From "A" to "Zoe"


Tracing One Business Analyst's Path from there... to here.

“I liked German and computers better than English and chemistry.”

A provocative statement from Engine SevenFour’s Zoe Blair. In what appears to be turning into a series about the fascinating characters who make up Engine SevenFour, we now introduce the team’s business analyst. Like Engine SevenFour’s Derek Martin, the Most Interesting Man in the World, Zoe also took computer studies at Trent University. But that’s not where she started. So let us back up a little bit…

Zoe grew up in Belleville, where she went to high school. It was in high school where she met her now-husband, Gavin, who is Ellipsis Digital’s lead developer; the couple then went to university together.

Zoe started out taking a joint major in English and chemistry at Trent because she got good marks in both of those subjects in high school. But as they often do, plans changed.

“I took computer studies because Gavin was taking it, and I took German studies ‘cause it sounded fun, and I liked German and computers better than English and chemistry.” (Yes, that is, verbatim, what she said.)

By way of background, Zoe explains that Trent University has an unusual philosophy about courses of study.

“Trent is famous for the joint major. You can make any major you want at Trent - that’s their biggest selling feature. They’re like, ‘Just pick two things - we’ll make it work!’”


She notes that she did one of her German courses in Germany, in the city of Kassel, which she describes as a less-interesting European city in terms of architecture, but entirely satisfactory in terms of delicious gelato.

Zoe fast-forwards through the next few years: “I went to Germany, then I got married, then I finished my degree, and then I moved [to London]” with Gavin.

She came to London to get a master’s degree… in library science. Zoe explains that her goal in high school was to get a master’s degree and become a librarian. “So I got my master’s degree. Mission complete.

“Then I did cataloging for a while. Not very exciting,” she says, making a face.

She says that she was cataloguing for a year, while she waited to join what was then rtraction. While she was busy with that master’s degree, and then doing the odious cataloguing, husband Gavin had found work at rtraction, and was really enjoying it. Zoe had met the three co-founders and all of the other staff during company events, and had decided it would be a good place for her.

A library science degree is very useful, Zoe says. “If you don’t become a librarian in a library, there are many corporate positions: business analyst is common, or any role organizing information, or how information works.”

And although she hadn’t done much programming in the previous couple of years, that wasn’t a problem. “If you don’t know anything about programming, it seems overwhelming. But programming is learning about certain patterns. Everything after that is the same, more or less. Once you understand that, you can pick up any language.”

In August, Zoe will have been at rtraction and Engine SevenFour for five years. And true to her librarian’s training, Zoe is currently a business analyst, which involves analyzing and understanding requirements to create a product that meets that business’ needs, although she is also very involved in programming. She was the first developer on the Disney project, gathering the requirements and doing the wireframing for what has become Engine SevenFour’s biggest client.

She notes that the company has matured a lot, and developed more and better processes since she started, when the entire staff was less than half the size it is now. The projects she works on are also bigger.

And she’s quite happy. “I like the people that I work with. I like problem-solving.” She pauses, then adds, “I like chocolate.”  (Zoe likes chocolate in general, but she is specifically referring to the large Death Star-shaped cookie jar that we keep filled with milk and dark Swiss chocolate.)


Outside of work, there are other things that she likes. Three-year-old Gwen and 18-month old William, the two children that she and Gavin have created. Gardening, travelling and doing yoga. At the time of this writing, Zoe is on Day 85 of a 100-day watercolour painting challenge. And like any good librarian, she spends some of her free time researching things.

And she still likes German.

Are you looking to work on interesting programming projects, and speak some German or eat chocolate? Or some combination of these that includes at least the first item? Check out our job postings, or sign up to receive listings as we post ‘em.


Copywriter Laurie Bursch likes English and chemistry better than German and computers. She studied chemistry in university at part of her degree in... geology. Because, you know, a career path is seldom a straight line.