The Nike Tech Talks: Engaging the Portland Tech Community
When I started at Nike four years ago, I had little sense of the opportunities ahead of me. Over the span of my first few months, it became obvious that Nike was in an interesting position at the intersection of technology, retail and sport. While Nike has long been recognized as one of the most innovative brands in the world, we now had the opportunity to showcase something few people thought of when they saw the Swoosh: the role of Nike software engineers in revolutionizing the future of sport. Over the past several years, Nike has moved into position as a leader in the tech industry, while building and strengthening partnerships with lead innovators and tech companies around the world. The Nike Tech Talks series has been an engine not only for growing our own internal culture through a monthly exchange of ideas with industry thought leaders, but for engaging with the broader tech community and placing Portland on the map as a destination for top engineering talent.
You see, there’s somewhat of a backstory. At Nike, we have a unique challenge: We are one of the world’s most well-known and respected brands, operating at global scale. When we release new products, services and apps, the attention we receive across the many audiences engaged with us is staggering in scope. To deliver effectively and maintain our position, we leverage the best engineers and technologies available.
At the same time, Nike is headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. And while Portland is one of the most desirable and rapidly-growing cities the U.S., it is not Silicon Valley. The Portland Metro area is not widely associated with the incredible technical talent and capability that we see here every day. By fostering a relationship between Nike engineering and the wider tech community, we hope to shift that perception and deepen Portland’s talent pool.
We kicked off our Nike Tech Talks series in January 2015 with this in mind. The first talk featured Dean Wampler of Lightbend and Patrick McFadin of Datastax. They spoke to a standing-room-only audience. At that first event — and ever since then — the audience has been about a 50–50 mix of Nike and non-Nike the attendees. This is heartening, since our goal from the start was to provide value to the entire Portland tech community, not just Nike engineers.
Since starting the series, we’ve received consistently positive feedback. We often hear from our attendees that there is no other company in the area that holds events of the size and scope that we do, while maintaining a consistently high level of engagement and relevance to the industry. This is huge praise for the talented speakers who have visited over the years, such as:
- Gwen Shapira of Confluent, who spoke on Real-Time Anomaly Detection by leveraging Confluent’s Kafka Platform
- Kelsey Hightower of Google, who presented on the open source cluster manager, Kubernetes
- Lisa Phillips of Fastly, who talked to us about Incident Command at the Edge, or how Fastly handles incident management for their global CDN.
We’re looking forward to continuing to engage with the Portland tech community through these Nike Tech Talks and other events, and we’re excited to share details and videos from some of them here on our blog. We’re eager to hear what the community beyond our local city thinks of them.