Meet an ANYTOWNer: Jenny Heaton

Meet an ANYTOWNer: Jenny Heaton


May 28, 2019
Category: ANYTOWN
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Jenny’s ANYTOWN Delegate Year: 1992

What she’s up to now: Head of People & Organizational Development, North America and Global Seeds, Syngenta

How did you find out about ANYTOWN? Wow… it’s been 27 years, but I think my parents simply handed me the application.

How did ANYTOWN shape your high school experience? I walked out of ANYTOWN with more confidence to be myself. High school is a hard and beautiful time of self-discovery. I started speaking my mind more openly, I asked more questions, and I showed up at football games by myself and trusted I would find someone/something to entertain me. I was much more comfortable in my own skin.

Did ANYTOWN influence where you went to college, or your choice of major? I always wanted to go to UNC, but my choices after I arrived were definitely swayed. I joined the Carolina Leadership Development program and ultimately ran it when I was a senior. That program was an opportunity to learn from peers as we created our own sense of purpose, and I was always working to incorporate inclusion. I went on to receive a Masters at American University in Organization Development, and I left with goals in mind (that I maintain today): to help people to lead, to innovate, and to include (and they are all inextricably linked).

How has ANYTOWN shaped your career choices? In my role now, I focus on creating an inclusive environment for employees to thrive, on giving them creative outlets (to look at the world, our industry, and our processes differently), and on giving them tools as leaders to give their team members the space to be themselves and build upon their unique strengths. I also led the creation of Syngenta’s Global D&I strategy and accompanying five-year plan. ANYTOWN planted the seed for all of this.

How has ANYTOWN shaped you as a person? I think without ANYTOWN it would have taken me longer to find self-awareness about my own biases. To this day, in all the work I do with inclusion, I constantly find strong implicit biases dancing around in my mind. I think the earlier we can find our stumbling blocks, the more we can do to negate them with good.

What would you say to a parent/guardian who is considering sending their child to ANYTOWN? I might borrow from Desmond Tutu here and say: “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” How do you plan to teach your child that we are all of the earth, and at the end of the day we must treat one another as such. It’s a very hard lesson to give, and ANYTOWN can provide a path, a faster path, towards this understanding… with friends along for the ride.

NCCJ