Before stepping into her first chief information officer role in 2019, Jennifer Hohman already had a few ideas about what the position might entail.
“I had all these theories about the role of a CIO,” Hohman admits. “But I knew I wanted to build a technology team where I was very transparent and genuinely myself, where I cared about my employees both professionally and personally, and where honesty and ethics were valued.”
That is exactly what Hohman achieved at offshore drilling company Seadrill during her three-plus years as vice president and CIO. However, the leadership strategies and IT expertise underlying her tenure extend far beyond any one role or organization. They are the culmination of her experience in the tech and energy industries up to this point—and the foundation for wherever her career will take her next.
Hohman discovered her passion for IT in an unexpected place: a dental office. She had planned to go into dentistry herself, until the realities of the profession started to dawn on her in young adulthood. “I realized I didn’t want to look at people’s teeth all day,” she says with a laugh.
Instead, Hohman began working on the computers and networks in use at dental practices. As her interest in tech grew, she decided to complete a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer program at Southern Methodist University. “That led me to a role at Halliburton, working for a company called MicroAge on a huge PC migration project,” she explains.
While working on the migration, Hohman unearthed rampant computer theft that she reported to MicroAge. When Halliburton later severed ties with MicroAge, she pivoted to pitch the idea of staying on at Halliburton with a skeleton crew—and the fossil fuel company took her up on the offer. “In every role, I’ve tried to keep good moral values, be very ethical, and get to know people,” she says.
After several years at Halliburton, Hohman left the organization to develop her ideas for an application to facilitate PC migrations in collaboration with tech titan Hewlett-Packard (HP). She traveled the world as a consultant, but a desire to grow her family eventually made her want to stay closer to home.
“I was young, fell in love, and—at the time—was consulting [and] travelling. And raising a young family seemed harder to do back then. I had maintained my relationships at Halliburton, who had been asking me to come back, so I decided to leave my software baby in the hands of HP,” Hohman says. “It was an emotional shift because I’d had so much passion for what we were doing, but with my family-first values, I went back to Halliburton to run their IT service management program with incident and change management. And I loved it.”
Hohman then continued to grow her experience in the fossil fuel industry through a six-year stint as director of IT at ConocoPhillips. “Most people think the industry is extremely mechanical and industrial,” she says of fossil fuels. “But what they don’t understand is the level of technology it takes to power the world. Now that we’re going through this energy transition, we are actively and aggressively looking for technologies to help decrease our carbon footprint and improve our efficiencies.
“What most don’t know is we also heavily invest in the areas where we operate and live,” she continued. “We care about the social issues facing our communities.”
For Hohman, those challenges keep the industry—and her career—exciting. Across her roles, she has retained a strong focus on decreasing costs, driving revenue, contributing to margins, and enhancing internal and external customer service, and Seadrill was no different. Her first order of business there was bringing down costs, which her team did by 40 percent. It also created an IT revenue stream by selling data to rig operators and capitalizing on the company’s emerging digital technology products.
Hohman and her team turned to Birlasoft, which they had chosen to replace Seadrill’s previous outsourcing offshoring provider, to help navigate economic uncertainty at the company and around the globe.
“Birlasoft helped us greatly by bringing in their team and replacing that incumbent provider,” she says. “We created a relationship where we were very transparent in telling them where they were successful, where they needed to improve, and what our business and technology challenges were. Outsourcing and offshoring takes a lot of collaboration and team building to achieve the level of quality that you can afford and need.”
Jigar Vakharia, SVP and global head of new sales at Birlasoft, speaks highly of the company’s work with Hohman as well. “An astute and empathetic professional, Jennifer brings in a very deep understanding of energy sector. Her knowledge of how IT transformation can give competitive advantage to business makes a significant contribution in implementing complex projects. Jennifer brings together a rare combination of strategic vision and operational agility.”
Her authentic relationship with Birlasoft reflects Hohman’s broader commitment to open communication. She believes in keeping it real with her team members, valuing them for the roles they play at home as well as at work, and investing in their futures.
“We need leaders to model behavior that is conducive not only to making money but to making people feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves,” she emphasizes. “I’ve been proud to inspire other people to give back. I’m heavily involved in my community when it comes to advocating for children and women and men who have been trafficked for sex, and I encourage my team to seek out their own passions.”
Inspiration will remain front and center as Hohman looks to challenge herself in the next stage of her career. “I’m being extremely conscientious about the type of company I join. I’m looking for a culture and a leadership that will support a great people team focused on delivering shareholder value,” she says. “I’m not a fan job titles and pretentiousness. They tend to put you in a box. I’d love the acronym CIO to be [rather than information] chief inspiration officer.”
Until she decides on her next opportunity, Hohman plans to live gratefully in the moment—and stay, as ever, true to herself and her family values.