GHC London - What was it like?

On June 22nd, the first Grace Hopper London event took place and we were delighted to be part of this momentous occasion. The event was a one day locally organized conference, modelled after ABI’s international Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

Microsoft, Codess, were a gold sponsor of this event, and we caught up with Microsoft’s Premier Field Engineering Director and Panel Speaker, Debbie Kneller to learn more about the day. Debbie was among many influential women presenting, and she was able to attend other sessions that took place. We took some time to interview Debbie about her experience and the sessions that she attended.

Hi Debbie, thank you for taking time to catch up with us! We were just hoping to ask you a few questions about the day…

Firstly, what were your expectations before the event?

Hey Codess team, no problem at all! It’s great to see you here with Microsoft and of course, please ask away.

I was expecting a really fun and exciting event with scope to meet talented women within the tech industry. It’s safe to say that’s exactly what I experienced! It was amazing to be part of a GHC London first; it’s clear there is a huge buzz around this type of event in the US and it definitely resonated with a UK audience too. One speaker who I was particularly looking forward to was Sarah Wilkinson – Chief Technology Officer at the Home Office, and I felt totally inspired and empowered by her talk.

Brilliant stuff! What did Sarah talk about in her discussion?

Her meeting was inspiring and action-focused, it certainly set a precedent for the day.One thing that was particularly unique from her talk was the emphasis on acting. She began by identifying the need for diversity but quickly went on to say this simply isn’t enough. Instead we need to know how to establish a diverse workforce and stated that, “the time now is about acting and understanding our personal influence.”

She also acknowledged the concerns engineers have around success and enjoyment within the industry. She shared 3 clear pieces of advice:
1. Be yourself – don’t be afraid of failure, set yourself free for what really matters to you.
2. Work for people who believe in you –
if you don’t work alongside people who are rooting for your success, then you’ve already entered a losing battle.
3. Believe in each other- friendships can be your best asset in the workplace, they can help you when you’re stuck and celebrate you when you flourish.



Great advice! We couldn’t agree more on the importance of acting… as the saying goes “actions speak louder than words.” We know you have a passion for leadership and many people were excited to join your talk. What topics did you cover?

It was wonderful presenting to a team of women who were really engaged throughout. I hope I inspired people because they certainly inspired me.

I discussed 3 things that I think are essential to becoming a successful leader:
1. Mentorship – it’s really important to have someone that you look up to and strive to be. My first mentor was my hiring manager and he was the perfect balance of caring, firm and pressured, ensuring I was challenged at every stage.

2. Personal Development Plan – writing one of these is absolutely critical, so you can be sure that you’re constantly pushing yourself. Many of us get too comfortable in our role and don’t give ourselves the opportunity to advance to a more senior position. Remember to be bold when writing objectives and actions.

3. Opportunities and Risks – make sure that you embrace networking events and sell yourself to people in the room. This is so important because you never know what opportunities may arise! Secondly, don’t be afraid to take risks…what’s the worst that could happen? 

Brilliant! We think our Codess community will find this very helpful indeed. Did you feel stimulated by any of the other keynote speakers?

Yes, I was completely blown away by a lady called Debbie Forster who is the Co-CEO of ‘Apps for Good.’ She spoke about entrepreneurship and discussed what appeals to young women who are looking to create their own business. One point that I found extremely interesting was how attractive “mission-driven” companies are to women. It’s clear that we’re motivated by organisations that have a real purpose and drive to-do-good in the world. This really comforted me – go Women in Tech!

Would you recommend the event to others?

Without a doubt. There was a fantastic buzz at the event and the booths gave people an insight into the diversity efforts that various organisations carry out.

I was particularly proud of the ladies at the Microsoft careers booth, who shed a light on the vast opportunities available at our company. It really is an incredible place to start a career and I would be honoured to work alongside some of the amazing people I met that day – both men and women.

If you could sum up what you learned from the event in one sentence, what would it be?

I would sum up with ‘now is the time for action’.  

It’s time to stop talking about female diversity and start or continue acting. If it’s not happening in your business, then be the one to start it and inspire others with your results. The influence of women in technology, like many aspects of our lives, is growing  – be part of it!

Thanks so much for answering these questions, Debbie! Perhaps you’d be interested in speaking at Codess events in the future?

Yes of course – I’d be happy to help!