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We have launched our QCIF Talent Spotlight series – a selection of short interviews with QCIF researchers, staff, and experts focused on shining a light on some of the amazing work they do. They’ll be sharing their interests and comment on some their latest projects.

Our first interview is with Joanna Salerno, training workshop instructor from QUT, who recently got invited to speak at the Australia Data Science Network event “Australia’s Rising WiDS Stars” to celebrate International Women’s Day.  

>> Watch Joanna’s presentation

Tell us a little about your current role at QCIF.

JS: I am a data science trainer, I assist in the delivery of data science workshops to graduate students and other attendees at universities in Queensland, so I answer any technical issues or questions that might come up during these programming workshops, and I also teach some of the content. 

What made you interested in data science?

JS: in my undergrad, I started taking a few psychology classes and I was interested in trying to understand how people think, so chose that as my major. One of my professors said I had the skills to do research, so I worked as a research assistant in her lab, focused on understanding memory and aging. There I got my first glimpse of data analysis and programming, trying to understand patterns from functional MRI data. I started playing with the code and I was hooked, because it was like a puzzle, and I loved it. I continued working in different labs as a research assistant and I was lucky to have a very supportive supervisor who gave me the opportunity to learn different programming languages. For me, data tells a story, and I loved the challenge of understanding problems and trying to solve them through data.

How did you get involved in QCIF?

JS: I’m in the last semester of my masters, so I saw a job posting at QUT that caught my eye, because it was related to data science training, and I’m very passionate about teaching programming and helping others get into the field of data science. I’m really enjoying my role here, there is so much camaraderie in the workshops, there is no gatekeeping of information, we are all focused on passing on our knowledge, and we get so excited when the participants can understand and apply the content we are delivering. It is such a nice community.

You were recently invited to speak at a Women in Data Science event, what was your presentation about and what topics did you discuss?

JS: We shared our different journeys into data science and talked about addressing gender equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM. Even though we have amazing women in the field, there is not nearly enough, so we talked about ideas and initiatives to tackle this very important issue. In my presentation I discussed the importance of mentors and role models. I don’t think I would’ve gotten the opportunities I had if I didn’t have good supervisors willing to support me in my interests. I also mentioned how important scholarships are for people who are first in their family to go to university, and who don’t have the same kind of access to the resources to attend or pay for university. So many women are left behind. However, it is getting better, I’m seeing more and more women at my classes, which is a sign that things are moving up.