Tharyn Estevez

LS International

On this episode of The Career Success Podcast, LS International speaks with Tharyn Estevez, Director of Marketing and Brand Activation CEE at Mattel.

During the podcast, we discuss:

  • Where the toy industry is heading and the role of digital play vs. traditional play.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how employees will work with machines in the future.
  • How Tharyn’s various leadership roles have shaped her management style.

Lauren: Hi, I am Lauren Stiebing and welcome to this episode of the Career Success Podcast. Today, we will be joined by Tharyn Estevez. Tharyn has 17 years of experience in brand management and digital marketing, empowered by a solid experience in trade marketing and business development for both the FMCG and Toys Industry. She started her career with P&G in Mexico, but decided to make the move to Mattel in 2003 where she has had lead marketing roles across Europe, Middle East, and Africa. She is currently the marketing and brand activation director for CEE and Motel. Welcome Tharyn.

Tharyn: Hi Lauren, thank you for having me. Pleasure to participate today.

Lauren: Yes, thanks for joining us. So yeah I know that you’ve been working at Mattel since 2003. How have you see the company evolve and where do you see the toy and entertainment industry moving to future?

Tharyn: Right, well so far, I have gone through different chapters of the company during the last decade I would say and this is a response of the natural evolution of what happens in retail almost every 7 years and the macro trends. But definitely the evolution that excites me today the most is the deep transformation that that’s taking place now. I guess the future is already here and we have been living a profound level of change in technology. That these reshaping how we connect, how we will build the communities, how we learn, how we work, and of course how we play. For the businesses, I believe that technology is driving transformation that represents both opportunity and risks depending on the lens that you use. So, we have seen that industries are being disrupted with all of these new models that are breaking boundaries and I think that everybody knows that Facebook as of today is the most valuable content company, but they don’t create content or just a few months ago Uber was the fastest growing transportation company, and they don’t even own the vehicles.

Tharyn: So, the big question is under all of what’s going on what is going happen to play in these circumstances. What I believe is that definitely that tradition market leaders across many categories are finding their business completely bypassed by the new models. And as we are looking to the future there are certain trends especially three trends that are going challenge every element on how we do business today. The first one that we have identified as going to change everything is that we live in a mobile first world and digitally connected. In these worlds at the same time we know based on some research that moms are still in highly valuing traditional toy play but todays kids are influenced by all the screens, and this is very important because as of today more than 80 percent of our core target, which are kids between 3 and 5 own a tablet.

Lauren: Okay

Tharyn: And we know that these kids are growing up in a digital centric world and they are responsive to certain digital experiences. So, what does this mean the lines between toys, entertainment and technology are blurring. The age where toys are preferred to, are getting younger so on top of the digital transformation shopping is totally changing. We know that over the last 5 years in the U. S. but also in the mature markets in Europe, that retailing sales is through brick and mortar have stagnated, while E-commerce have more than doubled, and this is not just purchases, as far as we know consumers across the world, and I do it, and I’m sure that you do it, we do research before we do our purchases. So online versus physical stores are having a very big disruption. What does this mean, that winning before the physical store are more important than ever, and whether it is digital or the traditional models that companies that we see that are winning, are also centered on a deep purpose. So, what we’re going to see more in entertainment and toys is that we are going to go through more of this path of purposeful brands. And the objective is to create brand passion and connection through consumers.
Purpose and experiences will become more than ever important as a matter of fact, the millennial parents are increasing, and this will be part of the point of differentiation.

Lauren: And have you seen I’ve also read in various different articles and heard forums about personalization, do you also see that is a growing trend?

Tharyn: Yes, we see that as a growing trend, and actually going into more the digital environment platform. This is going be very easy to provide an experience but again, I guess that the most important thing would be how to really understand who your consumer is, getting all the information and data, understand what are those moments that are critical for their everyday life and use that in benefits of that brand or to engage.

Lauren: Okay, well thank you for that insight as well I’d like to shift a bit over to you kind of talent and talent management and where do we see that’s going in the future as well? I know that AI or artificial intelligence this is a hot topic now. How do you see as human talent and robot talent and working together in the future?

Tharyn: Great, great question, indeed this is a very hot topic and I guess that everybody especially our generation has seen that we’re coming from a place where the robots were making cars, unloading ship’s, assembling products but now a day, the robots and artificial intelligence are progressing in their tasks, less and less with physical labor, and more with human knowledge work and these has opened different discussion and challenges within the companies. So, I guess that many of the CEO’s, many of the companies also believe that technology will cause job losses over the next 5 years. But I tend to disagree with that my belief is that there are skills that can be replicated by a machine, qualities for instance that stimulates innovation, which is ultimately thought that a machine or at AI delivers at this point.

