Kyle Blakely loves his job at Under Armour. It helps that he finds himself surrounded by other graduates of NC State.
At least 17 NC State alumni work at the Baltimore headquarters of the sporting apparel company, according to Blakely. “It’s a lot for a small company,” says Blakely, who graduated from NC State in 2007 with a textiles degree.
Blakely, director of material development, works with a team to develop and engineer textiles that Under Armour uses for their athletic wear. “We’re engineering the fabrics that go into garments,” he says. “Part of that is working with our mill partners and the other part is working with design partners here.”
Blakely attributes the large number of employees at Under Armour from NC State to the education that the university provides. “Most of us are from College of Textiles,” he says. “But, one is from sports marketing – that’s a big deal. I think there are a few with engineering degrees, but it’s mostly textiles. We do have other fields present and we even have a few from UNC. Most of them majored in finance.”
It’s nice to have so many colleagues who share his Wolfpack background, Blakely says. “Baltimore – it’s a great city, but we’re from North Carolina,” he says. “Anyone from North Carolina that has lived there for an extended period has an understanding about how great it is down South. It’s nice to have people here that understand your culture and your background.”
Blakely and his coworkers have filled their walls with NC State paraphernalia. “I have an NC State jersey on the wall,” he says. “It’s everywhere. You can tell NC State people because we have it all over our desks. Everybody displays their NC State stuff with a lot of pride.”
In addition to hiring so many NC State graduates, Under Armour has developed a more formal partnership with the university. “We have a great working professional relationship with NC State,” says Blakely. “We show some of our designers our school, show them the textiles machine. We take proofs to NC State and (the designers) have a whole new perspective. It’s beyond just us working here.”
The success that Blakely and his NC State colleagues have enjoyed at Under Armour, he says, undercuts any suggestion that a degree in textiles is not useful in today’s economy. “While the manufacturing side isn’t as heavy as it used to be, there are still mills in this hemisphere and they are thriving,” he says. “There are many job opportunities and brands (in textiles) … In all reality, there is more opportunity than ever, especially since we’re specialized and there are not a lot of us (textile majors).”
Blakely says his textiles degree has worked well for him. “When I came into textiles, people were like are you kidding me?” he says. “I couldn’t be happier. I have the coolest job on the planet.”