Ohio University alumna, Kayla Carpenter, at the "Barbie" premiere in London.

Bobcat in a Barbie World

Published October 5, 2023

Bobcat in a Barbie World

Bobcat Barbie shares career journey, advice for the future

By Grace Koennecke | Assistant Editor to the Beat

Ohio University alum Kayla Carpenter has certainly been a Barbie girl living in a Barbie world these past few months as the global brand marketing manager for Barbie at Mattel. Carpenter is proving to Bobcats everywhere that hard work and ambition can lead to major career accomplishments.

Originally from Canton, Carpenter owes much of her success to her time in Athens due to her heavy involvement on campus, including time at The Post, Thread Magazine and The New Political.

She also found new opportunities through joining the Delta Zeta sorority on campus, creating instant friends that she still keeps in touch with. Serving as the vice president of membership, Carpenter learned leadership skills early on.

Carpenter admits that while she was more reserved in high school, OU helped her branch out and expand her interests, allowing her to balance school with extracurriculars and time with friends.

“I was pretty reserved in high school and coming to OU helped me shed a little bit of that shyness and really just embrace the culture of OU, which is so fun, like really smart people making the most of their life and I really loved that.”-Kayla Carpenter

Her professors also encouraged her to pursue the world of strategic communications, specifically marketing. Carpenter credits Craig Davis, a journalism professor, for having a significant impact on her career. Finding interest in his advertising class, she was inspired to pursue a career at Golin, a leading public relations firm in the U.S., after hearing his praise of the company.

“I took his class on agencies and how they're structured and how they run and got some experience through that,” Carpenter said. “He taught about Golin in his class and I was like, ‘Okay, that's where I want to work,’ and so I managed to get an internship there after college and I ended up working there for 4 1/2 years before I went to grad school.”

After graduating in 2013 through the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and moving to Dallas, Carpenter ended up at Golin, which gave her the opportunity to learn more about digital marketing and social media campaigns. She said that Davis inspired her to accept the position.

“He definitely inspired that decision, and it really shaped where I wanted to go with my career,” Carpenter said. “I got to do so much learning in digital marketing. I ran social media campaigns and influencer campaigns for our consumer accounts like PetSmart, Adobe and FedEx, and they were so fun. I traveled a bunch, worked crazy hours, and didn't make a lot of money, but it’s perfect for your early 20s.”

While working, Carpenter noticed how Athens had left a lasting impression on her, pushing her to go out of her comfort zone and experience new opportunities in marketing. She said the decisions that led her to work at Mattel would not have happened without the confidence she built while at OU.

She also said that Athens helped her realize what she wanted to do with her career, not wanting to be stuck in a position that she didn’t feel passionate about. Now in a job that she loves, Carpenter is thankful for the positive mindset OU has instilled in her.

“One thing that I think is so important as you move up in your career and work at different companies in different teams is like who you are as a person and if you enjoy the work that you're doing,” Carpenter said. “I think that that mindset for me really started at OU, and I'm so lucky that I love my job and I love the output but (that I) also can really have fun doing it.”

After working at Golin for almost five years, Carpenter decided she wanted to move up in the marketing industry, moving to Los Angeles to attend business school at the University of California, Los Angeles, or UCLA. Surrounded by many people with business backgrounds, she said the adjustment was hard but exciting.

“A lot of people are coming from a banking background in finance, and here I am like a journalism major next to everyone in an econ class,” Carpenter said. “It was really challenging and really exciting. I really fell in love with Los Angeles. The weather is amazing; I would try to describe walking up Jeff Hill in the snow to someone to go to class, and they were like ‘No.’”

Once leaving UCLA, Carpenter applied for her current role and was picked for the job of global brand marketing manager, knowing that her confidence and career experience would prepare her for the work ahead. This led to her working on the biggest blockbuster movie of 2023, the “Barbie” movie.

In her role, Carpenter focuses specifically on the branding for Barbie and its products, setting annual strategies and working on improving goals for the brand such as diversity and inclusion.

“(It) involves diversity and inclusion, it also involves our environmental impact goals and some research we do around that. When kids play with dolls, their brain starts to develop more empathy, so there's a lot of really amazing purpose areas.”-Carpenter

Although working on the “Barbie” movie was stressful and busy, Carpenter was astonished to see her work on a global scale. Attending the London premiere of the film, she witnessed her work firsthand as fans dressed up as Barbie and Ken, camping out for the release.

“I would say for me it's definitely a dream job,” Carpenter said. “It aligns so strongly with my personal values, and I think feeling like the work that you're doing is making a difference is really important, so I love that aspect.”

Looking ahead to the future, Carpenter encourages students to use networking to their advantage while in college, as well as when they enter into their desired professional field. She said many students from OU in particular have reached out to her already, aspiring to achieve their own career goals.

Even though she lives in a big city, Carpenter said there are also great job opportunities in and outside of Ohio for students to pursue, but that students need to be ready to jump on these experiences when they’re available to them.

“I always felt like even at Athens if there was a job that I would move for, or I would go somewhere, I always thought that that was a possibility,” Carpenter said. “It never felt limiting to be from Ohio or in Ohio. I think there are so many great opportunities there, but also opportunities to expand. Just believing and putting a lot of the work in to make sure you're ready for the opportunities when they come up.”

Carpenter said students should also be up-to-date on how to use social media platforms, especially TikTok, and where consumers are looking for new products. Authenticity is also a key factor that stands out to employers as marketing continues to change.

“Right now, consumers want authenticity.”-Carpenter

With experience, drive and passion, Kayla Carpenter has been able to achieve the ultimate dream job for those interested in marketing. Throughout her time at OU, it’s clear she has left her mark on Athens, stamping her paw prints as a Bobcat all across the country over the last 10 years.

“I really credit a lot of that mindset for my time in college and at OU,” Carpenter said. “That was just a great shift for me of learning confidence … That, I think, has really held true to my career now.”