- Nexus Global Studies
Since he graduated from Cape Henry Collegiate in 2015, Mr. Sean Duffy has been doing all things bikes, including working at Trek Bicycle Corporation’s headquarters in Waterloo, WI. He traces his love of bikes and path to Trek all the way back to a 7th grade trip led by science teacher Mr. Erik Cofer (and chaperoned by his mom).
“We were able to choose two activities on the trip. With it being in West Virginia, whitewater rafting was definitely a popular choice,” said Mr. Duffy. “Mr. Cofer encouraged me to also try mountain biking and I still remember him saying ‘Come join me.’ I am so glad that I did. The adrenaline rush was all it took and I was all in.”
Mr. Duffy returned from his trip, bought a bike on Craigslist and began a lifelong adventure. During his Upper School years, he biked any chance he got, especially during summer trips to Snowshoe, West Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
When it came time to think about college, Mr. Duffy knew he wanted to get to the mountains of North Carolina where he could continue to explore his love of the outdoors and biking. He chose Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, 45 minutes southwest of Asheville. There, he jumped into the college cycling club, helping it to grow as it exposed him to the various disciplines of biking and collegiate-level events. In his sophomore year, Mr. Duffy was named president and served in the role until he graduated.
“If I wasn't in class, I was on a bike. I knew that I wanted to continue biking after college but I wasn't sure what that was going to look like,” said Mr. Duffy, who was studying computer information systems, another path influenced by his time at Cape Henry.
“As a kid, I always liked gadgets and computers, and when Cape Henry first offered the computer science class, I jumped on it,” said Mr. Duffy, who took the course senior year with Mr. Tom Rodgers. “It was fascinating and deepened my interest in the I.T. field. That sparked my interest to pursue a degree and later a career in I.T.”
At Western Carolina, Mr. Duffy added a few classes in data analytics to make sure he was marketable and current within the up-and-coming field. As graduation approached in 2019, he started applying and looking into job opportunities at various companies, including one for an IT Business Applications Analyst position at Trek.
“As soon as I walked in the door at Trek, it was an instant vibe and connection. The way they approached the interview, it was more about people and the culture fit. Obviously, I needed to show I had the skill set, but they were also interested in knowing I had the work hard, play harder frame of mind.”
Mr. Duffy was hired in July and relocated immediately from his college digs to an apartment in Madison. It was a small commute, often via bike, to Waterloo.
“There's a saying at Trek, ‘If we could get people to Waterloo, they would understand,’” said Mr. Duffy.
Trek continues to have an incredible influence on the bike infrastructure in the town, offering hundreds of acres of bike lanes and helping to fund cycling infrastructure projects to prevent land development. Trek offers employees an on-site gym, fitness trainer, five star café, full-time primary care clinic, massage therapists, mental health counselors, dieticians, athletic trainers and 18 miles of world-class mountain bike trails on site, with world class bikes readily available at employees' fingertips.
“Who wouldn't be excited to go to work each day?” said Mr. Duffy, who supports more than 400 Trek retailers globally, including the local Hilltop location here in Virginia Beach. Mr. Duffy helps the shops run more efficiently by designing matrices and helping automate their processes, in turn enabling them to get more people on bikes.
When Mr. Dufffy isn't at work, you can find him participating in large mountain bike endurance races and events. He recently completed the Ride Across Wisconsin, a 235-mile bike ride across the state from La Crosse to Milwaukee. In its seventh year, RAW attracts over a thousand bikers. Only a small fraction finish in one day.
“The experience of riding in a group and bonding with other bikers is what it is all about,” said Mr. Duffy, who battled rain and thunderstorms during this year’s ride. “We started at 4 a.m. in the dark with headlamps and we rolled across the finish line around 6 p.m. There were quite a few accidents, one in particular was an over-the-bar type of crash at mile 50, that was pretty crazy.”
At Trek, Mr. Duffy’s boss rode 7,500 miles in a calendar year and challenged him to do the same. He accepted the challenge and beat it, riding 7,600 miles in 2020, equating to around 20 hours of riding per week. To do it, Mr. Duffy commuted to and from work by bike, took lunch time rides, and kept at it with fat tires through the snowy Wisconsin winter.
Another notable accomplishment is the DIY completion of his converted sprinter van.
“I learned a lot from YouTube academy,” said Mr. Duffy, whose van is both a mobile home and bike workshop that is electric- and solar-powered, offering the ability to work, travel and play off the grid. When he’s not traveling in his second home, Mr. Duffy lives in Sun Prairie, WI, where he is restoring an old farm-style home built in the 1900s.
Reflecting upon his path, Mr. Duffy advises current CHC students to think about what they’re passionate about, then seek out a study and career path that corresponds.
“Try to parlay your individual strengths and skill set and what you can offer the company,” he said. “The work/play balance is definitely a great way to live.”
Although Mr. Duffy now lives more than 1,000 miles away, he maintains a close bond with Cape Henry, a testament to the unique relationships created here. Mr. Cofer, the teacher who sparked Mr. Duffy’s interest in biking, has visited Trek headquarters, and over the holiday break, the two met in North Carolina to ride together. Mr. Duffy has given back to the school by virtually visiting Mr. Cofer’s AP Environmental Studies class to discuss Trek’s new engineered packaging system that saves weight, money and fossil fuels.
It’s no wonder that Mr. Duffy has fond sentiments when he speaks about his time at CHC. Twenty-three years ago, a Nexus trip sparked both a friendship and career path, and launched his lifelong adventure.