ZOE WARD

ZOE WARD | PhD Candidate | Christchurch 

Q. Girls and non-binary children often find it hard to see a pathway for themselves into a coding career. How did you get into coding? What is one piece of advice you have for them?

I have been working in genetics laboratories for most of my working life, and the direction that the technology headed in meant that more and more of the data had to be analysed by computers. I quickly realised that, for me, my interest was in this data analysis and for this I had to learn a bit of coding.

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I came into coding later in life. I hadn’t used computers or done coding at school so it was a steep learning curve to begin with, but the fact that I found it all so interesting made it easier. My advice when trying to learn to code is to break down the problem into little chunks and solve each little chunk … next thing you know you have solved the problem and have a massive sense of achievement!

Because I entered into coding through the biological sciences there was a much bigger mix of genders and in my current workplace I am lucky enough to have really strong female leaders. Let’s not kid ourselves though, computer science and coding is still a strongly male dominated world. My advice is keep going with what you want to do, and you could be the next female/non-binary role model. Finally, the piece of advice that I would really like to stress is it’s NEVER too late to start!  

Q. Tell us about a rad piece of code that you’ve written? What piece of code are you most proud of in your career so far? 

I am lucky to now be doing a PhD at the University of Otago at the Christchurch Heart Institute. I have written a piece of code which takes the data coming off DNA sequencing machines, and puts the data through different pieces of software to find new genes involved in heart disease. I’m very proud of the fact that this piece of code could find new genes and hopefully help patients.

”Keep going with what you want to do
and you could be the next
female/non-binary role model”

Q. What big dreams do you have as a coder? What are you aspiring to do next?

Coding is learning a new language and you only get better the more you use it, so I want to become ‘fluent’ in Python which I have tried to teach myself lately. I want to continue to use coding to help decipher the code of our DNA and genes, and to help us tackle the problems when our genes are involved in disease. Zoe codes in R, Python, and bash.

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