All the Right Moves

Alumna Andrea Adams excels at Nike after an assist from a PLU mentor

All the Right Moves

All the Right Moves 1024 504 Lora Shinn

Andrea Adams ’15 graduated on a Friday and went to work at Nike the following Monday, thanks in large part to the guidance of her mentor, Bradd Busick ’99, MBA ’09.

Busick, adjunct business professor at PLU and chief technology officer and vice president at Tacoma’s MultiCare Health System, was at a conference dinner when a colleague — a hiring manager at Nike — asked him to recommend someone for an open position.

The Facetime call came in to Adams at 10:30 p.m., from the conference dinner table. Busick e-introduced Adams to his colleague.

“Andrea crushed it,” Busick says of the on-the-spot, informal discussion, where she explained her desire to excel in a workplace with like-minded individuals.

Adams interviewed on the Oregon campus, competing against existing Nike employees. To help Adams stand out, Busick suggested creating an infographic that explained how her skills aligned with the Nike role.

“It went viral among the Nike hiring team,” he says.

Busick was on a fall-break family vacation at Disneyland when Adams called and said she’d been hired.

“I was standing outside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, doing a happy dance,” he says.

Adams has already been promoted three times in the past five years. At Nike, it’s common for an agile employee to move around the organization.

“It feels like being a consultant, as I get so much variety in my roles,” Adams said. Change management, human resources, supply chain, and strategic planning positions have all been part of the mix.

Business wasn’t necessarily on her radar as a child. “My best friend’s mom told me, ‘You could be a business CEO!’ At the time, I didn’t know what a CEO was,” she says.

Healthy competition and teamwork were already in her veins, though. She grew up in Marysville, WA, just north of Seattle, playing basketball, volleyball, and running track throughout high school. She played point guard — running offense — for PLU’s women’s basketball team.

“My first experience in leadership was on the basketball court,” she says.

The court taught a few harder lessons as well. She tore her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) twice in high school, which limited her basketball career.

“I’ve maintained a close relationship with my mentors,” Adams says. With just a text or a call, she can receive sage advice on weighing different career options, such as seeking a promotion, or investigating MBA programs.

“But it taught me resilience, and created who I am,” Adams says. “It was a privilege to play.”

Her dad was a journeyman electrician, until retirement. Her mother works at a nonprofit. As a first-generation college student, lacking the familial blueprints to academia and business, Adams knew she wouldn’t enjoy the same advantages that some do.

Luckily, she encountered bosses who steered her at critical moments, provided feedback, and shaped her interpersonal and technical skills, she says. Mentors, in other words.

Adams now lives in Beaverton, OR (home of Nike), with her fiancé, Jacob Burger ‘14, and two dogs — Callahan, an Austrian shepherd, and Millie, a red heeler. While she isn’t playing sports currently, she still enjoys the gorgeous Portland-area scenery through hiking and snowboarding.

Adams spent two years in PLU’s nursing program, but soon realized the business world might be a better fit.

Busick remembers a senior who was “bright, and super driven. She was an athlete, and when I threw a challenge out there, she’d compete to get it. Andrea worked hard, asked awesome questions, and was curious.

She dove into class texts and the application of texts.”

Mentors made her PLU experience an exceptional one.

“I’ve maintained a close relationship with my mentors,” Adams says. With just a text or a call, she can receive sage advice on weighing different career options, such as seeking a promotion, or investigating MBA programs.

Internships were another form of mentoring, Adams says.

“Looking back, so much of what you learn in early internships is professional hygiene,” she says. “ ‘How do I interact in meetings? How do I come prepared, present content, and give and take feedback?’ I learned how to capture and translate data into insights, and compile insights into a cohesive story. These are basic skills I use daily.”

She wants to follow in her mentor’s footsteps, by mentoring others in the future.

A couple years ago, Adams returned to Busick’s MBA classroom — this time, to speak to students about her job at Nike.

“I grew up as an athlete, and as a player, I would like to eventually take on a coaching role,” she says. “When I’ve had coaches in an academic or personal setting, I’ve always taken away so much from it.”

Lora Shinn

Lora Shinn

Lora Shinn is a Seattle-based writer and editor. She contributes regularly to The Seattle Times and has also written for Redbook, New York Magazine, Hemispheres, Kirkus Reviews, Afar and Alaska Airlines.

All stories by:Lora Shinn