01 Jun 1998
Leading Playerby Susan Young; photograph by Webb ChappellTopics:
In the case of Mark Tatum, medicine's loss will surely be the business world's gain. Almost since the day he was born in a war-torn village in Vietnam, his Jamaican-born father and Vietnamese mother had dreamed of the day their firstborn child would become a doctor. Years of hard work and sacrifice on their part made it financially possible for their bright and affable son to enter Cornell's premed program. But during his junior year, at the age of nineteen, Tatum decided to change his major to business management.
"I just didn't have the passion for medicine," says Tatum, who grew up in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, where he learned early on to love baseball and to get along with all kinds of people. The decision to bypass medicine proved only a momentary redirection in an impressive college career: he went on to receive the outstanding senior award at Cornell and was elected vice president of the university's Black Alumni Association. Working at Procter & Gamble after graduation, he was promoted four times in four years, eventually becoming an award-winning corporate account executive. As a regional sales manager for the Clorox Company, Tatum also excelled, overseeing the company's $100-million northeast sales territory.
At HBS, Tatum quickly became a student leader: he was elected president of his section and president of the Student Association (SA). Working thirty to forty hours a week for the SA, he led the effort to change the School's grade-disclosure policy. The Class of 2000 will be the first to reap the benefits of the SA's hard work: prospective employers will be prohibited from asking students to disclose their grades. Equally satisfying for Tatum was the creation of the "mini-business center" on campus, a place that provides students with phones, a fax machine, and private space for conducting career research. "The center has been a tremendous help to students in their job searches," he says with pride. "That really means a lot to me."
Tatum arrived at HBS with a clear goal in mind: a career in sports marketing. A two-time letterman in baseball at Cornell, he is passionate about sports. (One of his fondest memories, in fact, is of the day his high school team took the New York City public school championship at Yankee Stadium.) Tatum got his first taste of combining his interest in sports with his natural instinct for sales when he headed a corporate soccer promotion at P&G. At HBS, he met numerous people working in the sports industry and took a summer internship doing sports marketing for Pepsi-Cola.
After graduation and some travel with his wife and HBS classmate, Lisa Skeete Tatum, this fall Tatum will begin his dream job: director of sponsorships and marketing for Major League Baseball. His ultimate goal? "I'd love to own the Yankees," he says with a smile. It may have taken his parents some time to accept his change in career, but they couldn't be prouder of their son's accomplishments and aspirations.