Improving his English, getting a dual master’s degree and gaining valuable work experiences in North America attracted Dom Dawson, originally from Germany, to Vancouver Island University’s Master of Business Administration program. Right after graduation in 2013, Dawson, who played water polo professionally for several years before seeking more education, landed a job with Nike Canada, combining his passion for business with his love of sports. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Dawson is the company’s Director of Global Customer Experience and Innovation – a role that was suddenly more vital than ever when the pandemic shut down traditional retail outlets in March 2020.
What have you been up to since graduating?
I was very fortunate to start as a strategic planning intern at Nike Canada in Toronto right after I graduated. After eight months, Nike offered me a full-time job and I worked there for about three years. I started in a traditional strategic planning role that included quarterly business review preparations, general business analyses and other project-based work that is similar to a management consulting job. Halfway through, my role evolved into a more marketplace-focused role – revamping the distribution strategy for Canada and Toronto. This involved mapping out consumer trade zones and distribution opportunities based on digital and retail data. In 2016, I was recruited to run strategy for the North America marketplace from the Portland, Oregon, headquarters, which – to put things into perspective – is 14 times the size of Nike Canada and therefore much more complex and complicated to navigate. I spent most of my time on marketplace development, uncovering new digital business opportunities while running the quarterly and yearly reporting and business processes. A year and a half into the job, I took on a newly created role as the Director for Global Digital Marketplace development on the women’s team, overseeing all digital partner experiences for Nike across the world. I got the chance to work on evolving digital experiences with some amazing retailers and also our own Nike.com site.
Tell us more about your current job.
My new position oversees the customer experience for our B2B (business-to-business) dealings and e-commerce platform. I manage the digital experience that our partners think a Sport Chek buyer has when placing and ordering Nike products. We want to make sure they have a seamless experience with no issues that could impact their decision to buy Nike products. We offer a variety of services that need to be intuitive to use. In my role I have two main responsibilities: the first is to define the key moments in our customers’ digital journeys and make sure they are happy with the experiences and features we offer. The second is to harmonize the omnichannel (digital and physical) experience for our partners. The expectations are ever evolving and shifting almost daily, which requires us to have a constant pulse on our users and their wants and needs.
How have your past experiences, including your experiences at VIU and as a professional water polo player, helped prepare you for what you are doing now?
I love challenging the status quo and building out new business ideas. VIU’s MBA program taught me how to think differently about problems and take a systematic approach to developing solutions. It really changed the way I think for the better; I now take a more data and argument-driven approach. I also loved learning from the diverse group of students from all over the world. All my teachers were very practical and applied theory to real business cases.
My water polo career taught me a few things:
- Being part of the team as the team captain is critical. In the water only your head sticks out of the water, so in a sense everyone is equal.
- Everyone on the team has a position to play but the roles of the team members can be different.
- Trust building is the most important factor. Being honest and acting with integrity and empathy goes a long way.
How has the pandemic affected your digital strategy?
COVID really acted as an accelerator to our strategy. Our focus is to lead with digital now more than ever. The new experiences we had planned were implemented earlier than anticipated. I think our industry advanced 10 years of digital transformation in only four months, allowing for a more seamless digital path for our consumers. We are working hard to reduce the “distance” between inspiration through social media channels to the decision to make a purchase. Social commerce has become an important new experience that we are elevating. In my job, realizing that users of our platform are not just businesses now but also direct consumers has impacted our vision and tech road maps as well.
Were there any activities (outdoor or indoor) you enjoyed being a part of while at VIU?
I loved running along the waterfront or through the park next to the university. The gym is well equipped as well. We went on many hikes during breaks, which is proven to improve cognitive abilities. I attended a few water polo practices in the pool down the road too. Fun times.
What advice could you give current VIU students to help them get the most out of their university experiences?
Never stop learning. The MBA program was intense, and I learned a lot in 14 months, but it doesn’t make sense to learn only for about 8% of your life when you work roughly 75% of your live (assuming an 80-year life expectancy). What was relevant then changes so quickly with shifting consumer expectations. You need to be up to speed on the latest and future changes like AI or machine learning and data science. The most important leadership skills today are compassion, leading through ambiguity and resilience.