Industry Profile: Dakine Developer Jennifer Ketler
25 Aug, 2009
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Jennifer: I’m a wife, a sister, and a daughter who loves to snowboard, mt bike, be creative and hang out with friends. I grew up in the great Northwest loving rain, cement pow and espresso!
Shay: What is your job title?
Jennifer: Product Developer, Girls packs and bags
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, what opened up more opportunities for you?
Jennifer: I was very blessed to meet the right people at the right time. I started exposing myself to the industry in High School at local snowboard comps, hanging out at shops and at Hood in the summers and working at Ski Bonkers. The Northwest snow scene is pretty small. I went to school with Julia Aiken, we both studied Industrial Design and she took me under her wing. She was the one that connected me with Kyre Byram, Roxy Hardgood Manager, where I did an internship with Kyre which later turned into a freelancing job. From there I went to tradeshows, re-connecting and meeting people, asking questions, and learning as much as I could.
Jennifer skinning up Cooper Spur with Hood in the background
Shay: Did your parents question your job choice?
Jennifer: Yes and no. My mom is an artist and encouraged my creativity where my dad told me to get a biology degree; he wanted me to become a doctor. I think he still questions whether or not this is a “real” job, I get to play a lot!
Shay: What was your first set up?
Jennifer: A bright orange 152 Sims board from Costco with some unknown cheap plastic bindings and Northwave boots.
Shay: What is your current set up?
Jennifer: 150 Roxy Eminence (Torah Bright’s model), Eminence bindings and Roxy Crystal boots.
Shay: What was your first job?
Jennifer: A farm hand. I grew up volunteering at Kelsey Creek Farm and they hired me as summer help in high school to take care of the animals, I totally loved it! I got to ride the horses, feed the cows, goats, and sheep, clean stalls, collect chicken eggs, it was a lot of fun.
Shay: What’s a great day of snowboarding to you?
Jennifer: A bluebird deep, deep pow day at Snowbird, riding with my husband Ben or a totally gnarly, stormy day at Mt. Baker with friends.
Shay: Who are your influences?
Jennifer: My husband who constantly gives and gives, he’s love for people, caring heart and energy for life is very admirable.
Shay: How long have you been snowboarding?
Jennifer: 12 years. I’ve been skiing since I was 3 and started snowboarding in the 8th grade.
Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?
Jennifer: I’ve been very blessed with flexible schedules over the past few years where I have been able to average around 80 days a year.
Jennifer and sister Rachel at Snowbird
Shay: What is your role at Dakine as the Product Developer for girl’s packs and bags?
Jennifer: As the product developer I bridge the gap between the Product Line Manager, Leslie Pyfer, and our factories in China. I work with our factories making sure all of the correct materials, prints and finishes are carried out on our products. I work with Leslie creating a global product line that meeting our consumer’s needs.
Shay: You recently started this position, how was the transition from your previous job to your new job?
Jennifer: For my previous job I was doing freelance work which was great because I could create my own schedule; however it was a bit lonely. I enjoy working and being creative with others. Here at Dakine it has been great working in teams creating an awesome product line.
Shay: What steps did you take to get this job?
Jennifer: I created a portfolio and resume, introduced myself to a few people at Dakine at SIA and then applied for the job.
Shay: What are the stages from the ground-up design of packs and bags?
Jennifer: Trending research, talking to the reps, designing textiles, packs and bags, refinement of textile, pack and bags designs, ordering samples, critiquing samples, gathering feedback, and finalizing designs.
Shay: What materials are involved in the making of Dakine packs and bags?
Jennifer: We mainly use 600D polyester on our packs, canvas for our lifestyle bags and we’re introducing a new line of vinyl bags for next summer.
<strong>Shay: Does Dakine feature any sustainable materials?
Jennifer: Yes, our surf pack Project BLUE Oceana, is made out of 100% PET fabric and lining, the buckles are also recycled and $2 from each sale are donated to The Surfrider Foundation.
Jennifer and friend Ryan being snowboard instructors at Baker
Shay: What are the differences between girls and boys products for Dakine?
Jennifer: Most importantly fit. Our back panels, shoulder straps, and hip straps are designed to fit a women’s body. We have a very large target market so we place a lot of time on designing textiles that are trendy, progressive and classic. We also pay attention to details that are important to women, like pop and printed liners, organizer pockets, velvet sunglass cases, and embroidery details.
