In the Age of Digital Barbie, Mattel Appoints Google Exec as CEO

First coffee, now children’s toys. Could all CEOs one day come from the tech sector?

Perhaps not entirely, but a trend appears to be emerging.

Mattel on Tuesday said it had appointed Google executive Margaret Georgiadis as its new CEO, betting she’ll be able to help the maker of Barbie dolls and Matchbox cars stay relevant in an increasingly digitized world.

Her appointment comes just a month after coffee chain Starbucks replaced longtime leader Howard Schultz with Kevin Johnson, a tech-industry veteran who once held senior roles at Microsoft and Juniper Networks.

“Margo is a proven and extraordinarily talented executive with a deep understanding of how to build and scale brands on a global basis and expertise in effectively engaging consumers and retail partners in a rapidly evolving digital world.

Yes, little girls are still keen on Barbie. But children are also becoming increasingly tech savvy, prompting Mattel this year to release the Barbie Dreamhouse, an Internet-connected doll house that allows kids to use their voice to activate functions, including the lights and an elevator.

Mattel in 2015 teamed up with Google to create a new virtual reality headset. The California company also sells smartphone devices and plans to release a 3D printer next year called ThingMaker that will literally allow kids to make their own toys.

Georgiadis, the head of Google’s Americas division since 2011, will succeed Christopher Sinclair, who will become executive chairman when she takes over as CEO on February 8. The company shrugged off some analysts’ concerns that she lacks toy-sector experience.

“Margo is a proven and extraordinarily talented executive with a deep understanding of how to build and scale brands on a global basis and expertise in effectively engaging consumers and retail partners in a rapidly evolving digital world,” Sinclair said.

He also hailed her efforts to deliver above-market growth at Google by creating partnership across content, media and technology providers, and through innovation in product development and customer engagement.

CEOs across all sectors are increasingly having to grapple with the rise of artificial intelligence, advanced data analytics and the so-called sharing economy. Some companies have moved to address these challenges by placing tech-industry executives on their boards.

Retailer Walmart and oil giant Exxon, for example, have appointed Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom and former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano as directors, respectively.

Georgiadis herself already sits on the boards of McDonald’s and bioscience company Amyris.

But top tech leaders may need not always come from outside. A recent survey by recruitment firm Robert Half of CFOs found that while 87% had eyes for the CEO’s job, they considered some of their biggest competition to come from CIOs and other senior technology officers. Juniper Networks’ Shaygan Kheradpir is among CIOs who have successfully made the transition to the corner office.

Ross Kelly :Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.