Amanni Fernandez had a “pinch me” moment within her first few weeks of working at Nike headquarters just outside Portland, Oregon. With athletic facilities in abundance on the corporate campus and intramural teams for a variety of sports, Fernandez found herself face-to-face with one of her idols.
“When I got here I randomly ended up on a team playing kickball and a day later found myself playing in the championship game against LeBron James,” she says. “You never know what you’re going to get or who’s going to walk through the door. There are always athletes here running around working out.”
Fernandez nabbed a job in Nike’s procurement division after graduating from Williams College last May. Through networking with a fellow Williams alumna, Fernandez got her foot in the door at the company through an internship while she was still in school.
Now, she says, her job is a mix of tasks supporting a global team, encompassing everything from data analytics for the materials used to produce Nike’s signature shoes, to dealing with factories and suppliers, to sustainability issues. Born and raised on the East Coast, the move to Oregon was a “leap of faith,” but just the kind of adventure her high school basketball career prepared her for, she says.
A lifelong point guard, Fernandez was a student at basketball powerhouse Christ the King Regional High School in Queens, New York, during her freshman and sophomore years. As she began to be recruited for Division I and Division III college programs, she needed a more robust academic preparation for the next chapter. She transferred to Lawrenceville as a IV Former.
“It gave me a chance to find a way to excel in what I want to do – to excel in being a better academic, a better student,” she says. “My House experience was another piece – being independent and also learning to take a chance. The community believed in me and that propelled me to believe in myself. I attribute so much of the success I was able to achieve to Lawrenceville and the efforts of people like Sam Washington, Holly Burks-Becker, and Liz Duffy.”
Fernandez says another huge source of inspiration was her grandfather, who passed away when she was 15. She says the loss motivated her to take the values he’d instilled in her – and the commitment and focus he inspired – and make him proud, even if he wasn’t there to see the result.
“He was my biggest advocate,” says Fernandez of her grandfather, who immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic. “I ask myself, how can I dedicate my existence – family values, hard work, the belief system I still carry with me to this day – how do I continue to live up to that legacy?”
According to Fernandez, that drive, along with the skills she developed as a student athlete, translate into her work every day at Nike.
“I was a point guard my whole life on the basketball team and played every position on the soccer field,” she says. “The first skill is communication. If you can’t communicate to your teammates (you won’t succeed), it’s the same in the workforce.
“Working at a Fortune 500, you have to hit certain objectives, and taking a loss isn’t an option the way it is on the court,” she adds. “You have to use your communication skills and passion and drive to win to achieve results.”
For Fernandez, the ability to achieve her goals arises from a solid belief in herself that grew from her grandfather’s support and the experiences she had a student at Lawrenceville.
“If you believe in yourself, then you won’t give up,” she says. “That’s the advice I gave myself and continue to give others.”
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