No finish line

Tarik Kaddouri.

Since he was a child, Tarik Kaddouri, BS ’16, has been obsessed with working for Nike. Thanks to internships, work experiences and mentors from the School of Management, he’s already well on his way to achieving that dream. 

Born in Morocco and raised in the United States, Kaddouri grew up playing soccer.

“Playing sports my whole life, I was always interested the newest and most innovative products,” he says. “But what really propelled me toward a career in brand design was working at Foot Locker as a teenager and seeing all of the marketing and branding work that went into the products we sold.”

Kaddouri arrived at UB as an engineering major, but quickly transferred to the School of Management after realizing his passion for marketing — a field that will allow him to work collaboratively on teams to develop and promote new products.

“I found that I’m inspired by providing others the opportunity to do what inspires them,” he says. “In my career, I hope to work cross-functionally with designers, marketers, engineers and professional athletes to develop the best products and inspire the next generation of athletes.”

Through a series of internships and work experiences, he gained a varied skillset in sports products and marketing. At New Era Cap Co., he learned about product testing and innovation; as a merchandising intern for ADPRO Sports, he managed a fundraising project with multiple brands and teams; and while consulting for Project Lean Nation, he helped a new product line establish a competitive advantage.

Meanwhile, through his coursework, he learned data modeling, improved his problem-solving ability and met important mentors, including Gwen Appelbaum, assistant dean and director of the school’s Career Resource Center.

“When I met with Gwen, I had so many questions about how to get into this industry,” he says. “She taught me how to brand myself to show what’s unique about me — those qualities I have that a company cannot replace.”

As commencement approached, Kaddouri received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: He was one of 18 individuals chosen from across the country to attend the Pensole Footwear Design Academy tuition-free, to learn the entire footwear design process from D’Wayne Edwards, former design director at Nike. Even though it meant missing graduation, Kaddouri says the experience was the perfect catalyst for the next stage of his career.

“I dug into every aspect of the industry and worked with my team to develop the consumer profile, story, market analysis, packaging and color palette for a new Asics product,” he says. “We worked for three weeks, 14-16 hours a day, to accomplish what would normally take six months. It was an incredible, hands-on experience and really accelerated my passion for the industry.”

Today, Kaddouri is a master’s student in sports product management at the University of Oregon and works in brand development for Gronk Fitness, a fitness and sports performance equipment startup founded by NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski and his brothers. Someday, he hopes to create his own brand that empowers others to accomplish their goals and to work for Nike in design and marketing.

“At Nike, they genuinely believe there is no finish line, and I do the same thing — I’ll accomplish something and not dwell on it for a second,” Kaddouri says. “I just want to know what’s next.”

Written by Matthew Biddle