Columbia Sportswear's Director of Toughness

An Essay for Columbia Sportswear About My Director of Toughness Interview Experience on Mount Hood, OR

One Tough Job Interview My lungs are heaving in protest and it feels like I’ve swallowed hot coals, but my interview for Columbia Sportswear’s Director of Toughness position hasn’t even begun. Just two weeks earlier, I’d opened an email with an invitation to interview with Columbia on the flanks of Mount Hood, Oregon. I had no idea what to expect, and for a chronic over-packer, this was simply the first of many challenges.

Tense moments in transit made for an adventure without a dull moment.

Loaded down with skis, camping gear, backpacking food, and other possibly unnecessary gadgets, I shuffled aboard my delayed flight in Jackson Hole. The window for my 30-minute layover in Salt Lake was narrowing; I could NOT miss this connection because I refused to be late for this interview.

My plane touched down in Salt Lake 12 minutes after my connection to Portland was scheduled to depart. Upon deplaning, the gate agent asked for my flight number. She grimaced. “If you sprint, you probably won’t make it. Your flight is in a different terminal.” With 51 pounds of carry-on luggage crammed into two bags, I began to move, and fast. I caught sympathetic looks from fellow travelers as they cleared a path for my rampage. Passing a couple unburdened by luggage, dashing for the same flight, I thought to myself, “Woah, I am tough.”

I soon slowed to a walk, every muscle screaming, until I realized the difference between success and failure would be measured in seconds today. I started sprinting again, ignoring my lungs. Then I saw it, Gate C37, and the door was still open. I had no air left to communicate with the gate agent. I ran down the gangway, as a flight attendant made frantic gestures at me. I stepped inside the plane and she shut the door on my pack, which now felt like lead on my back. I navigated to row 33, enduring the glowering stares of 200 seated passengers. The bag-less couple I had sprinted past didn’t make the flight. I took my seat, lungs searing, but the adventure was just beginning.

Scenes from the slopes of Mount Hood, Oregon, above the Timberline Lodge.

I’m oddly calm as I stroll up to the Timberline Lodge, high on the slopes of Mount Hood, where the interview will unfold. The strangest part is not knowing what Columbia has in store for all the hopeful Directors of Toughness. I take solace in knowing I have enough gear and freeze dried food to outfit the 10th Mountain Division. I’m ready for anything.

Before long, I’m thrust in front of cameras and a large film crew. I find myself earnestly explaining that the chance to influence gear design is what excites me most about this job opportunity. By helping women (and men) be more comfortable and confident with better gear in the outdoors, we can strive for tougher objectives and more difficult challenges. You can’t push way past your comfort zone if your gear isn’t keeping you comfortable.

More tests along the way down following my job interview with Columbia Sportswear on the Palmer Glacier.

As I wrap up, Lauren and Zach toss me a backpack and a map and invite me to start hiking up the imposing steeps of Mount Hood. The interview isn’t over yet. As I tweet, Snap, Gram, and post to Facebook, I realize it’s tough being present while sharing the experience with others. I stop, taking a moment to absorb the view of countless mountain ranges melting into the southern horizon. Climbing higher, I focus on the fact that following your dreams, (even a crazy one like this), will always be worth the risk, toil and sweat. Reaching the toe of Palmer Glacier I grasp that being tested only makes you stronger—the same goes for gear.

Am I tough enough? Columbia will soon make a decision about their new Directors of Toughness, radically changing two lives. Regardless of the outcome, I’ve climbed another mountain and relish this experience that has now etched itself on the pages of my story.

Goodnight from Mount Hood

· · · For more information about the Director of Toughness position with Columbia, see the following webpage: https://www.columbia.com/toughjobs.html