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Nothin’ but Networking: Recent Business Grad Lands Internship through Alumnus Connection

Written by Rachel Drachman
2/9/2016

Tom Padula '15 and Mark French '97. Photo by Steve Hockstein/Harvard Studio

Tom Padula ’15 first met Mark French ’97 when French gave a talk about his business, Mission Athletecare, to an IC class. Mission Athletecare creates performance-elevating products for athletes, and French—a founding partner—has perfected his products with the help of professional athletes like Serena Williams, Drew Brees, Dwyane Wade, and Mia Hamm. Padula, a business administration major, was inspired by French’s ability to take his strengths and love of sports and pour them into a successful business.

“I knew I was studying business, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it, and I knew I loved sports,” says Padula, who played football after transferring to IC in 2012. “So if I could combine sports and business together, it seemed like a bull’s-eye.”

Padula began reaching out to French for advice, emailing the address on his business card several times, and putting in calls to the company. Padula was excited when he finally got French on the phone.

A Connection Forged

French asked Padula to intern with Mission Athletecare that spring, working with a new product called Cleat Grip, which keeps mud off the bottom of cleats during practices and games. Padula worked with athletes such as Reggie Bush and got to field test the project at Ithaca College.

“We played on grass at Ithaca,” says the former running back. “So I ended up being a perfect candidate to test out the product, ask my friends what they thought of it, gather feedback from focus groups, and then report those findings to Mark and his team.”

French was so impressed with Padula’s work on Cleat Grip that he offered him an internship in New York City that summer. But Padula didn't have enough time to find suitable housing in New York City, so he had to turn down French's offer.

“I was pretty emotional about it. And then he said, ‘Hold on a second.’” It was worth staying on hold: “When French came back on the line he said, ‘OK, my wife gave us the go. You’re going to move in.’”

So the summer before his senior year, Padula interned at IS—a live location-sharing mobile tech company—and lived in New York City with French and his family. Padula gained new insight into the entrepreneurial spirit that starting and running your own companies requires.


 

French also guided Padula when it came time for his job search, pushing him to create a post-graduation plan. Padula met with the staff at IC’s Office of Career Services and the Office of Alumni Relations and shared his plan for what he wanted to do after college. When Andrew Steedman ’13, an inside sales representative at Madison Square Garden, reached out to IC’s career services staff to see if there were any students they would recommend, Padula came to mind immediately.

Making His Own Footprint

“No matter what stage you’re at, you can do anything you want with the resources the college provides,” Padula said to students when he visited campus last fall.

After graduating, Padula was hired as an inside sales representative at Madison Square Garden. He works mostly with season ticket holders who purchase suites for Knicks, Rangers, and Liberty games and concerts. He has since brought in a lot of new business for MSG, working with clients including chief executive officers of hedge funds and Fortune 500 companies.

What he’s most proud of, though, is his work with nonprofits that help children with autism, multiple sclerosis, and Down syndrome. He said he’s helped plan fundraising events that have raised considerable amounts of money, and made lots of memories for the kids, too.

“Even though it’s not the most profitable piece of my job, it was the most rewarding,” he says. “It changed my life meeting those kids.”

In less than a year at the Garden, Padula was promoted to account executive. He and French remain close.

“What he’s been to me is a true mentor,” says Padula. “He’s someone who’s going to be honest with me and critique me.”

French also helped Padula bridge the gap between college and a professional job.

“That was the biggest thing that he did for me,” says Padula. “He lit a flame underneath me and let me know that it’s all possible.” 



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