Some may already be familiar with SPU senior Natalie Hoff ’23 on the women’s basketball team, but when she’s not playing forward for the Falcons, she is also a visual communications major with minors in business and digital media. After graduation in June, Hoff will begin working for Nike as a digital product design intern at their headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

It’s a dream job for Hoff — designing Nike software, websites, and mobile apps for a global audience and engaging with peers from all departments — but the path to a job with the sports behemoth wasn’t easy.

Hoff knew she wanted to go into UI/ UX [user interface/user experience] design and digital product design after taking a digital media class her junior year, but in the summer leading up to her senior year, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to apply to graduate schools or start applying for jobs in that field. Finally, Hoff decided she wanted to gain some hands-on work experience.

Hoff also interned for Seattle Pacific’s University Communications office for two years, which helped her fine tune her design skills and gave her the opportunity to work with real clients and projects for the school.

She reached out to connections in the design field and asked how they got to where they are today. One of those people was Jovon Rossmon, Hoff’s adjunct visual communications professor at SPU. Rossman, who is the director of digital product design at Nike, encouraged her to apply to the company.

“The timing happened to coincide with Nike’s invitation for product design intern applicants. Given her self-motivation, discipline, and skill set, I felt she was a good fit, so I introduced her to one of the intern recruiters,” Rossmon said.

She also advised Natalie on the mix of portfolio pieces that would showcase the full range of her skills to make her attractive to any company looking for entry-level designers.

“Natalie is driven, coachable, and she took my initial feedback and applied it promptly,” Rossmon said.

“I felt like my portfolio and resume didn’t fit the digital product design internship job descriptions,” Hoff shared. “I had to do a lot of work to cater my portfolio toward this type of design.”

Hoff also interned for Seattle Pacific’s University Communications office for two years, which helped her fine tune her design skills and gave her the opportunity to work with real clients and projects for the school.

“Natalie tackles each project with thoughtfulness, precision, and efficiency,” said Sam Davis, senior graphic designer for University Communications and Natalie’s supervisor.
“She has learned to creatively express the SPU brand in any format she is challenged with and has been an integral part of our photography processes as well. Her teachability, design intuition, and work ethic have been such a gift to UC,” Davis said.

Some 400 people applied for Nike’s coveted internship positions, but Natalie got through the selective interview process which consisted of three rounds of interviews and a one-hour long portfolio review with a team of Nike digital product designers. After her last interview, she nervously waited for a call every day. The call finally came one day while she was in class. Hoff was shocked and excited to find out she was accepted as one of four interns at Nike.

When Hoff reflected on what helped her stand out as an applicant, she attributed it to her carefully crafted design portfolio which she spent the whole summer updating, as well as her role as a student athlete that taught her crucial lessons about leadership and teamwork.

“It took many months to get [my portfolio] to where I wanted it to be,” Hoff said. “I spent hours presenting my portfolio and answering interview questions to anyone in my life who would listen. I’m pretty sure my mom could recite my portfolio review perfectly, but I’m happy to say it definitely paid off in the end.”

One lesson she learned is to not shy away from applying to bigger companies when it comes to internships.

“This internship worked out in my favor, but I had been denied by many other companies before. I do not regret applying to those internships because all the work I put in to perfect my portfolio, resume, and cover letter set me up to be successful when it came to applying for Nike,” Hoff said.

You can view Natalie’s design portfolio here.

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