Please tell us about yourself
Prashanth Peketi’s education has taken him from life as a student athlete in Twinsburg, Ohio to a management position at one of the world’s biggest sports equipment and apparel companies in the world. And his time in Ohio State’s Materials Science and Engineering program helped make it all possible.
Peketi, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Material Sciences and Engineering from Ohio State in 2015, started out as a biomedical engineer.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
“I knew I wanted to do engineering, but I wasn’t sure what kind of engineering,” he said, citing Ohio State’s rich range of opportunities and alternatives in the field. “I knew that, coming to Ohio State, I’d have a great education, but I’d have the flexibility to change and make some moves, too.”
His first move came during an early orientation class introduced him to the field of materials science and all of its varied professional outcomes.
“I think the materials science program allows you to grow in a lot of different ways,” he said. “If you want to be flexible in your future career, become a materials scientist, because my skills can be used in the automotive field, the sports field, the food processing field. I’ve had internships at Dannon Yogurt, Volvo Trucks, and a sports company where I was testing equipment.”
Those internships connected him with people who helped him refine his interest in sports engineering, which he describes as “very technical but also very applied… Whatever technology might have a chance of being applicable within a sports product, you kind of just grab it and go, because everything moves so quickly.”
Tell us about your career path
After graduating from Ohio State, he pursued a master’s degree in Sports Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England, an internationally recognized program in the field. At Sheffield Hallam, he studied with people from Germany, Italy, India, Japan, and more at Sheffield. “I was the only American in my cohort.”
Now, he’s settling in as an assistant manager on Adidas’ basketball innovation team. He’s part of a multidisciplinary group that talks to athletes to gather insights on what they need from their apparel and equipment to transfer into engineering objectives, like “this shoe doesn’t have enough traction.” He’ll work among sport scientists, designers, and engineers, to translate needs into innovative products.
While working in the sports industry is a dream come true for Peketi, he knows that his education at Ohio State has positioned him for a huge range of opportunities.
“What you need is that broad-based understanding of how materials work [that Ohio State provides], and anyone can use that skill.”
Tell us about your most recent position.
I recently accepted a position as an Innovation Assistant Manager with the adidas Group in Portland, Oregon. This role will be within the Basketball Innovation team, and I will be working with athletes, designers, sports scientists, and engineers to help develop the best basketball footwear and apparel in the business.
What core skills or qualities do you think employers find most useful?
In my experience, flexibility and dependability have been two of the most important characteristics. Flexibility, especially in regards to people early in their careers, is key to showing employers that you can roll with the punches. This includes taking new challenges as they come up, sometimes even before your manager assigns projects to you. Secondly, and probably most importantly, being dependable builds employer confidence, and can help you quickly earn new projects with increased responsibility.
It’s important to have parallel plans upon graduation. Looking back at when you graduated from Ohio State, how did you balance applying to graduate school while applying to full time positions?
I was unsure of what I wanted to do after graduation until just about a month before I graduated from Ohio State. I applied for jobs that I found through the Engineering Expo and the Engineering Career Services job board all while submitting applications to graduate schools abroad. The best practice is to start the grad school applications early, as the requirements and criteria are often quite different, especially if you are looking abroad. After sorting through the offers I received, and speaking with mentors and counselors at ECS, I decided to pursue a Masters in Sports Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University in England, to tailor my experience better for sports industry jobs.
What sparked your interest in applying to graduate school in the UK? Do you have any tips for the graduate school application process?
I was interested in studying abroad all throughout my undergraduate career, and figured that a master’s degree would be a good opportunity to act upon that desire. I wasn’t focused on a specific country, but tried to go for the best academic program that would set me up for a future sports career. I would recommend doing research on the topics that interest you, and then find schools that have professors that do similar research. It is hard to do a masters in a niche field if a professor isn’t already conducting research on a similar topic. Also, get specific! For me, I knew I wanted to look at advanced material applications in sports products to enhance athlete safety. Sheffield Hallam was researching an advanced foam for impact protection, and I was able to use that fundamental research as the basis for my thesis.
What advice would you recommend to engineering students who are interested in working or studying abroad?
If you have the opportunity to work or study abroad, you definitely should. I was very privileged to have the opportunity to study in the UK, and then work in Germany with adidas. Both of those experiences helped me develop into a more globally conscious engineer. I drastically broadened my network, and I was fortunate to find opportunities to explore passions outside of engineering that helped me become more employable in the long term. It can be expensive, but there are many opportunities for scholarships or internships that may help offset the costs!