Dwane Morgan ’02: When life gives you data, make decisions
Dwane Morgan ’02, director of global consumer insights at Under Armour, has an analytical view of the world and approaches every interaction as a learning experience. He collects data in all things and uses this information to make informed decisions in his life and his career.
“I’ve worked closely with data for a long time, but I think sometimes people hear the word data and they just think of it as hard numbers. But everything is data,” Morgan says. There is something to be learned from every experience that can inform your next decision. In this mindset, Morgan has taken each experience as information for the next life decision, carving a path from Ithaca and Cornell to Boston, and finally, to Maryland and Under Armour.
The benefits of exploring new opportunities
Born in Queens and raised just north of New York City, Morgan already knew, as a high school student, what type of undergraduate environment would work for him. He wanted a true college campus experience with academic rigor, and Cornell was a perfect match. “I wanted to stay relatively close to home, but I also wanted to go somewhere that was going to challenge me,” he says. He was also looking for a college experience where he could be immersed in the university culture.
“Visiting the school just absolutely confirmed everything I saw on paper,” Morgan says. “I loved the place and to be honest, I loved the people I met when I went there.”Born in Queens and raised just north of New York City, Morgan already knew, as a high school student, what type of undergraduate environment would work for him. He wanted a true college campus experience with academic rigor, and Cornell was a perfect match. “I wanted to stay relatively close to home, but I also wanted to go somewhere that was going to challenge me,” he says. He was also looking for a college experience where he could be immersed in the university culture.
Morgan majored in applied economics and management at the Dyson School with a focus on general business and user marketing. His first internship was through the Entrepreneurship and Personal Enterprise Program (renamed Entrepreneurship@Cornell in 2004), which broadened his understanding of what his future in business could look like. Through this internship program, entrepreneurs who were Dyson School alumni would host an intern and offer insights on different types of business. While in the program, Morgan worked for a Cornell alumnus who launched a leasing company to help entrepreneurs get started with equipment rentals. “Working with him opened my eyes to the different ways that you could apply a business mindset to any industry,” says Morgan. “I learned that if you’re creative, there are many ways to start a business. It was an eye-opening experience.”
Combining his coursework, internships, life experiences, and close relationships he built with his advisors and TAs, Morgan gathered data and discovered where his talents and interests intersected as he started his career journey.
Morgan also found love at Cornell. The day before his graduation, he proposed to his girlfriend—now wife, Tami—in McGraw Tower, which overlooks Uris Library where they met. Tami graduated from Cornell two years prior and was already enrolled in a medical school at Harvard, and Morgan had taken an internship at Filene’s of The May Department Stores Company that would eventually lead to a full-time position. As he began his post-graduate life in Boston, he would witness his first Marathon Monday, which would ultimately impact the trajectory of his career.
Harnessing data for career growth
Morgan started out as a buyer for women’s clothing. “It helped me understand the importance of looking at data to drive how you deal with consumers,” he says. One eye-opening experience came with the holiday season’s “ugly sweaters.” An item that was set to hit the shelves seemed like its sales would be unsuccessful, but after crunching the numbers, Morgan discovered it was likely to do well. His figures were correct, and Morgan learned an important lesson: Trust your gut, but make sure you have the data to back it up.
After working at May for four years, Morgan earned an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management and spent a few years working with the Boston Consulting Group. The work was an excellent learning experience, exposing him to a wide variety of people and projects—but he found that the culture wasn’t a great fit for him in the long-term.
Drawing on his experiences in different leadership styles, projects, and environments, Morgan knew what he wanted in a career…and what he didn’t. He was looking for an opportunity that would align his personality with his employer’s corporate culture and his interests with his work. He found this alignment at Converse, a company owned by Nike.
So, how did Marathon Monday launch his career trajectory? After the day Morgan saw the Boston Marathon for the first time, he became an avid runner and marathoner, which further validated his next career move into the sports apparel industry. Morgan found his stride—he stayed with Converse as a senior manager of strategic planning for almost four years.
“[Working at Converse] gave me the opportunity to be closer to sports and fitness, and [they have] a corporate culture that reflects the industry. It also allowed me to focus my skills in a strategy role,” he affirms.
Find a career that fits so you can go the extra mile
Morgan’s position at Converse eventually led him to an opportunity at Under Armour, where he’s currently the director of global consumer insights. “I’m in a role that really leverages a lot of my previous experiences. It’s a role where I pull together different data elements to tell a holistic story,” he says.
The core of Morgan’s work blends hard numbers with softer, qualitative data to make connections between consumer and the Under Armour brand. “We do a lot of focus groups, in-home ethnographies, or interviews to bring the data to life. Sometimes, you need to have a conversation with the consumer to really figure out the ‘why,’” he says.
Under Armour is growing and making inroads in international markets. His teammates, as they refer to one another, work together and keep open lines of communication about the opportunities for the brand. Basketball is a key niche, but Morgan’s team has conducted research with consumers across all sports.
“It’s been great to talk to athletes across levels. What you see in these consumers is a consistent approach and mentality. They understand and embody commitment in every aspect of their lives. Tying those experiences to the research has been great because it’s not just about a product, it’s a brand. That’s really where you create those strong consumer relationships,” says Morgan.
Morgan’s job function and role at Under Armour are global in scope. He has the opportunity to work across different sports and countries. This exciting portfolio, and the company’s corporate culture, resonates with Morgan and exemplifies what he’s learned over the years about success. When your work environment feels like you’re on a team, that becomes a strong force for motivation both personally and professionally.
“I work with people who have values similar to mine. They tend to care about personal health and fitness, they are very driven, and very passionate about the brand. When you think about going the extra mile from a work perspective, I think having that similarity creates really strong professional relationships,” he says. “Since I started working [at Under Armour], I probably haven’t used the word coworker one time. We’re all teammates—and that’s the brand.”
Morgan also loves the fact that he has colleagues (teammates) he can call who will join him for a long run when he’s training for his next marathon. This support system has helped him as he works to accomplish his goal of completing a marathon in every state. He is half way there.
Gather life’s data to make the best decisions
Morgan’s mantra matches his life’s journey: Everything is data.
“You should look at life that way, and take it in,” he explains. For example, “there are going to be some classes that you really like more than others. What’s the difference in those classes?” What he suggests is not just accepting something at face value, but understanding why something does or does not resonate with you. When you think about ways to learn from your experiences, you can begin to choose a more specific path going forward.
The same concept is true when you get your first job…and in every role thereafter. When it’s your turn to manage people, you’ll have learned from multiple managers you’ve had. Through each of life’s experiences you should be collecting data. Even the negative experiences can help you pinpoint what you want to avoid in the future.
“If you are self-reflective enough to think about all life experiences as data points, and add those to create your personal tool kit,” he says, “it’s going to help you to continue to grow both personally and professionally—from the classroom to the boardroom.”