I Was A New York Creative Intern: Joe LaPadula, Venue Director at Openhouse Gallery

Joe LaPadula has moved around quite a bit; he’s attended 13–soon to be 14–different schools, and lived at about as many different addresses over his short life. He’s moved from Texas, to NH, to Japan, and Arizona before living in New York City. He believes this is the main reason why he’s become fairly apt at quickly learning new environments and why he’s able to join groups and quickly establish himself.

When Joe joined Openhouse, he showed that he could be useful; three days after starting, his boss looked at him and said, “What would it take to keep you in the city?” Two months later, he was working full time as Openhouse’s Venue Director, looking over all the sales, finances, and operations of the business. He took on a lot of responsibility at a very quick pace, but Openhouse was extremely gracious and was patient while he grew. Since then, Openhouse has expanded from one location to three, extending their services to four locations.

Looking to the future, Joe has started his own company, Predator Branding, which plans to target start-up companies and help them design their methods to be the most efficient and effective as possible with their capabilities. While he’s still got a lot of work to do, he anticipates good things happening. He’s still working full time with Openhouse until the spring semester, when he’ll be going back to school to finish up his degree. While at school, he’ll still be helping Openhouse with projects remotely, will work on building Predator’s portfolio with smaller projects, and will absorb as much as he can from school while he has the opportunity to learn from experts.

How many internships have you had, and where?
This was my first chance at an internship. I’ve been supporting myself since I was 17, so I had always prioritized a good paying job over the chance to learn a new industry and get hands on experience. Fortunately, I had saved enough during the school year, and Openhouse was willing to pay me just enough to stay in the city for the term of the internship. Before this, my resume was built on being the youngest cook at a few restaurants in New Hampshire and Arizona, doing catering gigs, and working at day care. I did manage to work on an advisory board for the Mayor of my city back in New Hampshire.

What’s the coolest thing that has happened to you as a result of an internship?
Two coolest things: 1 – I’ve been working full time at this job for over 1 year now. I get to make a lot of the business decisions and get to see every aspect of the company. I’ve learned so much about so many different industries, and have made wonderful connections.

2- I worked on a deal with Puma, and was asked to come into their store on Broadway. The brand ambassador looked at me, and pointed from one wall around the store to another, and said, “Take anything you want.” That was pretty awesome.

3- I guess I lied, the electric moped was a pretty nice bonus too!

What’s the most embarrassing thing that you did/happened to you during an internship?
By far the most embarrassing moment of my internship was focused around one particular email. I had done some research on one of the clients to help prep a sales meeting. Just to be a funny guy, I added a picture I found on the internet. Of course I sent this email directly to the client, NOT our sales rep. So they received this whole little bio I made of them (which had many many assumptions) and this:

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be” – Abraham Lincoln. While he didn’t say it to me, I’ve had quite a few people tell me this same philosophy over the years. It’s something I find to be very true. I also notice it works for things beyond just happiness!

It’s 3 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. What are you doing?
My job changes on a daily basis. Sometimes I’m working on accounting for the business, or doing financial projections. Other times I’m working on contracts or figuring out capital improvements. Most of my time lately has been spent on client relations and sales. I enjoy trying to make things work for our clients and the company.

If you could intern anywhere now, where would you intern?
I’d love to intern with Erik Buell Racing company. I love motorcycles, and these guys are making one of the fastest motorcycles in production today. Erik Buell also has a fascinating history, along with the company. I would be interested in all the facets of the company, from B2B sales, to the actual physics and fabrication of the motorcycles.

What would you put in an Intern Survival Kit?
I’ve managed quite a few interns, and the most successful ones are always ready to learn and work. The latter of the two seems obvious, but if you show that you want to learn–and are ready to learn–others will be more inclined to show you more things. The more they show you, the more likely you’ll be able to help out and the better impression you’ll make. Also, you’ll learn more, which is exactly why you wanted the internship in the first place!

Knowing what you know now, what is one thing you would have done differently as an intern?
If I could go back, I would’ve negotiated a way better deal for my full-time employment! Realistically, I would’ve been more conservative with my own limits. I dropped the ball a few times by over extending myself. I’ve learned a lot about what I can accomplish, what I’m motivated to finish, and what things I should try and keep off my plate.

Connect with Joe via LinkedIn or through email: joe [dot] lapadula [at] gmail [dot] com or joe [at] openhousegallery [dot] org.

Have questions for Joe? Ask away in the comments below. Also check out the other posts in our “I Was a NY Creative Intern” series.

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