An interview with Debbie Forester

Leadership, Interviews

Interview with Tech Industry

An Interview With Debbie Forester, Co-CEO at AppsforGood

APRIL 27, 2017

"Companies should start by talking to the women they do have and really listening to the strengths and weaknesses within the organisation--to promote the former and to fix the latter"

AppsforGood are a technology charity which works with schools to help young people learn how to change their world with technology. We have a course that lets them choose an area they care about and learn how to develop an app and take it to market.

Working as a Co-CEO is something most non-techs understand! My job is to make sure what we do works, scales with quality and that we have the best team possible to make that happen.

Getting into tech
I haven't always worked in the tech industry, I "started life" as an American English teacher. But across my career, I kept becoming more involved in tech as it was the best way of inspiring young people and giving them the skills they needed to get into any career and to change their world.

There were three factors that contributed to me working in tech, this are; The passion, the creativity and the energy of the sector.

At school my favorite subjects definitely weren't any of the STEM subjects, I was always attracted to English and the Humanities. I wanted to be a teacher, but more importantly I wanted to travel and see the world.

I went to school in America so we took all subjects right up to the end of the first year of university. I think this was a real advantage as it gave me such a broad education

How we view the tech industry
For me I think there are lots of misconceptions about the tech industry. Most see it as geeky, solitary, smelly boys in the basement, a job spent doing nothing but facing a screen. In fact it is a incredibly diverse, there are some more individual solitary roles, but many more which are highly collaborative, creative and interactive. 

Business need to think how they can help with the gender imbalance in tech, companies should start by talking to the women they do have and really listening to the strengths and weaknesses within the organisation--to promote the former and to fix the latter. There are lots of schemes to help companies make a difference, whether it be the Tech Talent Charter or volunteering for Apps for Good (hint, hint!)

Does Apps for Good have any formal initiatives in place to encourage more Women into Technology? Definitely! Our courses are supported by tech volunteers from across the industry and we have a strong women in tech strand in place. If someone has even just one hour they can spare (from their desk), they can make a difference.

How a CEO keeps staff productive
To keep staff productive and happy in the work place, give them a feeling that there job makes a difference somehow, that they have some autonomy in their role and a positive environment. (And plenty of caffeine!)

My favorite thing about working in tech industry is the people, the constant change and innovation and the energy. You never get bored in tech!

Personal achievements
Its Hard to say AppsforGood greatest achievement, it makes it feel like it's all over! I'd say the fact that in just 5 years we've grown from 50 young people to reaching over 50,000 students, from just London to pilots in Spain, Portugal and now the US.

We work with young people all the time, if I was to say anything to a 11 to 13 year old it would be; Definitely give tech a good look. There are exciting jobs for every kind of person and every kind of skill or interest. It's a creative, exciting job choice which opens door for just about every career field. Look past the stereotypes, it's a creative, fast-moving and exciting career choice.

Interview conducted in 2016 for our Women in Technology Survey, 2016 campaign.

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