words & interview // Nick DePaula:
In an industry defined by innovation, it’s often times the designers behind the look and aesthetic of a great product credited most, and right alongside each of those accomplished designers is a team of masterful developers and innovators that can bring a collective vision to life.
For more than a decade, Tiffany Beers has been leading the legwork behind some of the industry’s biggest innovations and needle-moving silhouettes, as Nike’s Senior Innovator working several years in advance within the brand’s Innovation Kitchen on their highest profile, top-secret projects.
Whether that was helping to craft the first Air Yeezy in the late 2000s, traveling to Asia countless times over a five-year span to recreate the iconic Nike Mag for its 2011 and 2016 launch, or more recently developing Nike’s E.A.R.L. powerlacing technology through the HyperAdapt, Beers has been at the forefront of several of Nike’s proudest product launches.
Read ahead for more on Tiffany Beers and her background, her relentless drive and advice she shares for other young women looking to break into the industry, as we spotlight some of the athletic world’s most impactful women in honor of International Women’s Day.
Who are you?
I am a driven, passionate, competitor. I love to compete and am always competing, whether with myself or someone else. It keeps me pushing the limits and boundaries of myself and those around me. I crave learning. Sometimes, with learning and competition comes failure, so I’m kind of becoming attuned and able to learn positively from failure, which is kind of fun.
How would you define your role at Nike?
My role at Nike is to evolve and bring to life the wild imagination of our design team. That means taking ideas from sketch to physical prototypes, through production. Most of the time the designs come from folks like Tinker Hatfield or Eric Avar. My role is to help them realize their dream and ideate around what and how their ideas can work.
I’m also mentoring a lot of folks on how to do the same within Nike. I get the best of everything, because I get to dream, but I‘m grounded in the world of product and surrounded by amazing people.
What are some of your favorite sneakers or projects through the years?
I like to think the best project is always yet to come! My recent favorite is working on the E.A.R.L technology for both the Nike Mag and the HyperAdapt 1.0. That project had it all: challenge, conflict, success, failure, teamwork and passion. Sort of a metaphor for life wrapped up into a project. My personal favorite shoe right now is the Vapor Max — lightweight and minimal. I love them so far!
“If there are doubters, prove them wrong, and more importantly prove our supporters right.” — Tiffany Beers
How would you describe the impact of women in the athletic industry?
Well at a very basic level, without women you wouldn’t have any athletes! I think women bring a level of performance, strategy and general class to sport that is unmatched. They must, and do, continually challenge the status quo. I’m proud of what Nike has done with the Equality campaign in that regard.
Women must continue to pioneer ideas and performance on the global stage. Women and sport can move the world forward. If there are doubters, prove them wrong, and more importantly prove our supporters right.
What advice would you give to a young woman who would want to follow in your footsteps?
Well, first I’d say, don’t follow mine, make your own! Give yourself the best odds you can! Since I had to pay for my own college, I knew I needed to do something that would give me good odds at having a long career. So, I took a swing at plastics engineering because I knew I was a minority being a woman, plus the jobs typically paid well. At the time, I had no idea I was signing up for something that would culminate in me being here today, enjoying an amazing career with Nike. If that was the case, the line would have been so long and I would have never thought I could do it.
Instead I gave myself the best odds I could and just let my passion drive me from there. Know that you have what it takes. I grew up in a tiny town in Pennsylvania — now I’m traveling the world — and writing this to you from Australia! Making sneakers and working with electronics are things that I had no experience in when I started.
You might not be the best at something, but if you can find the right place at the right time and with an “I’ll figure this out attitude,” people will give you a chance. This has happened my entire career. I might not know exactly what it takes but I know I have “it” — and that’s what’s important. Tell people what you want to do. Once you put it out there and tell people, things start to happen. It can’t hurt.