What It Takes To Have A Global Career
By Luz Plaza
I met Andrea Carpenter a few months back when we were on a content marketing panel from Brand Innovators that her company (Mattel) was hosting. It was a busy day, so we really didn’t get to connect until after the event. While chatting with her I learned a few things: She has a sense of humor, is a good listener and is a planner at heart. It’s those last two qualities in particular that have helped her survive a major corporate acquisition and thrive in the ever-changing world of children’s content. And did I mention that her job requires her to travel half the time? This is how she’s getting it all done:
You have a demanding job — one requiring frequent travel. Would you say it takes a special level of discipline to make it work?
Discipline and organization! The travel itself is one thing, but you still have responsibilities at home that have to be handled, so a coordinated and well-managed schedule both personally and professionally is key. There’s not a lot of downtime. When I’m home, my time there is limited. So I have to ensure I take advantage of every moment — whether that’s spending time with friends and family or simply getting in a load of laundry! It would be easy to become a hermit and never leave the house when I’m home, so I do push myself to keep up an active lifestyle.
And as glamorous as it sounds to be able to travel, I can assure you that business travel and vacation travel are too vastly different things. Business travel has a schedule and cadence. And with the addition of Wi-Fi on aircrafts, there’s really no time to just “shut off.” And there is nothing fun about delayed and canceled flights and nights spent in airport hotels! Ultimately, I think that consistent business travel just becomes a state of mind. It’s your commute, it’s what required. My best survival tip: Stay connected with home. With so many forms of communication available to us now, it’s amazing what a text message can do to make you feel grounded. And thanks to FaceTime, you can even see a little piece of home when you really need to.
In today’s world, acquisitions are pretty standard. You’ve successfully survived and transitioned from your role at HIT Entertainment to a new role at Mattel. How did you do it? What were some unexpected challenges, and what would you advise to someone going through the same?
One of the biggest challenges in any transition is finding the balance between the moments when you need to “lean in” to a situation and take control and those times when you need to “lean back” and let things unfold and come to you. Often what you don’t do is just as important as what you do. Never expect that the company is going to find a role for you or determine your next steps. Take the time to understand the leadership’s vision and direction, and then decide how you fit into that plan and how and where you add value and relevance to the organization.
To what do you attribute your career success?
Listen, listen, listen! Not only is it the best way to learn, but, ultimately, everyone wants to be heard. Listening makes you smarter and more informed. It makes people feel engaged with you and builds trust and camaraderie. Nobody can do it alone, so you need to know how to form strong, collaborative relationships. And try to find a mentor; they’re invaluable. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great mentor in my career, and I can’t stress enough the importance that has played in my professional growth. She recognized my strengths and helped me harness them, but was also instrumental in identifying opportunities for me to grow and mature as a professional.
You’ve been in the content space for a while, specifically in the children’s content space. How do you think it differs from the “grown-up” one, if at all?
It’s such an amazing time to be working in this area. With the invention of so many new platforms for children to engage with content, they’ve become incredibly savvy about what they want to see and what entertains them. They no longer have to wait to see their favorite show on television at the same time each day like I did!
Have you met a child recently who doesn’t know how to access Netflix or YouTube? Their interest in content and all different formats has never been greater. And now they’re actually creating it themselves! Children are now writers, film editors, actors, and producers. It’s incredible to see what comes directly from the mind and imagination of a child. It’s an education for all of us who have been striving to create appealing content for them for years!
Any final words of wisdom?
Have a backup plan! Knowing that you’re prepared for whatever comes at you is a powerful mindset. Always be prepared for numerous possibilities. So, basically, just make plans!