When I received my degree in accounting, I had no idea that I would end up as chief information officer for the world’s largest toy company. But the only constant in life is change, and that has certainly been the case for my career.
After working for more than 10 years in accounting and finance roles, I had the opportunity to use my financial background in a new way—helping to develop the investor relations program at associates First Capital Corporation when the company went public. Five years later, it was a need for help with investor relations that brought me to Mattel. Several years later my responsibilities broadened to also include corporate communications, consumer relations, governmental affairs, and Mattel’s philanthropic initiatives.
In 2005, I was asked by Mattel’s senior leadership to shift focus once again, this time in a more unexpected direction. With my appointment as chief information officer, I became part of a bigger trend—that of CIOs who don’t have a technology background. While it may have seemed a surprising choice at the time, I quickly realized that my experience lends itself well to this role.
Every company looks to ensure that they make technology investments in the right areas and get the best return on investment. My background gives me a good understanding of what drives business value and brings a new financial discipline to the IT organization. The fact that I don’t have a deep knowledge of technology has not been an issue because we have a strong, collaborative IT leadership team that is capable and empowered to guide technical decisions.
After three years in the position of CIO, I’ve realized that the bigger challenge is managing the ongoing demand for more IT services than we can supply, given our limited resources. So while there’s still plenty for me to learn about technology, my time is better spent on setting the right expectations with the business and keeping IT focused on delivering what’s most important to drive business value.
If I’d tried to map out my career 25 years ago, I would never have come up with this path. But I’ve realized that my success is owed in large part to having mentors who believe in me and being open to what comes and making the most of it.