It may seem unlikely that the senior VP and chief learning officer of software giant SAP would spend her free time painting canvases of superheroes, but to employees and businesses who benefit from Jenny Dearborn’s fight for inclusion, it makes perfect sense. It wasn’t until college that Dearborn, ’04 MBA, was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. For years, her own potential was overlooked, but, like any superhero, she now uses this experience to generate goodwill.
“As working adults, we spend the best years of our lives and the best hours of our day in service to our corporations and customers,” says Dearborn. “I believe, as employers, it is our sacred covenant to help, support and enable our employees to be their very best selves.” Despite this conviction, Dearborn hid her own disabilities. Then last year she was asked to give a presentation on leadership authenticity, and she knew it was time to share her story. “SAP is an amazing place that champions all forms of diversity and inclusion as a foundation to breakthrough innovation. I no longer see how my brain processes information as a liability, but as a gift.”
“I came away from SJSU knowing that if you want anything bad enough you can attain it. Nothing is impossible.”
Recognized as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology in 2014, 2015, and 2016 by the National Diversity Council, Dearborn is a mentor for the U.S. State Department to female entrepreneurs in developing countries and addresses gender and ethnic opportunity disparity as global executive sponsor of Pride@SAP and SAP’s global Business Women’s Network. She is also author of two books about data application. But no one other than herself expected her to succeed. Dearborn knew she was bright and capable, but because of her undiagnosed disabilities, she was placed in special education classes. She vowed to make a difference.
Dearborn began as a high school English teacher before transitioning into corporate education where, in addition to being responsible for the learning of 85,000 employees worldwide, she is determined that “the system” operates with integrity. During her tenure at SJSU, Dearborn’s educational experiences came full circle. She completed the “MBA One” program, whereby students stop working and focus on their graduate studies at twice the speed of a traditional MBA. The year she was enrolled she worked full-time, had two small kids at home and was pregnant with her third. “I came away from SJSU knowing that if you want anything bad enough you can attain it. Nothing is impossible.”