Dreams and determination shape a career arc
Dream and determination are the two themes that drive the life and career of Mark Pimentel. When Pimentel was just one year old, her parents’ dreams and determination propelled her little family from a village in the Philippines to Portland, Oregon. Pimentel’s own dreams led him to design sneakers as an elementary school student in Portland’s Kenton neighborhood, and his determination helped him rise through the ranks to a high-profile design career at Nike. .
Pimentel got his start in the clothing business at Oregon State University, where he spent hours sewing new designs. After graduating in the tough 2010 job market, Pimentel took a job at Nike’s former downtown retail store at Sixth Avenue and Salmon Street, where he worked behind the scenes unboxing clothes , clean the bathrooms and take out the trash from the shift every morning.
Once he landed a designer job at Nike, Pimentel took on increasingly high-profile assignments, including creating a line of apparel for Team USA and others competing in the Tokyo Olympics. Another highlight of Pimentel’s career was seeing Bart Starr receive a customized version of the deluxe Super Bowl 50 commemorative jacket he had designed – and later the jacket made it into the Hall of Fame. Green Bay Packers.
At the end of 2020, Pimentel made the leap to a more managerial role, becoming creative director of Nike’s boys’ clothing line. We caught up with him in a Zoom interview.
How was it to move into a position where you lead a large team?
It’s one of the hardest transitions for any designer to make, going from being an individual contributor – someone who really has pen to paper – to being a director where you’re not holding the pen anymore.
The difference is that you are designing a team now. You design a team to be the strongest and best team possible. I think the most rewarding thing is seeing the product come to life, and it’s better than you expected. And seeing your team enjoying each other’s company and feeling genuinely happy with what they’ve done. And to see the members of the team evolve. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
You once had a career as a designer that many would envy you. What made you decide to go back to school and get your MBA?
For me, it was actually a way to learn about this other world of business. So far it has helped me become a better designer by communicating my ideas and achieving things that I don’t think I can have without speaking the language of business.
As I progressed in my career in design, more and more financial matters started to appear in conversations, and I had more visibility into decisions made at the corporate level. I started hearing things, and I didn’t understand what it was. I felt like “here’s a different world that I’m not so familiar with” and realized that if I can incorporate some of that business thinking into my design work, it can help communicate an idea to people. people. Sometimes this might not just be from a design perspective, but in fact if you approach it from a business perspective – a business case – you’re likely to have a better chance of getting your ideas across.
You earned your undergraduate degree at Oregon State University. How did you feel becoming both a duck and a beaver?
It wasn’t really a problem. I mean, I bought Duck clothes, and I wore them in front of my friends – and they were just shaking their heads. But I’m going to go where I feel it will give me the best experiences for the things I’m looking for. So, no, I had no qualms about getting my MBA at UO. In fact, I now enjoy being able to represent both sides. I’ll put it this way: now I have more teams to cheer on.
What was the most meaningful part for you of gaining recognition from the 40-under-40s?
My parents are just thrilled. They are so proud. They are so happy. They called my family in the Philippines and let them know. Everyone else is back in the Philippines and they are proud to see me continue to succeed and continue to grow and develop. Many of their hopes, dreams and pride rest on my shoulders.
I’m so happy to represent my entire family and to have my last name—which is their last name, you know—on this list.
You’ve spent many years working on various high-profile projects, including groundbreaking work for the NBA. You’ve even had designs featured in vogue magazine. What’s it like to switch to Nike Kids?
It felt like the stakes were high, doing something so serious with the Olympics and the NBA. But when I look at what’s really important is investing in the kids and making sure they’re all able to play, that they all have the opportunity and the access to sport. I’m so excited to become the best children’s brand in the world. That’s our mandate—what we want to do. But there is also just the possibility of truly serving children for life. For example, if we can get them started early, so they can find joy in play, movement and sport.
There’s a lot at stake, but it’s fun. The difference is that it’s fun.