Jamie Cheung makes designs come to life. As a product engineer at Columbia Sportswear Company, she manages the full product development process for Accessories – reviewing prototypes, collaborating with designers, ensuring appropriate fits, assessing costs and approving new styles for production. So when you go to a store like REI and purchase a great new ski beanie, there’s a good chance Cheung gave it her stamp of approval.
For Cheung, a 2013 graduate, preparation for becoming a product engineer started early. She arrived at Oregon State with no idea what she wanted to study. But before she finished her first week, an academic advisor nudged her toward a path that aligned with her interest in fashion. She studied apparel design and merchandising management and ultimately graduated from the Honors College summa cum laude.
Cheung credits Oregon State with providing the foundational knowledge she needed to be successful in her field. She didn’t even know how to sew when she started, but this gap didn’t hinder her success in the program. She learned along the way and picked up technical skills like using Adobe Illustrator, which allows her to manipulate design sketches in her current role. Perhaps more importantly, while she was a student she built a professional network that helped launch her career.
Through Cheung’s involvement in the Oregon State Design Network, she connected with the manager who would eventually hire her at Columbia. The group puts on three events a year: a fundraising auction that connect professionals from companies like Nike and Adidas with students; a mentoring event where students sit down one-on-one with industry mentors; and a Portland fashion show where seniors showcase their designs. These opportunities helped prepare her as a student, and now she gives back as a Design Network board member.
Looking back over her journey to Columbia, Cheung advises current students to be tenacious about their goals. When she first graduated, she didn’t have the perfect job lined up right away. Instead, she worked in retail and kept her eyes and ears open. It paid off when a friend forwarded her resume to a Design Network contact. She also encourages current students to not be too hard on themselves, taking time to breathe and explore other interests. She says she learned, perhaps too late, that getting straight A’s isn’t the only thing in the world; balance in life is essential.
Cheung’s favorite part of working at Columbia is her daily interactions with coworkers who are genuine and hardworking. She also gets a thrill from seeing someone out and about wearing the designs she and her team created. Outside of her career, she loves pugs, yoga and hiking. She also frequently catches Beaver football games with her boyfriend, who is an even bigger fan than she is.