Emma F. Colner: Combining Intelligence, Empathy, and Code To Find The Truth

Emma F. Colner: Combining Intelligence, Empathy, and Code To Find The Truth

Written by WWCode HQ With Thanks To Emma Ferneyhough Colner

Member Reflections

Emma Ferneyhough Colner has a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from NYU, and has helped to publish a number of scholarly articles including, “Neural Perspectives on Emotion: Impact on Perception, Attention and Memory,” “Cueing Effects of Faces Are Dependent on Handedness and Visual Field,” and “Anxiety Modulates the Effects of Emotion and Attention On Early Vision.”

However she’s always had a love of computers, and even as a high school student she built websites as a way of expressing herself and sharing her art and feelings with the world. Her first position in the private sector, as a Technical Analyst for CrowdFlower, helped to reawaken that passion by forcing her to work closely with an engineering team in order to design and execute complex, experimental crowdsourcing workflows.

From that role she was able to witness the powerful results that could come from combining her understanding of human cognition and behavior, with algorithmic analysis and data processing. Seeing the impact that she could have, she decided that she wanted to change careers, and began teaching herself Ruby and Rails; learning at a voracious rate despite the fact that she did not have a CS background and didn’t enroll in a bootcamp or any other formal training course.

During this process she was introduced to Women Who Code through Lukas Biewald, the CEO of CrowdFlower, who encouraged her to join when he learned of her intentions. At first she used the WWCode events as a dedicated time and place where she could concentrate on learning Rails. She wasn’t necessarily there to make friends, or network, rather the group accommodated her preferred style of learning on her own, while providing a community of people that could assist her when she needed it.

Thanks to hard work, dedication, and a little help from her peers, Emma was able to quickly develop a proficiency in programming that allowed her to take on a role as an Enterprise Software Engineer at CrowdFlower. There she was part of a team that worked to build an application that automated enterprise crowdsourcing workflows, and another that enabled customers to easily create categorization jobs on the organization’s platform.

As time passed, Emma became more comfortable with the tech industry, her work, and the people around her. As she attended subsequent WWCode events she became familiar with the faces she saw, until she eventually realized that she was part of the community, and could help other women who were in the position that she had once been in. She also joined ChickTech, and began mentoring a high school student who was interested in computer programming, and even started volunteering as a teacher for the Railsbridge program.

Today she works as a software engineer for Stitch Fix, an exciting San Francisco based startup company that matches clients with personal stylists that help them to find clothing and accessories that fit their taste, budget, and lifestyle. There she uses her analytical and technical skills to support data-driven decisions in industry, from concept, experimentation, and analysis, to development of the final product. Considered a “jack of all trades” she is able to contribute to building web applications and user interface design for the company’s Merchandising team.

Donate to Women Who Code