Women in Leadership Profiles

At ExxonMobil In Hungary, Jennifer Hibbert Adds Expat To Her Resume

Jennifer Hibbert’s mother always encouraged her to keep every door open. It’s no surprise then that this San Diego native is now leading a global financial reporting and accounting team in Hungary. Jennifer started with ExxonMobil right after getting her MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and rotated through several roles before embarking on her international assignment last year. In fact, following her mother’s advice has led Jennifer to many unexpected rewards.

Current role: Managing a diverse, virtual team

Describe your current role.

As leader of the financial reporting and accounting team for 12 countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), my 16-person team ensures that financial statements to ExxonMobil’s stakeholders are accurate and on-time. I make sure everyone on my team has positions that are based on their desires and skills; set a clear, positive vision for the team; and develop others professionally. 

What is your favorite part of your job? 

We have a super diverse team – about half is Hungarian, and the rest is from other parts of EMEA. Getting to know them as individuals and then helping them take steps toward achieving their potential is exciting. 

What characteristics does someone need to be successful in a role like yours?

You have to be flexible and adapt. I moved to Budapest while also taking on a new role that was very different than previous ones I had. From a leadership perspective, I had to learn about local culture and flex my leadership style accordingly. What works in one context doesn’t always work in another.

What is most challenging?

My group reorganized on March 1, right before COVID. My whole team was new, and building new relationships in a virtual environment was challenging at first.

Early influences: Keep every door open

Is there someone or something from your upbringing that influenced your career path? 

My dad taught me to think analytically at an early age. We did a SWOT analysis (although we didn’t call it that) of my tennis competitors after each match. My mom did not have the same opportunities that I did, and she always encouraged me to “walk through every open door.” My husband later supported me by entirely changing his career path so that I could change mine – we moved out of Washington, DC where he was working at the Department of Defense, and he is now becoming a physical therapist.

Did you ever think/dream about doing something else besides accounting/auditing?

I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but my strategy was to be open to every opportunity that came my way. If I am learning and challenged, I am happy. The ExxonMobil model is to rotate positions every few years so that keeps everyone engaged. I never get bored.

Business education: A well-rounded education

What has the MBA meant for your career in the immediate and long-term?

The MBA allowed me to explore different careers and not be geographically or functionally confined. Don’t underestimate the power of the soft skills MBA classes, like Leading Organizations or Management Communication. I have relied on them in the real world.

How did it complement your undergraduate business mathematics degree?

It made me more well-rounded – through classwork, social activities, and recruiting. In MBA classrooms, people have different work experiences so it opened my mind to hear various approaches to problem-solving.

Business path: Broaden your search

What attracted you to ExxonMobil?

Keeping with the theme of an open mind and open doors, I went to Forté’s MBA Conference in 2012 to learn about different functions and companies. I was drawn to ExxonMobil during the conference because everyone I met had been at the company a long time and seemed happy.

What is it about the oil and gas industry that you find interesting or challenging?

Looking at the bigger purpose is what I find interesting: Everyone in the world needs petroleum and petrochemical products, and the industry’s ability to raise the standard of living around the world through electricity, cars, and material goods is essential.

Is there anything you would do differently? What do you think young professionals can learn from your path so far?

Be broad in your career search. Some opportunities may not sound glamorous on paper, but they could propel you forward. Build your career around the life you want instead of building your life around your career.

Are there important lessons in business that you always keep top-of-mind?

  • Assume positive intent. If you assume others mean well, you will be a happier person.
  • Be your own champion. Nobody cares about your career more than you do.
  • Expect the unexpected…every time I think I know what I will be doing in five years, I am wrong.

Life is full of surprises, and it is easier to adapt if you are open to whatever comes your way. 

Global role: Don’t take one moment for granted

How did your global role come about?

You don’t start out at ExxonMobil in an international position; you have to work for a few years in the US to ensure a global assignment aligns with your development needs. My husband and I had a list of places we were interested in, and Hungary was one. ExxonMobil has a big global business center and large presence of controllers here.

What have been your biggest learnings (personal and professional) so far?

Personally, we know this is finite assignment, and we don’t take one moment for granted. We explore everything we can in and out of Hungary, which has also inspired us to explore more of the US when we move back. Professionally, while leadership skills are universal, people have different aspirations, and it’s important to consider those when leading a diverse team.

Any big surprises you have experienced?

People were very welcoming people to my husband and me, which made it a smooth transition. Also, the number of places you can get to by car from Hungary – we drove to Venice! Hungary is a huge wine country so that was a fun surprise.

ExxonMobil’s commitment to supporting women’s success

Can you share any of ExxonMobil’s activities to advance diversity and inclusion?

At ExxonMobil, we have a lot of affinity groups. In Budapest, I lead the local WIN (Women’s Interest Network) Career Development Committee. An external activity might be going to local schools to talk about STEM careers, for example. Internally, we help women propel their careers forward through building confidence, supporting work-life balance, and offering leadership panels.

In 2005, ExxonMobil launched our Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative — a global effort that helps women drive economic and social change in their communities. ExxonMobil has invested more than $120 million to support women in more than 90 countries.

Personal pursuits

Is there anything on your “bucket list” you’d be willing to share?

My travel list grows daily – I would like to go to the Olympics (as a spectator!).

Is there something you can share that is not on your resume (that many people may not know about you)?

My husband and I met on the metro in DC – another reason I say “expect the unexpected.” Every day, we got on the metro at the same time and transferred at the same spot. After a few weeks and some awkwardness, we finally approached each other and started talking.

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