His passion for sneakers landed this St. John's designer a dream job in Scotland

Mark Connolly of St. John's is making a name for himself in industrial design for rowing crews. (Submitted by Mark Connolly - image credit)
Mark Connolly of St. John's is making a name for himself in industrial design for rowing crews. (Submitted by Mark Connolly - image credit)
Submitted by Mark Connolly
Submitted by Mark Connolly

Mark Connolly grew up not too far from Quidi Vidi Lake, where the annual Royal St. John's Regatta has been rowed for over 200 years.

Now Connolly is making a name for himself across a much larger pond, in Edinburgh as an industrial designer for startup company Rival Kit.

"It's bordering fashion design but that's something that always something that interested me," Connolly told CBC News in a recent interview.

"I landed in an incredible position here in Edinburgh with this company."

Rival Kit produces technical athletic wear and gear for some of the world's top tier rowing crews — including Oxford, Yale and Harvard — cyclists and rugby teams. The company also sponsors one of the world's most prestigious boating races: the Head of the Charles Regatta.

Connolly explains industrial design as making products to enhance a user's quality of experience, whether that's through a wearable garment or a digital application.

"We research human behaviour and human pain points and we're trained to come up with as many ideas as possible," he said.

"Then we refine those concepts into prototypes. We bring an idea from research and problem statement to reality. We come up with a tangible solution to human problems."

Connolly studied at Memorial University before he caught the design bug.

He was halfway through his undergrad when an advertisement for a new Nike shoe caught his attention.

"There was an interview with the designer at Nike and that just captivated my attention completely. I just said, 'I can't believe people could do that for a job. People are actually out here going to school to design sneakers,'" he said.

"That's always what I wanted to do."

Connolly came close to dropping out of MUN to pursue his dreams but a conversation and some persistence from his parents made him finish his program before moving on.

LISTEN | Mark Connolly speaks to CBC Radio's Weekend AM:

In 2018, he enrolled in industrial design at Humber College in Toronto and hasn't looked back.

Connolly said he initially wanted to work for Nike but his girlfriend, who is studying in Edinburgh, drew him to Scotland instead.

"I would have applied for this job regardless. It's the perfect company," he said.

"This is a startup so I'm getting my feet wet in a bunch of different areas like manufacturing, fashion design.… This exceeded my wildest dreams and I would take this over a Nike job any day."

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