Cover photo for Eric O'Neil

Why I'm starting my Tech career at Nike

Eric O'Neil
It's past midnight in swampy North Carolina. After wading through waist-high water, you're drenched and cold. Kneeling by your radio, your night vision goggles have turned night into day: you can see your team scattered throughout the woods, each working on his own task. Far from the nearest cellphone tower, you send a report directly up into space, where a network of geosynchronous satellites bounce the packets of information from your radio down to headquarters. Soon thereafter, they update the last known enemy position on their computer, and you see that change in real-time on your Android-powered device. Next to you, the JTAC talks to the pilot silently orbiting above you, and watches the aircraft's camera feed on his own device as it shifts over to this new location. On a different radio, you tell the team over a mesh network that you'll be moving out in 2 minutes -- only 3 more miles through the woods to the objective.

I'm sure my fellow grunts and operators can relate to the above snapshot from a training exercise in the North Carolina heat.

Nothing combines intense physicality and a mental challenge quite like life down with our nation's ground troops. There, your equipment -- your physical gear, clothing, and boots as well as your technical equipment -- really has to work. More than that, it has to work so well that you almost forget it exists. And when you're out in the middle of nowhere, the technology you carry with you is the only lifeline back to the real world.

Last weekend, after a fantastic first week at Nike, a group of us drove down to Crater Lake. Turns out, we were a week too early -- we drove in through a snowstorm that shattered some of our hiking plans. Undeterred, and finding the one trail that had been (partly) shoveled clear of snow, I went for a long run along the Crater's rim. Armed with my Wildhorse 7 Trail runners, tracking my run (and location!) with the Nike Run Club app, all while zigzagging around boulders, snowdrifts, and the occasional deer, I was able to reflect back on my transition from the military, my first year at Chicago Booth, and my internship as a Technical Product Manager at Nike.

While Nike not be anyone's definition of a pure tech company, I'm excited to work for a company that helps people reconnect with themselves, their bodies, and the world around them. It's a place I'm getting exposed to e-commerce, mobile and web development, marketing personalization, and tools for supply-chain management. It's already a leader in metaverse experiences and in NFTs. And it's a place that makes digital (and physical) tools that just disappear into the background, so you can focus on the job at hand.

And that's why I decided to start my tech career here.