“Ball State was such an important part of me becoming who I am. The skills, values, and lessons I learned here have played a huge role in career journey” – Sara Scott-Curran
Time at BSU
Sara Scott-Curran, who is presently the Mens Global Apparel Merchandising Director Nike SB and ACG, began her educational and career journey at Ball State where she studied fashion design and merchandising. At the time, Ball State was only in its second year of offering this major, making Sara a pioneer here on campus.
Her goal was to get as involved as possible and learn everything she could from both her incredible professors and amazing peers. She took classes in and outside her major to gain a better understanding of anything she was curious about. Even with having a heavy course load each semester, Sara jumped at the opportunity to be in as many student organizations as possible as both a leader and a follower. “By experiencing being a leader and follower in different groups, I understood how to work on a team better in my professional career. I learned how to be successful in a variety of roles.”
Through balancing her coursework and outside activities, Sara learned many valuable lessons including self-discipline and resilience. “My major was a lot of long hours and hard work so I had to learn how to stick with it and follow through in order to deliver my best work. That lesson set me up well to enter a professional industry.”
However, it was the relationships she developed with her peers and teachers that have stuck with her the most throughout her life. Her mentor and teacher, Valerie Birk, is still someone who plays a huge role in Sara’s life. Valerie, a graduate student during Sara’s time at BSU, fostered her students creatively, taught them perseverance, and made sure her students got the opportunities they deserved.
“You learn a lot of hard skills in college, but the relationships and support networks you build are just as important. My teachers and peers kept me grounded to my purpose and were always in my corner.” – Sara Scott-Curran
Sara’s favorite moment during her time at Ball State was the two day student fashion show that she participated in. Elected as co-chair, this moment was incredibly meaningful as Sara and her peers got to showcase everything they had been working on for the past four years. For Sara, being elected as a representative of her peers felt particularly special. As part of her display, Sara had her lifelong best friends and sisters be the models for her pieces. Seeing those who were constant supporters in her life wear the things she had worked so hard on was emotional. “When I walked out on the runway after my pieces, I felt like my life was changing.”
Graduation day was also a special moment for Sara. “Nobody expected anything from me in high school, so graduating meant I had proved myself to those who didn’t believe in me. I am incredibly lucky that I chose Ball State University. It was the perfect school and I would not be where I am today without it.”
Due to the variety of jobs and extracurriculars that Sara was involved in as a student, she graduated with four different job offers. Although not her dream job, Sara accepted a role at a department store working the coloring and trending department. Here, she learned a lot about working in a large company and how to network within such a large organization .
From there, she transitioned to working at a small family owned company in order to gain a wide variety of experiences. She got experience doing everything from concepting, sourcing, negotiating, selling, and more. Her goal was to do and learn as much as she could get her hands on. During this time, she also had the opportunity to discover that she enjoyed working with sports brands as they were more team centered, rather than the cut throat mainstream fashion industry.
Armed with a wide variety of new skills and experiences, Sara decided two years after graduation to apply for a job at Nike. Acknowledging that Nike was a very competitive place for new applicants, she didn’t hold her breath. When they called her asking for an interview, she thought it was a prank. After flying out to the west coast for the interview, she got a call notifying her that she had got the job, which was a huge opportunity.
Wanting to make the most of this experience, Sara decided to learn as much as she could from those around her. Using a skill she had learned here at BSU and her natural curiosity, Sara decided to meet with a new person each week in different areas of Nike that she was interested in including merchandising. She discovered that she was extremely interested in this area and spent many weeks meeting with a wide variety of individuals to gain an understanding of different roles that made up this department. This tactic was something she would employ repeatedly to gain knowledge and understanding about other roles anywhere she worked at. After seeing her interest, she was eventually offered a job in merchandising and transitioned into a role at the global headquarters in Portland.
Wanting to take the next step, Sara set a goal of getting a job abroad within Nike to gain experience outside of the United States. She used the same process as above, meeting with people in potential roles she was interested in to see if this was something that she actually wanted to do. Being curious about different roles and speaking her goals aloud to those she was networking with eventually led to her working in Europe for the next five years. Never did she ask those she met with for a job, but slowly her interest was noticed and different opportunities came up as she went about this process.
After her time abroad, she decided to switch gears and depart from Nike. She worked at a variety of companies including Old Navy (Gap Inc.) in San Francisco. Through working in different roles, she was able to learn a bunch of new skills and lessons about her industry. After some time away, she eventually was reconnected with some folks at Nike and came back to work and then secured her role as Merchandising Director in the SB department. This was and continues to be her dream job.
Lessons to Learn
According to Sara, there are countless pieces of advice that she could offer students, most of which she was taught from her professors and coursework. The biggest lesson, however, is understanding and utilizing the curious process that she has used countless times in her career.
“People are always willing to be kind if you express genuine interest and curiosity about what they are doing.” – Sara Scott-Curran
As Sara figured out what areas of her professional identity she wanted to develop, she looked for people that would help her grow in these areas. Through meeting with people in the industry or specific job that you are interested in, you can learn so much and see if it is actually a good fit for you. “Never ask for a job, but slowly people will recognize your interest and opportunities will come your way.”
Her second piece of advice is getting involved in your major and extracurriculars. These things helped Sara understand how to handle being on a team, navigating a large company, and so much more. Finally, Sara stated that core traits such as determination, ‘midwestern work ethic’, having a good attitude, and being excited about what you are doing “all make up your specific special sauce that employers are looking for.” A degree may not always be enough to land a job, so developing these traits is important to be successful.
Ball State University will always have a special place in Sara’s heart. For her, visiting campus and staying in touch with current students and professors is a way of maintaining her commitment to the dreams she developed as a student.