Jennifer Abbondanza, VP of Corporate Initiatives at NBC: Maintaining a Personal Touch in Innovation
BT is incredibly honored to have Jennifer Abbondanza, VP of Corporate Initiatives for NBCUniversal’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion, attend and host an executive seminar series for its select lucky attendees. With an impressive list of career experience under her belt, she was remarkably down-to-earth and engaged, listening to the other students as much as they raptly listened to her. Through an interactive explanation of her own personal career, Mrs. Abbondanza helped provide a uniquely personal point of view on the process of innovating in one’s own career path and gave some powerful student advice along the way.
After having finished her bachelor’s degree in economics at our very own Princeton University, Mrs. Abbondanza began her career by delving into finance, specifically New York City-based private equity firms focused on leveraged buy-out transactions in the middle-market sector. It was an invaluable learning experience for Mrs. Abbondanza; she had already developed a strong interest in economics, mathematics, and data crunching, but these banks helped her understand both the pace of the industry and a few key aspects of personal career management.
With the banking lifestyle, Mrs. Abbondanza was working endless hours at a frantic pace; she described driving home, quickly showering while the car waited downstairs, then turning back around to return to the office for another night session. Although she did eventually choose to leave these firms, she fondly remembers the close-knit company culture and the work ethic this experience instilled in her. She frequently referred back to these episodes, stressing the importance of really loving the work and the necessity of dedicating oneself, both in time and ability. She also emphasized having learned the importance of contributing in ways outside the job description, as it is the best way to leave a positive impression and progress further, both in terms of career path and personal development.
Even by this early point of the conversation, it was clear just how motivated Mrs. Abbondanza had been and still is, which is especially illuminating in context of the 2017 IC’s theme of redefining innovation. She would soon leave these banks to pursue completely new fields, but she continued to stress the same ideas of forming connections, putting in the hours, and working one’s way up the corporate ladder. It doesn’t take drastic self re-invention to transfer to a new field. Instead, it takes a clear sense of character and devotion, and figuring out how to apply those skills to new fields.
At this point in her career, she actually went to the UCLA Anderson School of Business, graduating early to receive her MBA. Despite having already covered most of her business material through the finance experience, it was an opportunity to further reflect and grow. Mrs. Abbondanza was then able to join NBCUniversal’s Corporate Strategy & Development group after a few years in strategic finance with Intel. With NBC, she focused on acquisitions, divestitures, and strategic partnerships, eventually rising to become the Vice President before moving onto her current position.
Mrs. Abbondanza now serves as VP of Corporate Initiatives largely because of the impressive initiative she took in helping to develop this team. She began collecting diversity data in a division where they previously had almost none, and this data collection and analysis has helped boost NBCUniversal to one of the most diversity aware corporations in the country; they received a 100% rating on the 2014 Corporate Equality Index run by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. She has truly made the most of this unique opportunity, to utilize her numbers-heavy background in a way that provides social impact, especially as company culture and diversity initiatives continue to expand at exponential rates.
It was heartening to hear how passionately Mrs. Abbondanza engaged with the conference’s attendees and discussed her impressive journey in the context of the students’ lives. Other than the aforementioned advice about learning numbers and never backing down from difficult work, Mrs. Abbondanza heavily emphasized the importance of working with other people. She encourages feedback from her employees, goes out of her way to respect their personal lives, and actively creates a strong, supportive community at work. It’s not just about doing the job, but how the job is completed, especially because most work is group-oriented.
Of course it was impressive to have this distinguished company leader attend BT’s IC conference even just for the sake of her credentials, but the clear passion, focus, and emphasis on human interaction that Mrs. Abbondanza brought helped elevate her presence to a completely different level. She helped humanize the experience of innovation, both in the workplace and on a personal level, and for that we all left extremely grateful and excited to self-improve to pursue our own forms of innovation, whatever that ultimately may be.