For Jeanine Hayes, the best part of returning to campus is the opportunity to interact with students.
As a young girl, Jeanine Hayes ’92 (optics) never had a singular dream about what she wanted to do when she grew up.
“For me, I think there was never anything I thought I couldn’t do,” says the recipient of this year’s Hajim School Distinguished Alumnae Award.
That assertive, can-do attitude helps explain why Hayes, Nike’s first Chief IP Officer, and now the vice president and general manager of Nike Ease and sustainable product innovation at the company, has enjoyed repeated success along a “nonlinear” career path in law, technology, intellectual property, entertainment, and consumer products. It also helped that she studied engineering and played varsity sports at the University of Rochester, she told students while on campus for a Hajim School Dean’s Advisory Committee meeting.
Optics taught her critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and perseverance, she said. "You get comfortable with not having answers to everything and having to figure it out," she said.
Varsity sports—soccer and track and field—taught her discipline, time management, the importance of teamwork, not letting teammates down, and “how to lose and get back up and keep going.”
“You’re at a great university,” she said. “And as you get out in the real world, you will find that the discipline and ethics and skill sets you’re learning here are invaluable.”
Hayes began her career at a big Los Angeles law firm and then pivoted to Overture Services, a small tech start-up and pioneer of paid search. She held positions in IP, business litigation, licensing, and eventually as General Counsel.
After Overture was bought by Yahoo!, she stayed on with Yahoo!, serving as VP and deputy general counsel working on a wide range of global legal and business issues, including M&A and the joint venture formation and license of Alibaba. She joined Nike as its VP, Chief IP Counsel in 2011.
“I’ve always worked hard at what I’m doing,” Hayes explains. “I’ve also been fortunate to be given some unique opportunities along the way.
"It’s important to remember that opportunities don’t always come when you’re ready, so it’s good to keep your mind open to new things. It could be really interesting work or a new position that offers you a chance to develop new skill sets, even if you don’t have a lot of background in the field. Because of the competencies and problem solving you’ve learned at the University, you’ll be able to figure it out.”