Women Who Reign: Jen Ryan

“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.”
― Voltaire


2JenRyanTell us a little about yourself along with a fun fact.

I live in San Jose, CA with my hubby and our two cats. I was born in Boston, grew up in Plymouth, MA and did my undergrad at UMASS/Amherst in Computer Graphics. The Computer Graphics program was part of the fine arts program, however found myself spending a lot of time in the Engineering buildings on the other side of campus. The Engineering school had labs full of computers and the fine arts program did not. After finishing college in ’91, I wasn’t able to work in my field due to the recession at the time and instead found various office and hospitality jobs to help pay the bills. During that time I lived in Vermont, Boston, and Miami. I then moved to the Silicon Valley to secure CA residency for graduate school in ‘95. I thought this was a great idea even though I had never been to CA prior to getting on a plane with my two cats and moving there from Miami.

I’ve always been fascinated by how people learn, by what creates that “a-ha” moment where the light bulb goes off. I wanted to learn how the computer graphics technology I learned in my undergrad could help in this process, and decided to do a master’s in Instructional Technology. My goal was to go to grad school and get an internship that would lead to a job. In the interim, I would work whatever jobs to survive for 12 months to get the residency I needed to qualify for CA in-state tuition. By the time I started my third month of grad school at San Jose State University in Instructional Technology in ’96, I had an internship at Intel. After nine months they hired me as a full time employee and paid for the second half of my master’s program. Once I finished my masters program, I continued on to complete my doctorate at Pepperdine University in Educational Technology thanks to the tuition support I received from Intel. I worked full-time during the entire ~ 9 years that I went through all of my grad school programs. Having one foot in both academia and corporate America, gave a great perspective for theory vs. reality, and how to make the most of what I was learning. In the nearly 20 years that I’ve been working in high-tech in the learning and development space, I’ve worked at a few other companies besides Intel, some big, some small, some in CA and some in Oregon, and even some start-ups. I’ve been an individual contributor and a people manager. I even built the learning department in the two start-ups where I’ve worked. All of my roles have focused on ensuring employees, managers and leaders from all over the world have the learning and development they need to be successful in their roles.

Fun fact: I was the only girl on my high school’s varsity soccer team for all four years of high school.


What # would define your life journey?



Favorite website / app:

My favorite app is Yelp. It helps me do one of my favorite things, find tasty new places to eat and drink!


3JenRyanSomeone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:

My mom has inspired me to ensure that I take advantage of opportunities to get an education or acquire knowledge. In the neighborhood where I grew up, my mom was one of the only moms who went to college and had a job. She was even crazy enough to get her degree in math. She taught math at the high school level for ~25 years. The importance of an education became even more real to me when my parents got divorced and my mom became our sole provider. If she didn’t have her education, we would have been screwed to put it mildly. Education is freedom and I try to take advantage of opportunities to learn every chance that I get.


Song that makes you want to dance:

Soca Train by Maximus Dan. There’s no way you can listen to it and not dance.


Technical or life challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:

Going to grad school and working full time was a huge life challenge. To do it for ~9 years was pretty insane and I don’t recommend it. I overcame it by taking up yoga and commiserating with my other insane grad school cadre mates A LOT. I also kept my eye on the prize. I was determined to finish and not be ABD (all but dissertation).


Ideal job / where you see yourself in 10 years:

In 10 years I see myself in a consulting role working with multiple organizations to help make their employees, managers and leaders more awesome.


4JenRyanWhat knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?

Take care of yourself. A professor of mine once said, “you can’t give from an empty purse”. I try my best to remember that. You can’t be your best if you’ve not been eating well, sleeping, getting some exercise and you’ve been putting everyone else’s needs first while ignoring yours. Set boundaries and give yourself permission to say “no” to things when there is just too much going on. I’ve suffered some health issues when I’ve not paid attention to this. What I find helps me is I enroll myself in small exercise classes to help hold myself accountable. For example, I attend a mat Pilates class on Saturday and Sunday mornings that has ~ 6 people. If I don’t show up, it gets noticed and my classmates get on my case, with love of course.


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