Tharyn: So, I guess that one of the biggest trends that we will see is what is our ability to acquire new skills? That keep people employed through disruption and I think that there’s some intersection between man and machine and the key formula is how do we generate more value with all of those together. So, a one of the things that I’ve been very passionate about is how companies, and we as leaders need to change our talent the strategies to reflect that the skills and employment structures we will require in the future. And this a task that I don’t see the company’s doing by themselves actually I guess that it’s time to start collaborating with governments, educational institutes because we really need to redesign the full system in where people will work in the future. I believe that in the future retaining the human element, while increasing the virtual world, will likely for the success.

Tharyn: I don’t think that we are replacing people with technology, I think that the smart people would need to work smarter and I think that we will require different skills that we will need to manage this type of information, and one of the things that I’ve been practicing myself, and some of the marketing people have known, is Automatization is not only AI or robots it’s also data no. And I think that we have been using more and more data to help us target better consumers, no. Data management platform is something we are already using for media planning, and it’s helping us to improve the precision of our targets and you will still need people that work with these algorithms, that feeds information, that it’s honestly optimizing and taking decisions, so certainly we need to create new jobs and responsibilities to get a hold of this future.

Tharyn: And it’s interesting because I just read some research around the skills that the kids nowadays we need to start feeding to do the jobs of tomorrow and some of the jobs that we have today will not even exist in potentially 15 years. Now, so I was just reading that as of today, potentially some skills that kids need to be very good at, is complex problem solving but in the future potentially cognitive flexibility or emotionally intelligence will be the priorities of these skills. Just to add, I’m really focus in and some thinking even from celebrities rom the past, Charles Darwin once said it’s not the strongest species that survive, or the most intelligent, but the ones that are more responsible to change. So, again I think that we will be complementary to the robots, AI and that technology.

Lauren: Yeah, I was recently at the IDG leader’s forum in London and AI was one of the topics of discussion there and they had a panel of different experts within robotics, and had written books AI, etc… and they were saying that you know that AI on a whole that should be thought of as tools not necessarily as somebody that’s going to come and take your job or take over the world and they made a funny joke and said “no one has ever thought that called excel is going to take over the world but it’s just a tool to help us do our daily job better”. And I think if you look at in that way, it’s doing a kind of backs up what you’re saying is well it’s not necessarily going to be jobs that it’s completely going take over but they will create tools to help us do our jobs better and more efficiently.

Tharyn: Right, right yeah, I think that we just has to be open to the fact that certain skills will need transform, or certain people will feel better in the future and that’s my point on we need to engage more than companies, governments, education and the entire system to be ready for what would this mean in 10 to 15 years.

Lauren: Sure.

Tharyn: It’s exciting though.

Lauren: Yeah and it is exciting. And I yes I mean are looking lastly just touch a bit on leadership, I know throughout your career you had various leadership roles, how have your 14 years at Mattel helped you to develop as a leader?

Tharyn: Wow! As you know I started my career at P&G that’s what I still consider my school and that’s where I gain the foundational knowledge about leadership in a very highly driven to results and process driven organization but to be honest with you in Mattel though is where I start to master and enable my leadership skills especially as you grow in your organization, for instance the ability to motivate and influence the team takes a different proportion and I guess that this has helped me to develop as Mattel has believed in me during the last years, I took different rolls across many international markets. I worked local and regional organizations, multi-functional, and this helped me to be the leader that I am today. So, as of today, I guess I where I had developed the most is that, my view that the key transformation happened with that became more a motivational leader rather directive, which is some type of the leadership experiences when you start your career and now as my development has involved the fact that now I’m able to set vision and ambition to get up hold of a team. As we work more with millennials, millennials care, and they care about what kind of work they do, what the company is doing for themselves and I feel that as a leader, we are responsible for setting always at clear vision and help the members of the team to see themselves living in this vision. I guess that that’s one of the biggest things that has changed and a part of that transformation that happened to me it started that a few years ago is, feeling more comfortable in security in being authentic.
And that’s interesting because that sounds like a trait but I think that people who want to work for people that are honest and lots of times in certain business, we as leaders tend to be very polished, we want to be super organized, super perfect, to always have all the answers, and one of the things that I learned through my previous experiences and especially in the face of change, which we live every day here, people much rather have someone saying where we’re going, where we feel comfortable, where we don’t feel comfortable, and also open to figure out together what are some responses that’s also part of that development and also Mattel as help me to get some very big responsibilities and take big decisions and another thing that I develop, is how to become an energy creator. Especially, when you’re a leader, people will see you walking through the halls and you have an impact in changing environments as we live nowadays, they would like someone that empower them that shares energy, that has a smile and feels excited about the future. So, I think that that has helped me to bring the organization up and create that energy for a positive outcome.

Lauren: Sure, well Tharyn, thank you so much for joining us today on a career success podcast.

Tharyn: Thank you, Lauren, it was a pleasure for being with you and with your audience.

Lauren: Great and for anyone has any questions or comments for Tharyn and myself please write them in the comments section below.