yellowpigs.net

Not-so-brief Biography

(If you're looking for a short bio, such as one to use for a speaker blurb, this is not it. See this instead.)

Part 1: St. Thomas

I was born and bred on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Yes, I grew up in a visitor's paradise, with warm weather, ubiquitous breath-taking views, and spectacular beaches that I miss greatly and swim at as often as I can visit. It was a pretty idyllic childhood, but nothing is perfect. The price of paradiseincludes isolation, limited resources, and worst of all hurricanes. Hurricanes Hugo and Marilyn both hit the Virgin Islands while I lived there, causing extensive damage, and the storms and their aftermaths were unforgettable experiences.

I was undeniably a nerd, although fortunately my school wasn't big enough to have much in the way of social hierarchies. I loved reading and writing and math and computers. My junior high and high school activities included MathCounts, the National Geography Bee, and quiz bowl. I devoted myself to lengthy research and writing projects for fun, and I racked up large phone bills after discovering usenet in high school.

My most formative high school experience was away from home. I spent two summers at Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics, an excellent summer program for exceptional math students, where I was introduced to yellow pigs (hence this site's name). I highly recommend the program for serious high school math students.

Part 2: Massachusetts

Despite having some exceptional teachers and classes, I was bored in high school, so when I heard about Simon's Rock, a college designed for younger scholars, I applied. I received a full scholarship, left high school after two years (yes, I'm a high school dropout), and entered college at 16. Simon's Rock is a truly unique place, and I had a wonderful time there. I took excellent classes, wrote lots of papers, and was genuinely challenged. I found a place where I felt like I fit in and made lots of friends who were interested in learning.

I started tinkering around with computers. I'd been a Mac person for a long time, but I started using Unix. My sophmore year I installed Debian GNU/Linux, and was hooked on Linux and the potential of Open Source/Free Software. I got a summer job networking the campus (fiber and ethernet; I can probably still draw the fiber diagram if you are interested). For much of my last two years in college, I was working in the computer department nearly fulltime. Somehow I also managed to carry a heavy course load and spend time with my excellent friends and housemates. My senior year I had a six month internship in IT departments at Stanford University. It was during that time that I wrote my undergraduate thesis, a mathematical story based very loosely on Alice in Wonderland and Godel, Escher, Bach.

Still a teenager, I graduated and took on the job as the (sole) Systems Administrator at Simon's Rock, which turned out to be an excellent decision because it gave me the freedom to do everything from tech support and wiring and building computers to web design, DBA, and router configuration to making policy decisions and supervising student workers, all along with more traditional sysadmin tasks of course. I even got to teach a Linux class.

I wasn't sure grad school in math was for me, so I ended up in a philosophy masters program at Tufts University. I moved to Boston (Somerville), where I lived with 3 former classmates, took three semesters of classes, continued to work at Simon's Rock (part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer), and spent a lot of time in Cape Cod, where my partner had moved.

Once I had (mostly) finished classes, I moved to Cape Cod (Falmouth), where I continued working full-time and studied for my comprehensive exams. In my free time, I enjoyed going to the beach (even though it was so much colder than in St. Thomas!), read a lot, and taught myself more programming. After I'd been living there for about a year, I got offered a job at WHOI to implement a network registration system, and after I finished that, I worked on a few other things at the intersection of networking and system administration. In my free time, I juggled, gardened, edited Wikipedia, and visited friends spread out across New England.

Part 3: California

After three years in Cape Cod (that's 9 winters in Massachusetts, but who's counting?), my partner and I moved to sunny California, specifically to Silicon Valley to work at Google as Site Reliability Engineers (think systems administration + software engineering, in a somewhat different direction than DevOps). It was a great place. The work itself and the general work environment were challenging and stimulating. I met amazing people. Outside of work, I loved the warmer weather, swimming pools, year-round farmers' markets, and ample bookstores and universities.

I continued to maintain academic pretensions in a variety of fields. I presented a paper on Virgin Islanders at a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. I went to Yellow Pig Math Days (and later Yellow Pigs Math Days II) at Hampshire College. I attended history and philosophy of science talks at Stanford, and took a philosophy course, a history of science course, and a linguistics course there. I took language and dance classes through adult education programs.

After nearly six years at Google, my happiness was dwindling. I was tired, and while it continued to be an excellent place to work in many ways, it was lonely being one of the few women, and the company was veering in directions that made me less proud to be there. I left in protest of real names requirements (yes, I'm that legend).

I had just taken a linguistics course at Stanford that I found fascinating, so I took a month off work to attend the Linguistic Institute in Boulder, and after that, took the plunge. I left Google one week, and the next week I started the semester at San Jose State, where I received a certificate in computational linguistics at the end of the year. This happened to be the era when MOOCs were just starting, and I also took a pile of CS classes online. I continued to advocate for pseudonymity on the Internet, contracted for The Wikimedia Foundation, promoted diversity in tech, did a bit of traveling, and finally became a certified diver.

Refreshed after a year, I returned to Google, where I was able to be a part of many of the changes I wanted. I became a more active advocate/instigator for diversity and inclusivity in tech, served as an advisor to The Ada Initiative, and started some successful company programs/resources. For the first year, I continued taking linguistics classes, including attending the Linguistic Institute at the University of Michigan. Once I finished up classes, I started up a new SRE team as a tech lead and then became a manager. (Resumé.)

While traveling on a work trip, I found myself suddenly and mysteriously in a lot of foot pain. Some number of months and doctors later, I was diagnosed with a relatively rare nerve condition, which causes constant pain and limits my mobility. This means I now spend a lot of time/effort managing pain and minimizing walking. On the plus side, I get to swim daily as part of my physical therapy routine. I've become a pretty serious swimmer; I even swam in the St John open ocean swim race twice.

Elsewhere on this site

In my spare time, I read, write, swim, garden, travel, eat chocolate, and take up various causes. I also blog and post photos semi-regularly.

(Last updated 2018)