Merci Monsieur! (Thank you, Sir!) What I learned from SMU Alum, Marc Patrick

A screenshot from a Voices of SMU Zoom interview between PhD Candidate Camille Davis and SMU Meadows School of the Arts Executive Board Member, Marc Patrick, in December 2020. The interview will be available for viewing at the end of this month.

Addendum: At the time of the interview, Patrick was Senior Vice President of Beyond Meat; however, in 2021, he became Head of Sports Marketing at Amazon Prime Video. In early 2022, he returned to Nike as Vice President of North America Brand Defining, Purpose and Athlete Marketing.

Background

One of the many joys of being a member of the Voices of SMU team is having the opportunity to become acquainted with inspirational SMU alumni. At the end of last year, I got the pleasure of interviewing SMU Meadows School of the Arts Executive Board Member, Marc Patrick. A few months later, I still find myself empowered, encouraged, and challenged by the wisdom he shared during his oral history.  I won’t give away any details because I don’t want to spoil the interview. However, I will convey the lessons that stuck with me regarding internal strength and good character.
First, you should know that Marc Patrick is a marketing extraordinaire. He is the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Beyond Meat, an organization that creates meat from plant-based proteins for those who live vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. Additionally, before joining Beyond Meat, Patrick spent twenty-one years at Nike in various marketing and brand-enhancement roles that include Head of Global Brand Communications, Head of Global Brand Marketing Special Categories, and Senior Director of Global Brand Marketing Nike Sportswear – just to name a few.
Secondly, you should know that I had a brief stint at Nike, which gave me some insight into Mr. Patrick’s previous employment.  It was my first “real job” after college. I worked off-site, a few blocks from SMU, because Nike had hired a corporate entity to handle the logistics of a special project that they were rolling out that year. I was hired by this third party to complete analysis and editing work on text and photos for the new project, and I was paid by Nike. I reported to both organizations. 
As I was preparing for my interview with Mr. Patrick, I learned that he was the Senior Director of Global Brand Marketing of Nike Sportswear and the Senior Director of North America Brand Marketing during my time as an off-site Nike Brand Coordinator. During the interview, I had an epiphany. I realized that although I had never met Mr. Patrick during my association with Nike, so much of what went right during my tenure was due to his leadership within the company.

Getting to know Marc Patrick

Mr. Patrick possesses qualities that are even more rare than his significant achievements. I have tried to find the appropriate adjectives to characterize him, but I am at a loss for just the right words. My best conjecture is to use the well-known French phrase used to represent individuals with qualities that are difficult to articulate– “je ne sais quoi,” which literally translates to “a quality that cannot be described or named easily.” I have come to this conclusion because Mr. Patrick is more concerned with personal integrity than with professional success. During his interview, when I asked about the mantra that guides his professional life, he mentioned none of the usual “buzzwords” that usually permeate the psyche of high achievers within the corporate realm. Patrick did not use “networking” and “personal branding” or even “marketing” as directives for success. Instead, he invoked a trait that few consider, value, or possess — namely, the characteristic of personal excellence. 
Often people are shaped and defined by the climate of their professional lives. However, in this case, the antithesis is true.  Instead of being controlled by his surroundings, Patrick chooses to imbue his environment with integrity and hard work.  He believes that the road to success is paved with treating others with respect and dignity, honoring one’s commitments, and doing unglamorous tasks with the consistency and vigor usually reserved for conspicuously significant feats.  This perspective has formed an internal discipline that distinguishes him from the masses.

Coming Full Circle

While with Nike, I received continuous encouragement and support from the marketing and brand personnel– the individuals who reported to Mr. Patrick. Despite the struggles of working with the third-party that Nike hired, I was always buoyed by the treatment I received from Mr. Patrick’s team. They sent me Nike merchandise and encouraged me through many difficult times. They recommended me for special opportunities and trainings and invited me to dinner when they came to town from their Portland, Oregon headquarters. Most importantly, this group supported my professional goals. At the time, I was unaware of why they poured into me.  Why were they treating me so well?  Why had they chosen to believe in me as a team member and as a human being?
The answer was that they had a leader that I had not met. This person set a professional tone that reverberated throughout his chain of command. Unbeknownst to me until a few months ago, this was Marc Patrick.

The Final Analysis

As I reflect on that period of my life, I now understand how crucial it was in developing me into the person I am and into the person who I am working towards becoming.  As I worked with Nike, I had no idea that my mind was being disciplined to do much of the analytical work that is a continuous part of my doctoral research as a visual historian at SMU. At that time, I just wanted to become a professional woman and develop the skills that I needed to become a trustworthy team member. Little did I know that I was absorbing lessons that were even more important: lessons that crystallized once I had my conversation with Marc Patrick.
The first lesson is that the true reward for any type of work is the person that one becomes along the way. Yes, goals matter. Yes, achievement matters. Nevertheless, these things are only meaningful if they mold us into people with exceptional personal standards who approach each task of life – those that are big, small, significant, and those that seem insignificant, with equal amounts of care and attention. Additionally, goals make us more aware of our own fragility and vulnerability, which should result in us being more patient, understanding, and helpful with the fragility and vulnerability of those within our sphere. The right goals shape our ambition into desires that seek the good of others, instead of focusing only on our own welfare.  A good goal will force one’s heart, mind, and soul into beautiful, virtuous contortions that no selfish impulse could ever create.  Virtuous desires challenge us to become the best version of ourselves and to appreciate the best versions of others.
Last year, I spent so much time worrying about the future. For numerous hours, I contemplated a post-pandemic world and pondered whether I had accomplished enough to be professionally marketable within it. However, my mind and my heart are shifting. I am thinking of all my favorite scriptures and poems that elevate the soul above the goal. Additionally, I am remembering one of the lines from the French author, Colette, that I have kept close to my heart for quite some time:

“What it takes to make a heavenly star…one will never know. But no human star has ever been made without suffering.”

Colette simply meant that although she knew nothing about the science of how stars were formed in the sky, she did know how the best people in the world were formed. It was through the discipline and commitment of attempting to do the right thing, despite the ease or difficulty of circumstances. A true luminary was a luminary of the soul instead of someone who achieved just for the sake of the ego or personal aggrandizement. Such is the life of Marc Patrick.
I am honored to have spent time with this individual, and I imagine that the lessons from his oral history will stick with me for the rest of my life. If I am wise, they will. As I close, it seems fitting that I offer one more French phrase in appreciation of my time with this extraordinary human being.
 Merci, Monsieur.
 Or simply said, Thank you, Sir.

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