Reflecting on a 42-year career with EM

As Mark Wentworth’s long and notable career at ExxonMobil draws to a close, most recently as the head of the Corporation’s emergency Regional Response Team (RRT) in Europe Africa and the Middle East, Newsline has asked him to reflect on his many experiences. The story begins in 1979, when 16-year-old Mark first joined the company. It was the ‘winter of discontent’, the average house cost £13,650 and ‘Message in a Bottle’ by The Police was riding high in the pop charts.

Reflecting on a 42-year career with EM
Mark (left) and his successor in the RRT, Travis Hansen, know which brand serves the best petrol for vintage cars

“January 1979 feels a long time ago,” says Mark.  “Looking back, I was a like a sponge in those days - absorbing anything and everything.  I contrast that with 2020, when the sponge was being wrung out as we battled the COVID-19 pandemic,” he reveals.

“My career was operationally focused right from the start.  I began in shipping, back in the days when ExxonMobil had its own fleet of oil tankers,” he says.  “I was probably one of the last people to come through the cadet system with Esso. “

“My early recollections include sea survival training - rowing a lifeboat around Tyne Dock in the North East and live firefighting in a ship’s simulator tank!  I really enjoyed the sea-going experiences and was looking forward to more until ExxonMobil exited from owning VLCC’s (very large crude carriers),” recalls Mark.  

“I then moved on to work in Pipelines, just as the first plans were being formulated for the South East pipeline to Gatwick and Purfleet.  This was followed by customer service and planning roles within LPG Bitumen and Fuels, a supervisory job in Ipswich BP and then a move to Retail in 1990.”

It was 1993 when Mark’s interest in incident management began. “I worked at Purfleet and everyday was a new adventure,” he remembers.  “As a manufacturing site that has been used since 1888, there were relics lying dormant that sprung back to life when least expected.  I also recall some odd challenges, such as the time a whale washed up on the foreshore right by our jetty.  The emergency manual doesn’t have a section ‘W for whale’ in it!”  

Mark then moved to roles in Fuels before joining EP&R (Emergency Preparedness and Response) in 2011.   He believes his past experiences were all good preparation for what was to follow (including the COVID-19 crisis!). 

The UK, being a multi-faceted business, became a focal area as the virus impact unfolded.  “2020 really was ‘showtime’ for EP&R,” says Mark.  “Given the global impact of the pandemic, the need to support multiple emergency support groups (ESG’s) became a stretch for all.  I was really pleased to be part of the UK leadership team that steered the Corporation in the UK through choppy waters.  The art was trying to find the sweet spot with our UK operations, that had many things to deal with on a daily basis, without over-reaching.”

It is this - Mark’s most recent role as EP&R Adviser/ RRT Co-ordinator - that he considers his finest.  He says:  “I really enjoyed the freedom to operate and do the right thing whilst staying aligned to the needs of the businesses.   It is really rewarding to be both strategic in your thinking and roll up your sleeves and get involved.  After all, it is the tasks that make things happen, so you have to be prepared to participate.”

So, what would Mark’s ‘message in a bottle’ be to those now at the beginning of their careers with ExxonMobil?   He says: “Take all the experiences that you can. Not everything goes as planned and some roles will be better than others.  But in my experience, the good ones overshadow the rest.”

It’s clear that for Mark, it’s the sense of working together to solve a problem, that drove his career success.  His wise counsel will certainly be missed in the months ahead and we wish him well as he retires to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle, spending time with his collection of cars old and new.

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Reflecting on a 42-year career with EM