Debbie Forster is an award-winning leader and a recognised figure in the areas of diversity, tech, innovation and education and was named by Computer Weekly as the Most Influential Woman in UK IT for 2019. She is a portfolio consultant and is co-founder and CEO for the Tech Talent Charter, an industry collective which aims to deliver greater inclusion and diversity in the UK tech workforce. As part of her wider portfolio, Debbie works as an executive coach, and a consultant specialising in supporting start-ups, scale ups, SMEs and social enterprises.
After 20 years working within education, Debbie joined e-skills UK, the national IT Sector Skills Council, heading up their educational programmes, liaising with both policy makers and leaders in the IT industry. Debbie then became the Co CEO of Apps for Good, an award-winning education charity. Debbie joined Apps for Good in 2010 and took the organisation through a period of exponential growth, from 2 centres in London to almost 1000 schools around the world; reaching 75,000 young people in just 5 years, with 50% of its students and 40% of its tech mentors being female. Debbie was awarded an MBE in January 2017 for “Services to Digital Technology and Tech Development” and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) named her Woman of the Year for 2016.
1. Best piece of advice you’ve been given
Know you are going to make mistakes and fail. If you hit every target, you weren’t being ambitious enough.
2. Worst piece of advice you’ve been given
When I had my first big promotion, my old boss said I should go by Deborah not Debbie or people wouldn’t take me seriously. I was only ever called Deborah by my mum when I was in trouble, so I spent the first 6 months feeling like I was in trouble! Since then, I always try to be as authentic as possible.
3. What would you tell your younger self?
Relax, you can do this and remember this is a marathon, not a sprint.
4. What excites you most about the future of your industry?
That companies are starting to realise that inclusion and diversity aren’t just a moral/good thing to do, it is the smart business thing to do.
5. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
You know, I’ve stopped listing the amazing famous women for this question. To be inspired means “fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something” and I get that from the women I coach, the women I call friends and my 22 year old daughter. Knowing their inner fears and how they face them keeps me filled with the urge to do something.