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Alumna Erica Buxton Finds Her Real ‘Toy Story’

December 12, 2012

By Steve Kaelble

Buxton Mattel Barbie  

Always Looking Ahead: Erica (Snyder) Buxton, a 2002 chemical
engineering alumna,
is director of corporate strategic planning at
Mattel after earning a MBA from Harvard Business School.
Above,
Buxton (2nd from left) and team at Mattel.

"Working in a toy company as a mom is a lot of fun," says Erica (Snyder) Buxton, who serves as director of corporate strategic planning at Mattel. But working in toys is a serious business, as the 2002 chemical engineering graduate has found out while helping the toy giant meet challenges in a competitive marketplace.

This is not exactly where she originally pictured herself when attending Rose-Hulman. She figured she would settle into the healthcare business as a development engineer. But after about three years on the job, "I was getting a little lonely in the lab and was interested in the overall company and how decisions were made."

So, Buxton and her husband, Rob, a 2001 mechanical engineering alumnus, decided to attend Harvard Business School's MBA program. "We sold our house, sold our car, quit our jobs, and moved," she reflects.

Then, with MBAs in hand, the couple landed consulting jobs in Los Angeles. "I got interested in the consumer space," she says. That led to her job at Mattel. "What's more fun than working with toys?"

Buxton oversees the toy giant's annual strategic planning process, working with key executives to create a strategic plan. "I work with leadership to figure out how we will continue to drive shareholder value for the company," she says. "You have a lot of people who want money for different things. We have to figure out how to fund investments and prioritize them."

The latest strategic plan was presented to the Mattel Board of Directors in September, and now leaders are operationalizing the plan. Buxton helps to oversee progress throughout the year, but she's already thinking about elements of next year's strategic plan. Even as the company moves into the 2012 holiday season with the latest Hot Wheels variations and a new high-tech Barbie doll, Mattel already has top-secret showrooms previewing next year's hot toys.

Closer to home, Buxton is making plans for family growth. She has one child approaching age 2, and a second due next spring. "That keeps us busy."