When she first joined eBay in 2018, Rebecca Spencer took a director of controlling role that would move the lifelong Ohioan from the Buckeye State to Berlin, Germany. Spencer, her husband, and her four children would live abroad for two years before returning to the States in 2020, and she would continue to be promoted within the company.
Now, as current chief accounting officer (CAO) for one of the stalwarts of the online marketplace, Spencer is continuing to find new ways to challenge herself, new ways to innovate the shared services organization at eBay, and make room for a little adventure in her life all at the same time.
That sense of adventure has always been part of the CAO’s life. Straight out of high school, Spencer joined the United States Air Force Reserve, where she would remain for twenty-three years. Interestingly, Spencer would spend her entire time in the reserves on the enlisted side, never electing to move toward an officer’s commission because, frankly, she loved the enlisted team and their mission.
Spencer says the reserves taught her the importance of resiliency and adapting her leadership style to the types of personalities and learning styles of those around her. Two weeks of every year for two decades, Spencer would be deployed to a different military base for training and education, creating a passion for lifelong learning and continued exploration that is as much of her corporate career as her military service.
At the same time, Spencer would begin her accounting career at one of the standards of the industry, Ernst & Young. She gained exposure to executive-level leaders and clients at a time when most her age and experience simply were not. In this case, the Midwest proved to have some advantage over its coastal counterparts.
“I was working in the Dayton-Cincinnati market in Ohio,” Spencer explains. “We had midsize clients, and I had the opportunity to lead the engagement team, lead the engagement economics, and really develop confidence and drive to further my career in a large public company.”
Eight years later, Spencer would build experience in an even larger public organization at General Electric. The accounting professional’s military experience would come in handy given the sheer size of a company like GE. Structure, discipline, and maintaining a high level of determination were valued highly, and over another eight-and-a-half years, Spencer would rise within the organization.
Since coming to eBay in 2018, Spencer has already been promoted twice, and those in her orbit are quite impressed. “Rebecca has been an inspiration and a pleasure to work with,” says Shari Mager, national capital markets readiness leader at KPMG. “Her knowledge of the business, the regulatory environment, and the opportunities and challenges that eBay faces globally, as well as her results-oriented leadership approach, have driven efficient financial operations and ensured compliance with financial regulations.”
KPMG’s global account lead partner for eBay, Pierre Kahn, agrees. “What separates Rebecca is her uncompromising passion for excellence. She drives clear expectations of herself, her KPMG partners, and her team, while championing the development of her individual team members,” he says. “She is a remarkable leader that has cultivated a high-performing team by holding herself and others accountable to bring their best every day.”
In her present role as CAO, Spencer says her organization, like so many others, are deep in the weeds of what burgeoning tech might make the most sense for the shared services team.
“We’ve come a long way with accounting systems and general ledgers regarding automation, but I feel like there is still so much opportunity for continued innovation,” she explains. “We have tools and bots and some small automation projects, but we’re still on the hunt for game-changing capabilities. I think many in my position are doing the exact same thing: reading and learning about all of the exploration in this space and keeping an eye out for that next-level idea.”
Going further, Spencer says her team is currently exploring the possibilities of generative artificial intelligence (AI), but that work is in its infant stages. The CAO says she’s looking forward to the possibility that AI can provide insights into the business from the accounting data that weren’t possible in the past. But that possibility, at least in this moment, remains just that.
One area that has needed to maintain a distinctly human touch is eBay’s acquisition and integration of outside assets. During Spencer’s tenure in the company, eBay has acquired five companies like online trading card marketplace TCGplayer, NFT marketplace KnownOrigin, and Sneaker authentication service Sneaker Con.
Spencer says she makes sure that eBay’s accounting function is supportive of integrating those new accounting teams. “I know that it’s a massive change that those accounting teams are going through, and as a large public company, we need to bring them in and streamline operations as soon as possible,” she says. “We need to be extremely supportive through that process, and I believe we are.”
Whether it’s brand-new employees or the team she sees every day, Spencer says she wants everyone at eBay to see her as someone they can feel comfortable coming to even if the news isn’t what she’s hoping to hear. “I want everyone here to feel like they can talk to me,” Spencer says. “I want to be approachable, and I want to be someone who can help solve problems through collaboration and communication.”
For all of these efforts, Spencer knows how to get a good running start: she is a bit of a marathon enthusiast. So far, she’s completed twelve marathons, including the 2023 Austin Marathon in February. Spencer is choosing to keep it to half-marathons in 2024 with her elevated responsibilities in mind, but given her penchant for pushing her own limits time and time again, it’s hard to know if she’ll be able to keep it to 13.1 miles.
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