takes Love for Athletics to Nike

Cheryl Nenow began loving sports from a very young age, and that passion began to grow with each passing year. Being a multi-sport athlete in high school, she knew that she wanted to remain connected to the world of athletics throughout her life, and ultimately in her career.

When Nenow was a teenager, she had dreams of being a sportscaster, but quickly realized that she didn’t see many females in this role and questioned if her personality could get her far in that field. She began to set her sights on other possibilities, but always looked for something related to sports.

After attending Highline Community College and playing basketball there for two years, Nenow transferred to Central Washington University and joined the women’s basketball team. This time in her life taught her life-long lessons saying, “Being a student-athlete enables a strong work ethic, time management, and learning to be an advocate for yourself.”

After graduating from CWU in 1986 with her degree in business administration, Nenow got a job in a field unrelated to the sports industry but quickly realized that being outside of the world of athletics was going to make for an unfulfilling career. As a result, she returned to the sporting goods store that she worked at while attending college and became their athletic shoe buyer.

Through this role, Nenow was able to build her network with different shoe companies, including Nike, Puma, and Reebok. During her time with various companies, she found herself frustrated and wondering why shoes were designed, colored, or priced the way they were. It was then that she realized that she wanted to be on the front end of this process and influence what a product line looked like each season.

Eventually she was given the opportunity to join Nike in 1996. Now, after 23 years with the company and having worked in approximately 13 different roles, she is leading the Global Footwear Sportwear Division. She says that this role tops her “favorite” list and gives her the opportunity to work on many of Nike’s most popular products, including Air Max 270, VaporMax, and Air Force I.

When asked what advice she would give current students, Nenow wanted to emphasize the importance of getting along with people and demonstrating humility, which she pegs as the number one factor in determining success.

“At the end of the day, people won’t remember your great work but the experience they had while working with you,” said Nenow. “And remember, work should be fun. It’s where you spend the majority of your day, so follow your passions and good things will eventually happen. Maybe not on your timeline, but they will happen! I meet with many recent college graduates and I find them to be savvy, smart, and driven. They possess skills I could never dream to have but I often have to remind them to think of their career as a marathon not a sprint. It’s important to be an inclusive teammate, master your current role before jumping to the next, and always maintain a learning mindset along the way.”


December 2019

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