Alumna reaches gold producing Nike Olympic uniforms

By Noemi Vargas, May 11, 2021

 For students striving for gold in their career fields, persistence is key. Alumna Sarah Dumlao (‘14, apparel merchandising and management) proved just that as a production planner at Nike Global Headquarters where she contributed to the uniform production for the upcoming summer Tokyo Olympics.

As a production planner, Dumlao’s role includes managing the production schedule for uniforms for track and field Olympic teams and smaller colleges. Though she normally works with apparel customized for national teams, her job expanded to other countries participating in the Olympics that are supported by Nike.

“My role as a production planner is to coordinate timing and delivery with the factories,” Dumlao said. “I work with multiple factories to make sure they start printing, cutting and sewing in order to deliver on time.”

When the delivery process meets complications, she becomes the point of contact for resolving problematic situations.

According to Dumlao, the job requires strong collaboration; so, when COVID-19 hit, the production slowed down.

“Any role in apparel relies a lot on teamwork and meetings. It would have been hard to imagine my role being solely remote before COVID,” Dumlao said.

Though Dumlao considers her journey with Nike to be unconventional, she believes that her perseverance allowed her to land her dream job after becoming the first in her family to attend and graduate from college.

Getting into the fashion industry meant a lot of trial-and-error for Dumlao, but her drive and inspiration come from her mother, who exposed her to the world of fashion by teaching her how to sew. Her mother’s interest in fashion allowed them to connect and motivated her to pursue a career in fashion.

Dumlao participated in figure skating as a child and when her family could not afford competition costumes, her mother made the costumes for her, along with Halloween costumes for her and her siblings. Watching her mother create clothing, she grew attached to the art of fashion, which grew even more as she began playing with dolls and selecting her own outfits.

“I’ve always been into fashion. Honestly, it is just such a big part of my personality. That’s how I express myself,” Dumlao said.

When entering college, she initially believed that she wanted to pursue a career in marine biology but could not go through with it after taking a couple of classes at Pasadena City College and losing interest. She then went on to pursue a career in nursing but didn’t make the cut.

Given her competitive spirit, she was discouraged when she was not accepted into the nursing program she hoped for, but the rejection led her to dig deeper and look for a career in the fashion industry.

“I’ve always been interested in the fashion world, like my mom, so I thought, ‘I can make a career out of fashion. There are so many other aspects in the fashion industry that I can work and have a career in,’” Dumlao added.

After researching different programs, she discovered the apparel merchandising and management program at Cal Poly Pomona and instantly felt it was the perfect fit for her as she witnessed how passionate the students and professors were.

“It was a smaller program, and I could get more of a hands-on experience working closely with professors and students, so the smaller classroom aspect really inspired me. I was like, ‘This, this is the program for me,’” Dumlao said.

After transferring to CPP in 2011, Dumlao gained a wider perspective of the fashion industry and looked into different career options. Dumlao appreciated Interim Department Chair and Professor Muditha Senanayake’s course where she learned about apparel production.

Soon, she began applying to internships to grow experience before working her way up to her dream company, Nike. Her first professional opportunity came when she was hired as a marketing intern for Acrylik Clothing, a fashion company, but decided that marketing was not the route she wanted to take.

After graduating from CPP, Dumlao landed a position at Disney where she worked in the sourcing and production team and gained industry knowledge before landing the production planner position at Nike Global Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

Dumlao encourages students to not be afraid to “get their feet wet” and be open to all possibilities, even if it means taking it slow.

“I’m definitely proud of this moment. I used to do competitive figure-skating growing up and my mom always said, ‘You’re going to go to Olympics,’ and now here I am full circle working on an Olympic product. It’s not ice skating, but I think it’s cool to say I’ve had a hand in the upcoming Olympics and that’s really exciting,” Dumlao said.

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