Game Changer

Cherif Gueye

NOTE: This article appears in the Spring 2018 issue of the Wellness and Recreation Alumni magazine.

By: Mary Yemma Barnhart ’03, ’06

Sneakers are everywhere.

“There are a handful of things that can define who you are, without saying a word. And your shoes are one of them,” said Rob Dyrdek, Pro Skateboarder and Sneaker Designer featured in the Sneakerheadz Documentary.

Whether it was the Converse All-Stars, Nike Air Max Plus, Jordan 1’s, Penny Hardaway, LeBron’s, adidas Sambas, Superstars or Steph Curry’s we all remember that pair of shoes we yearned for in high school or college.

While many people love shoes and the comfort that shoes provide, others are in the business of collecting. If you keep a list of all the shoes you own and where to find them in your house, you are probably a “sneakerhead.” If you haven’t watched the documentary, Sneakerheadz, the idea of having thousands of shoes that can cost as much as cars is probably foreign to you. The obsession that people have with shoes can only be described as a little passion mixed with a lot of crazy. 

Collectors often buy two pairs, one to wear and one to put on display. There is a statistic that the Jordan 10’s sold out in one second. 

Game changing footwear is all around us and evolving daily. Nike and adidas are the largest suppliers of athletic shoes and apparel in the world. Their campaigns and athletes help to brand their products so that both the competitive athlete and average person have a comfortable shoe to meet their lifestyle and often to help express their identity. Working for a multinational corporation that designs and develops footwear and apparel, like Nike or adidas, is a dream. For two of our NC State alumni, this dream is reality.

Cherif Gueye, ‘16 was a UREC marketing assistant and dabbled in a bit of everything from social media, to long-form blog writing, to video production and photography. Cherif led UREC’s social media content distribution, including writing captions, constructing rollouts and shooting visuals. Upon graduation, Cherif became the community manager for adidas Originals.

William Halligan ’13

William Halligan, ‘13 was a UREC outdoor adventures team building apprentice, leading participants through team building and personal growth challenges both on the ground and 35-feet in the air. After graduating with a master’s in textile engineering, Will accepted a position as a flyknit engineer for Nike. 

Adidas Originals brings the “iconic DNA from the courts to the streets.” The Originals is a lifestyle brand, committed to helping people express their individuality. Cherif leads the Originals global platforms on social media through caption writing, content management and moderation of accounts, which includes keeping a flow of communication through replies and answer inquiries via social media. Gueye noted, “Right after graduation, I started at adidas doing nearly the exact same thing I was doing at UREC, but in front of 50 million followers across the big three platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). My work at UREC was the first time I had leadership over any social accounts, giving me credibility when I applied for my current role at adidas and also preparing me for the rigors of capturing the consumer’s attention amidst a cluttered space we call social media.”

Working on the challenge course and leading team building events helped Will gain experience and confidence in working with large cross-functional teams. As a flyknit engineer with Nike, Will works with a large community of people. Similar to working for UREC, everyone is very passionate about what they are doing and creating. Will noted, “We create knit footwear uppers (the fabric part of your shoe). Flyknit reduces waste by using recycled yarns and only using the material we need without cutting from a roll of fabric/leather like traditional shoes.” Will helps to engineer the fabric that fits like a sock, but has the strength to support running and sport. “I especially like seeing the product I work on in stores and on people’s feet.”

Cherif and Will have enjoyed working for global companies and learning from team members across the globe, while having the opportunity to travel. Cherif traveled to Art Basel Miami in December 2016 to activate around the world’s largest arts convention. He noted, “I was amongst some of the world’s preeminent artists of all disciplines. This expanded my perspective of what art can be from a business perspective. From photography to paintings, I was inspired to continue to seek the best work as I develop my taste in content.”

Inspiration and networking are transferable skills that Cherif and Will noted as having an impact on their professional positions. Cherif said, “Even beyond the importance of networking up to build connections with people who run the company, it’s also vital, from as early as possible, to network horizontally and build relationships with your peers.” Inspiration can come in many forms. From networking globally and learning from your peers in foreign countries to simply seeing an Olympic athlete train. Will recalled a run that he went on around Nike’s campus, “I saw Mo Farah, an Olympic 5k and 10k Gold Medalist, running. He passed me twice on the 2-mile loop, he is really fast.”

Cherif and Will enjoy wearing shoes they get to design or market. Cherif’s favorite shoe is the adidas Ultra Boost, infusing modern technologies made for running with an aesthetic that is good for jeans, joggers and shorts. Will is a fan of any shoe he helps to design and most recently has been wearing the Mariah Flyknit Racers, an 80’s shoe that has returned with modern flyknit technology.

While working for Nike and adidas brings global recognition and prestige, both companies are headquartered in Portland, Oregon. For Will and Cherif the move was more than 2,800 miles to the west coast. That makes for a long journey home, a 42-hour road trip or five-hour flight across three time zones.

Mount Hood.
Image Public domain. Courtesy of Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory

If you are traveling to the Pacific Northwest anytime soon, the alumni provided a few recommendations for the Portland area. Cherif recommends visiting Portland from June to September. He shared that the weather has been somewhat rough, “it is basically cloudy for eight months out of the year, but summers are phenomenal, clear skies, warm weather without the humidity seen in North Carolina.”

Will has kept himself busy camping, climbing, skiing, mountain biking and hiking the Cascades. He said, “I highly recommend visiting the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood.”

Other recommendations mentioned included: visiting the Japanese Garden, catching a Portland Timbers game and visiting the countless breweries and vineyards. Come to Portland hungry! Cherif mentioned, “In terms of grub, my favorite places include Luc Lac for Vietnamese/Thai food, Oven + Shaker for pizza and my favorite of all, Screendoor for brunch, a place known for its chicken and waffles.” 

Next time you are in Portland check out one of the national parks, local breweries and vineyards, and when you are in the market for new shoes the adidas Originals or Nike Flyknit technology may just catch your eye.