Classes typically take place on Mondays through Thursdays, which leaves Fridays for one of the most important aspects of the program: networking.
Outside of personal connections developed through guest speaker sessions, market tours, and other networking events, each student is also assigned their own industry mentor.
Saito’s mentor, Jeffrey Lee, is a product line manager for global product licensing at Nike. Saito made sure to meet with Lee at least once a month to check in and glean career advice that he can use when he graduates and starts searching for his first job as a product developer.
Each student’s experience with their mentor is unique and completely voluntary. Students get as much out of it as they put into it— which for Saito is a lot. Saito’s dedication to learning from his mentor even led to one of his favorite interactions with industry professionals.
“My mentor, Jeffrey, organized a meeting with me that included a bunch of his team members at Nike, and then we got to know each other,” Saito said.
“He allowed me to see the product he was in charge of, and then we went market shopping. He took me to retail—the Nike factory store and wholesale stores—to show me how his product was actually being presented and the importance of having a consistent story within the product line, no matter where you sell it. It’s great exposure, and you can learn first-hand about what is important in the industry.”
In addition to industry connections gained through mentorship, students have even more opportunities to network during their required summer industry internship.
Saito was able to use the knowledge he gained in the SPM program—as well as advice from his mentor—during his own internship with Nike’s offices in his home country of Japan.