People of Action: Holly Brockwell by Franco Boydell

Knomo have partnered with Microsoft Surface to celebrate People of Action. In this series, we share the stories of these creative, mobile and innovative individuals who are bringing brilliant ideas to life.


Holly, thank you for joining us. In a few sentences can you tell us about the different things you ‘do’? 

Like a lot of people who’ve grown up in the internet age, I have more of a portfolio career than a particular job title. Currently, I’m working part-time at Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia)’s new media start-up, I’m writing a book, running the female-focussed tech site I founded (Gadgette - I won Woman of the Year for that in 2015) and running around doing lots of panels, charity events and so on.

I’m probably best known as a writer: both a technology journalist/major geek, and an advocate for women’s and marginalised people’s rights. I’m trying to leave this world slightly better than I found it.


How did the whole journey begin?

I’ve started several big campaigns to change things I thought were damaging or irresponsible, and I’m happy to say they worked. I wasn’t always intending to make a big thing: I just have a talent for making noise, I suppose. It’s nice for that to be a good thing for once!

In tech, I’m a fierce activist for better diversity and representation. I founded my site, Gadgette, because the mainstream tech publications were incredibly male-centric, and I wasn’t seeing women’s views represented at all. Tech can be quite a hostile space for women at times, and I hope some of the work I’ve done has improved that.

I strongly believe technology is for everyone, and I’d like to see a world where it’s created by everyone, too.

What does the average day in the life look like?

I wake up around 6am when my cat Mawri drops her teddy bear on my face. This means she’d like a fuss. It’s a lovely way to wake up, and means I’m usually up much earlier than my alarm. I like to listen to live radio first thing, to get a sense of what’s going on in the world, then I head to The Shard to work with a group of inspiring journalists on a new media start-up.

Lunch often involves a meeting, then I’ll go to an event in the early evening - often a panel discussion, a science talk or an action group - before heading home to read (I often have three or four books on the go) and catch up with my partner. We often have an episode of whatever we’re binge-watching right now on the TV while we both work from our laptops, sipping tea and swapping stories from our days. We sleep separately because we have very different needs, so when the yawns start, I say good night and head to my room with Mawri and her teddy bear, ready to do it all again.


Talk us through the philosophy behind your platform Gadgette

Gadgette is a reaction to the very homogeneous tech and geek culture media. I wanted to see more women’s voices, more diversity, more perspectives - so I made it happen. Gadgette is a much more inclusive geek site with a brilliantly diverse audience, and it’s launched the careers of some amazing female tech journos too.

In the next few years, how do you think technology will continue to change our every day lives?

I think in the future, tech won’t be something we buy - it’ll be something we are.

It’s fascinating and terrifying in equal measure to think about the ways we’ll be able to extend and enhance the human experience with tech. Humans will be modular - you’ll be able to replace a limb or an organ not only if it has a problem, but also to improve it. We’ll be quite literally superhuman. But - of course - the flip side of this is that we’re inviting all the problems inherent with tech - bugs, hacks, hijacks - into our own biology. The problems we’ll face will be unlike anything we’ve seen before - but so will the solutions. I hope I get to be part of them.


What three things does anyone starting in your industry need to know?

Absolutely everyone feels like they’re a total fraud who has no idea what they’re doing. Yes, even the mega-successful people - in fact, especially them. Everyone is insecure. Everyone is hyper-aware of their own failings. It’s OK, it’s how we grow.

Treat your information security like you’re the president of the world and everyone’s out to get you. Take no chances. Now that we live our lives online, you can’t be complacent with your safety - even if it’s inconvenient. Believe me, you’ll be full of ideas for ways you could have improved AFTER you’ve been compromised.

It is vitally, critically important to take proper time out for yourself. Rest. Relax. Recover. Do not see the weekend as an opportunity to get more stuff done. If you don’t give your body sufficient recuperation time, it will do it for you - and at the most inconvenient time. Be nice to yourself.


You’re creative, mobile and always connected – what are some of the ways your Microsoft Surface and Knomo bag help you with your daily work?

Knomo is one of the few brands that really gets modern women. Their products incorporate tech in a way that feels natural and useful, which is why I’ve been using them for years now. Carrying a Knomo bag feels like having your life together, and that really helps you get out the door in the morning. Likewise, a good laptop feels like a great friend - something you can rely on without ever really having to think about it. The Surface Book does that for me. I never have to wonder if it’s up to today’s task: it glides through everything like a hot knife through butter. I wouldn’t swap it for anything.

Thanks so much Holly!

Holly uses a Microsoft Surface Book i5 128GB

And carries a Knomo Beauchamp Backpack Black