OW Spotlight Greta Keenan

Apsley '11

Head of Summit at the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA)


“Empowering girls and women in STEM isn’t just about breaking barriers, it’s about building bridges to a future where every mind, regardless of gender, can play a role in shaping the technologies of tomorrow.”

Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m endlessly curious about science and technology and its potential to improve people’s lives and solve global problems like climate change. Right now, I work on topics like artificial intelligence, drones, driverless cars and biotechnology, helping governments and businesses around the world come up with safe, responsible technologies and good regulation to prevent potential harm. Whether it is helping farmers increase their avocado yields in Colombia using agriculture technologies or healthcare workers deliver medical supplies in rural Rwanda using drones, I am on a mission to unlock the potential of technology for good. And I’m lucky that my career has so far allowed me to live in the Austrian alps, tropical Japanese islands and for the past four years, in scenic Switzerland.

Can you tell us a bit about how you came to work at your previous role at the World Economic Forum?
Lots of people assume I must have studied Economics or International Relations to work at the Forum, but in fact they hired me in 2019 for my education and expertise in science and how to communicate it in a way that non-scientists can understand. The job I was hired to do was to curate the science programme of the Forum’s global events, which meant deciding what topics to put on the agenda, choosing the right speakers, designing the session format – be it a panel, workshop or art installation – and delivering the whole thing on-site. After two and a half years in this role, I moved across to the technology portfolio, and I worked in this role until February 2024. I have just started (March 2024) a new role; Head of Summit at the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA).

Let me tell you a bit about my path to get here. Having studied Biomedical Science at Oxford and a Master’s degree in Science Communication at Imperial College London (after a very fun gap year working at an international school in Austria) I did an internship at New Scientist magazine and then landed a seven-month fellowship as a science communicator at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan. This was truly one of the most phenomenal experiences of my life – not only professionally (where I got to chat to nerdy marine biologists, quantum physicists and chemists all day and ‘translate’ their research into easy-to-understand articles, videos and press releases) but also personally, to live 10-minutes from the beach, meet people from all over the world and learn Japanese language and culture!

When this role was up, I moved back to London and into a fantastic science communication role at the newly opened Francis Crick Institute in London – Europe’s largest biomedical research institute. From photographing sex-reversed mice, to hosting delegation visits from the Indian and UK governments, and prepping scientists for live TV and radio interviews – no two days were the same, and I absolutely loved my job. It was only a desire to move abroad again that prompted me to start looking outside of the UK – and that’s when I discovered the opening at the World Economic Forum.

What has been your career highlight so far?
I have too many to mention, but one that stands out is the 50th Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2020.

The World Economic Forum’s mission is to improve the state of the world and we do this by bringing together politicians, business leaders, charities and NGOs, academics and thought leaders around a multitude of global issues. Whether it is healthcare, gender equality, the economy, plastic pollution, climate change or technology – we try to get the right people together to find solutions and take concrete action to make the world a better place for the eight billion people living on it.

We have projects year-round, but the metronome of the organisation is in January every year where my colleagues and I – plus 1,500 CEOs, heads-of state and ministers, professors, artists and journalists all descend on this tiny Swiss ski resort called Davos, for four days of talks, workshops and negotiations to strengthen global collaboration on the issues mentioned above.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I don’t believe in 10-year plans, or even 5-year plans! Some of the best personal and professional experiences of my life have been completely unplanned – and I just had to be ready and flexible to seize opportunities as they arose.

What are your top tips for students trying to get involved in your line of work?
Find your personal mission – what is the thing, or things that excite or enrage you, and figure out how you want to contribute change. Genuine enthusiasm and mission-oriented mindsets are more hireable than the degree on your CV. Better still – do something outside of your education that demonstrates that you are living by your personal mission: volunteer for a charity, do an internship, write for the student paper, start a blog or non-profit. These things will make you stand out.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
The degree you choose at age 17 doesn’t really matter. Study something you love and have a genuine curiosity for. The career you carve out in the years and decades after university can take you in completely unexpected directions – and most likely we will all be reskilling and upskilling our whole lives anyway. I do use aspects of my degrees in some way, but I am probably in the minority of my friends here. I have friends who studied medicine who are now in finance, and friends who studied law who are now doing marketing for a famous horse race in Argentina.

Do you have a fond memory from your time at Wellington that you would like to share or perhaps a particular teacher that really stood out?
There are far too many exceptional teachers to call out by name– truly some of the most inspirational, caring and smart people in this world, helping young adults reach their full potential. In terms of fond memories, it would be mid-morning buttery toast between lessons, singing I Vow to Thee in Sunday night chapel, Speech Days, dance shows and the Kingsley’s run. I left Wellington over a decade ago, and some of my closest friends are still the remarkable women I met in the Apsley aged 16. I’ll be eternally grateful for that.

Thanks to Greta Keenan (Ap 11) for this spotlight piece.