By Karen Shoholm
“I met Michael Jordan during the first week of my internship,” says Mark Lau ’06. “Right then I knew that Nike was the place I wanted to work. Eleven years later, I haven’t looked back.”
Lau, who graduated with degrees in marketing from the Cox School of Business and in advertising design from Meadows School of the Arts, works at Nike’s World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. As global director of the company’s EKIN Experience – named in 1981 for the Nike reps who “had to know the product backwards and forwards,” according to Nike – Lau leads the team responsible for curating Nike’s stories and delivering inspiration and innovation to athletes around the world through a grassroots approach.
“My internship played a huge part in getting a full-time job at Nike,” he says.
Lau also credits his SMU Abroad experiences studying in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Suzhou, China. “I believe that some of the best learning experiences take place outside the classroom. The study abroad programs provided the opportunity to interact with students from around the world and experience global cultures.”
Adapting to different kinds of people and cultures was good training for what Lau does at Nike. “There is no such thing as a typical day at Nike, and that’s why I love it. We are a consumer-driven company, and the consumer moves fast. We learn, adapt and evolve quickly to keep up with today’s fast-paced environment,” he says.
“We call Nike’s World Headquarters a campus because it is designed like a university and fosters an environment of learning and sharing. Our maxim, ‘Be a sponge,’ inspires us to constantly soak up and share information.”
From the SMU campus, Lau is grateful for what he learned in his marketing classes, especially those taught by Judy Foxman, senior lecturer of marketing at the Cox School. Lau says she made learning fun. “She merged the classroom with the real world, providing valuable insights and experiences.”
Foxman calls Lau “a fabulous student whose marketing and communication skills were enhanced in my Honors Marketing Practicum class. When you are relating academics to a real-world project, a company knows that you will be able to hit the ground running. You earn more than a marketing degree; you acquire a level of confidence and professionalism.”
Lau serves as the co-president of SMU’s Portland alumni chapter and helps organize events for fellow Mustangs who live in the area.
He adds that SMU’s location in Dallas gave him an ideal launch pad for getting to Nike and Portland. “Dallas is strategically located so it is attractive to companies. Whether you want to work for a big company or a small company – or start your own – Dallas and SMU can provide those opportunities.”