7 Questions with a Spartan
Kerrie Rogers Engle is a Patterns Manager for Lee Mens at Kontoor Brands, Inc., having earned both her MBA (‘18) and her BS in Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (‘11) from UNCG.
1. What do you love most about your job?
I’m coming up on my 7 year anniversary with the company (Formerly called VF Jeanswear), and I love how there are still new and exciting things to learn every day. My hiring manager asked if I had any questions or concerns on my first day, and I said “I don’t want to get bored” because I naively thought “it’s just jeans.” I quickly realized how much goes into bringing a style to market, and have worked on a number of different product lines and categories that are not “just jeans” that have helped grow and develop my skills into the role that I have now.
Now that I manage the Lee Men’s pattern team, my passion has evolved into developing and building my team. Having a technical background definitely helps in this role when it comes to prioritizing tasks and tackling large projects. I have a very talented and collaborative team — we all learn from each other every day, and that’s something I love. I am happy to report — there are no boring days!
2. What’s exciting about the future of your industry?
I think the Apparel Industry is in such an interesting time. Apparel virtualization is completely changing the way we develop products at Kontoor Brands, and it’s an industry trend as well. This is at the cross-section of a heavy focus on sustainability and the need to be agile in our decision making, with an ever-shortening development cycle. Utilizing 3D development, we can make faster decisions using virtual rendering, and test concepts before bringing them to market. Our pattern department started the transition to virtually develop styles using Browzwear’s VStitcher around the time that I joined the company, and it has become a key tool that we use from product development to marketing. The CARS program and other schools in the country have started training our future industry workforce in virtual product development, and I am excited to see what these young professionals will bring to the field.
3. What do you personally find most challenging as a professional?
In my opinion, the most challenging part of being a working professional is finding a good work-life balance. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of answering emails at all hours of the night since we work with our colleagues all over the world. Sometimes it is necessary to schedule that late-night conference call to speed up problem-solving. You have to train yourself to “turn-off” at a certain point, and I’m certainly still working towards this. For me, I try to keep my Saturdays work-free, and if I feel like I need to catch up to get a jump on the week, I’ll wait until Sunday.
4. What is something you did in college to prepare for this position?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to get industry experience through an internship, while you’re still in school. I was very fortunate to have two summer internships during my undergraduate studies, both in New York and both with VF Corp brands. The connections and learnings from these internships helped shape the trajectory of my career. Both were great experiences, where I learned so much about the industry. During my second internship as a Design and Technical Design intern at John Varvatos, I discovered what direction I wanted to take in my career. When I started in the CARS program in 2007, I imagined starting my own fashion brand, but at this internship, I realized that what really brought me the most joy, was putting the puzzle pieces together and making the garments come to life — which is how I realized my passion for Patternmaking and Technical design.
5. What additional training, certifications, professional organization memberships, etc. have helped you professionally?
Staying connected to the university was very important to me, especially since I stayed in the Greensboro area. After finishing my MBA in 2018, I joined the board of the Bryan School Alumni Association. This helps me stay involved in the community and opens up my network to other professionals and students in the area. At Kontoor Brands, I received VStitcher and Lotta certifications, and once or twice a semester, I visit the CARS classes at UNCG to talk about or demonstrate the virtual program to the students.
6. What should students interested in entering your field know?
Students who are interested in Apparel Product Development or Design should definitely learn a 3D system, and be skilled in using programs like Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. Beyond the technical skills needed to enter the field, another important factor is a positive attitude and grit. When you get into that first internship or job, work hard, ask a lot of questions, and listen. If you are lucky enough to find yourself working at a company like Kontoor Brands where there are hundreds of employees with 20, 30, 40+ years of experience, take the time to listen and learn from them.
7. What resources (books, blogs, websites, podcasts, etc.) would you recommend for someone interested in your field or in a position like yours?
If you’re entering the apparel industry, it’s important to stay up to date on trends and industry news, and for that, Women’s Wear Daily is my favorite. I also never miss an episode of NPR’s Planet Money or Marketplace podcasts.