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Jenny Dearborn

SVP & Chief Learning Officer

"I'm going to protect all of the kids that are like me, who are smart but different."

Jenny Dearborn is different. She learns and processes information differently. She sees the world differently. And she loves that about herself. It’s also why she’s perfect for her role as Global Chief Learning Officer at SAP. 

As a child, Jenny struggled to read and sit still in school. Since she didn’t grasp information the way most kids did, teachers called her dumb, placed her in special education, or told her to run around the track to burn off her excess energy. Consequently, Jenny came very close to believing that she wouldn’t amount to anything.  

But in junior college Jenny was finally diagnosed with Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and she realized that she was perfectly capable of learning, she just did it in a different way. For example, although she struggled with reading from books, she loved stories, so she listened to books on tape, and taught herself to read by looking at comic books. (She’s still a big fan of superheroes and hangs her paintings of Superman, Wonder Woman, and others in her house.)  

She eventually majored in English at UC Berkeley, and obtained her masters at Stanford University. Pretty impressive for anyone, but especially for someone who was told she’d never amount to anything! Although she was angry at having been bullied and dismissed as a child, she turned her anger into something positive and decided to help protect all the other kids who were like her. Kids (and now adults) who simply learned differently.  

After briefly working as a teacher, Jenny found her calling in corporate learning and development and has been a Chief Learning or Talent Officer at four high tech companies. She joined SAP in 2012 through the SuccessFactors acquisition and is now SAP’s Global Chief Learning Officer and Senior Vice President. Jenny and her team designs, aligns, and drives SAP’s overall learning strategy and activities to enable a measurable business impact. She provides the resources and training to help employees do their jobs better, whether that’s as a project manager, engineer, or anything else. She keeps the workforce on the cutting edge of knowledge and skills, by always learning and staying current herself.   

Her restless energy, endless curiosity and spirited creativity, usually associated with ADHD, ended up making her perfect for her role at SAP. Her Dyslexia is also a strength here at SAP as Dyslexics are especially good at big picture, strategic and spatial thinking – they see things more holistically, instead of linearly. “I feel like I can see around corners,” she says. “I can easily see patterns and how all the puzzle pieces fit together. I know my brain is wired differently. It’s a gift that I’m thankful for.”   

Jenny is an author of two books: Data Driven in 2015 and The Data Driven Leader in 2017. She won Female Executive of the Year at the 2017 International Stevie Awards, for two years in a row The Financial Times named her a Top 20 Global Executive Ally for LGBT and for three years running she’s been named one of the Top 50 Women in Tech. She travels the world not only visiting SAP customers and employees, but also foreign governments and schools, advocating for a more practical way of learning. The world is changing rapidly, and students need to learn how to solve real world problems, something that isn’t typically taught in an academic environment.  

What does the future hold for this incredible woman? “I’d like to continue to make a contribution, impacting society and humanity.” Jenny is doing an amazing job and is a great example of how she brings everything she is to become everything she wants and more. Because Jenny Dearborn is different, and that’s her greatest strength.  


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