Shay: Is there much modification to packs and bags year to year?
Jennifer: Yes, we’re always trying to produce the highest quality and functioning products. If one year a design elements doesn’t work as well as we thought, it’s updated and improved.
Shay: What are some features of Dakine bags and packs?
Jennifer: For the girl’s line we have velvet lined sunglass and goggle pockets, interior organizer pockets, padded laptop and fleeced lined sleeves, breathable DriMesh back panels and shoulder straps, secret compartments, insulated cooler pockets, and deployable water bottle pockets.
Shay: Who do you receive feedback from?
Jennifer: Anyone who wants to give their opinion! Majority of our feedback comes from our team riders and reps who spend a lot of time with dealers and customers. Lots of Dakine employees are excellent athletics, so we’re all testing product throughout the year.
Shay: How does Dakine cater to women’s needs for bags and packs?
Jennifer: Packs are designed to specifically to fit a women’s body, increasing comfort and function. Our bags are designed with organizer pockets for the multitude of things women love to carry in their bags. All of our products are stylized so that they are not only functional but also fashionable, with attention paid to the details such as velvet lines sunglass pockets, decorative liners and fun embroideries.
Shay: Do you feel there is anything lacking in products for women?
Jennifer: I feel like there is a lot of room for the Dakine Girls line to grow and be successful. We’ve only skimmed the surface and are excited to expand and prosper.
Shay: Are there any collaborative projects in the works?
Jennifer: Not yet but there is the potential.
Jennifer and her husband Ben touring in the Wasatch Range
Shay: Do you see social media as an important future in marketing?
Shay: What are you thoughts on the current state of the industry?
Jennifer: In order to go up, you have to go down. And what goes down must come up!
Shay: Prior to Dakine, what other jobs/companies have you worked at?
Jennifer: I worked with Roxy designing their snowboard boot line for this up coming winter along with Ahnu shoes, designing their women’s ’10 spring/summer shoe line. Before that I was at school helping promote Bataleon snowboards up at Baker and pursing my own bag company, Roma Bags, where I designed and crafted bags out of reclaimed car vinyl.
Shay: What’s your average day like at work?
Jennifer: Each day is so different, from working with Leslie, or textile designer Christin Dunbar, to attending tradeshows, visiting our factories, quality control at our warehouse, working on spec sheets, looking for inspiration and brainstorming for the next season.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Jennifer: Working in this industry is awesome because you’re surrounded by people who love to do fun things. Some experiences that stand-out most are a morning surf/donut session before meetings down in Sand Diego with Kyre Byram and DC’s Boot Developer Jonathan Fischbein .The waves were perfect size (small cause I’m learning), the dolphins were out and afterwards the donuts were delicious! Kyre and I also had an epic pow day up at Snowbird. We had a chairlift meeting discussing the product line and testing product. We actually got a lot done; I think the amount of pow helped! And I love spending time in Portland trending with Leslie Pyfer.
Jennifer Ketler and Kyre Byram at SIA last year
Shay: How is working for Dakine (any cool work events, work environment, job perks)?
Jennifer: So far, working for Dakine is great! I’ve only been here a few months but the environment is laid back and relaxing while still getting things done. Lunch road rides, after work mt bike rides, it’s a fun group of people and work and play together.
Shay: What’s the best perk you’ve gotten from your job?
Jennifer: Tons of cute bags!
Shay: Any disadvantages of your job?
Jennifer: There is a lot of work to be done on the computer.
Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
Jennifer: We’re pretty much busy year round, designing and developing 2 seasons’ lines. Probably winter though because you have to balance tradeshows, work and pow days.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Jennifer: Both. Going to school and getting a degree is a commitment and takes determination, it’s not easily done. With experience you can gain knowledge, skills and meet people that you normally wouldn’t be able to do at school. It’s a balance though. Sadly, with the job market that is today, it’s only becoming more difficult to obtain a job without a degree.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in product development?
Jennifer: Get a degree in something like design, or manufacturing, know the industry that you would like to work in really well, the products and people, and start exposing yourself to the industry.
Shay: Final thoughts?
Jennifer: Do what you love!
Thanks to all of my friend whom I shared pow days with, mt biking adventures and good conversations. Thanks to my parents for their love and support! Thanks to my sister for putting up with me and thanks to my husband for taking me on adventures!