February 14, 2007
Alex Draper, snowboarding product director for K2 Sports
As snowboarding product director for K2 Sports, Alex Draper has to figure out what snowboarders are going to want over the next two years and then create it. His team of snowboarding fanatics designs, engineers and tests each season's K2 and Ride Snowboards offerings.
Q: How did you get started in the snowboarding business?
A: I started snowboarding in 1985. I went to mechanical engineering college and also worked at a snowboard shop for five years. I had a lot of friends who worked at the shop, as well, and were team riders for a snowboard company called Ride Snowboards, which was in Preston. Ride was hiring engineers when I finished school and I had a good number of friends already inside the company. They put in a good word for me and the next thing I know I was working for Ride in about 1995. K2 bought Ride in 2000 and I made the transition here at that time.
Q: What's a typical week like for you?
A: The winter is our busiest time of year. We're working on making sure that any questions on the current season's product are being answered. We're helping to sell and demo the product that will be coming out the next season and we're also working on starting to develop the line that will be out the following-following season. For instance, right now we're working on '08-'09 product.
This summer, we'll be wrapping up our development for the '08-'09 product so we can get all the samples produced on time. We're very busy each summer. We're riding at Mt. Hood [in Oregon], wrapping up any of the final tweaks to the product, doing development with feedback groups.
"Whenever we book a meeting globally, we try to book it somewhere where we can get some riding in. The best ideas come from being on the snow, so we try to get out there as much as we can."
Q: Do you personally get to spend a lot of time on the slopes testing this stuff?
A: Of course, though not as much time as I'd like. One of the perks of the job is getting out there and experimenting with product and trying it out, seeing what works and what doesn't work and continually making it better. In a good year for me, I'll get out 25 or 30 days, but development engineers can often get over 100 days on-hill in a season.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wanted a job working on snowboards or skis at K2?
A There are so many different angles to our company: There is the graphic arts aspect, the engineering aspect ... there are so many ways you could get involved. I'd say the biggest thing we're looking for is people who are passionate about snowboarding like we are. That's always an advantage. Someone who is hardworking and dedicated and really truly passionate about snowboarding is definitely going to have an advantage looking for a job here over someone who may be just as talented but doesn't really care about snowboarding.
Q: Does K2 offer internships?
A: Sometimes we do. We usually do a few internships in the marketing department throughout the summer and sometimes in the spring and fall. And that's something we do just about every year. And then on occasion we do engineering internships throughout some of the months, but we've done that a little less often. Sometimes we'll find a really highly qualified person and even though we weren't planning to do an internship they're either so uniquely qualified -- or we think there's something specific they can contribute -- that we make room for one. Some just fall into our lap.
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