About Me

Grew up on a llama farm, went to art school, turned myself into a software engineer sometime after that. Research is next.

This page is in progress…forever. There are three sections:

Table of Contents

    Career Timeline (so far)

    I have grand ideas for making this section a cool timeline-kind-of-thing, but you know, content first!

    1999-ish / age 10-ish – First exposure to HTML via the game “Horseland”

    I grew up on a farm in southwestern Pennsylvania outside of Pittsburgh. Although we had llamas on our farm, I was a horse-loving kid. I played an online game called Horseland (which sadly no longer exists). On a family trip to Barnes and Noble one time, my mom bought me “HTML for Dummies” and I learned to customize some colors on my Horseland profile.

    I don’t think I touched any code after that, until…

    2009 / age 20 – Had an idea for a video game in art school

    I went to college for art. I started at the University of Colorado at Boulder and focused in printmaking from 2007-2009. My work was oriented around a strange spiritual satire and, even though I never played video games other than the Sims, I was sure the path for this project was to become a video game.

    At CU Boulder, I would have had to start a new major to take any coding classes and, more importantly, the life I had in Boulder was not conducive to school work (recreational drugs, skiing). My parents were extremely supportive, and I transferred to a tiny art school in Boston, called SMFA, that had a self-directed curriculum and a partnership with a regular university. I took an elective class, “Intro to Video Game Development in Python,” and built a version of the game using a framework called Pygame.

    Of course, I needed a website for the project. With my earnings from my job as a computer lab monitor, I paid a fellow student’s boyfriend $10/hr to tutor me and help me build the website. Ten plus years later, that website still works! Hooray for the web! You can look the site here, but I’m beware you, it’s weird stuff. There is a link to the Python game on that site, but I am not telling you where it is. I also took a class in Flash, taught myself some ActionScript, and created bizarre interactive animations of the game characters that, I think, will not run because Flash is no longer supported.

    Now that I know so much more about programming, someday I hope to really make this game!

    2011 / age 22 – Rebuilt a WordPress Theme in an internship

    At the art school in Boston, I took some classes with Steve Lambert, who encouraged me to learn WordPress development. I did an informal internship with him for one semester where I rebuilt the WPFolio WordPress theme, a theme for artists’ portfolios.

    I’m happy to say that I did rebuild the theme and learned skills that enabled me to operate a successful freelance business for the next seven years. I’m sad to say that I never really finished the WPFolio project to the point that it could be on the theme repository, and I did not maintain it. The theme had a sizeable user base and filled a nice niche, but I dropped the ball on that one.

    2015 / age 26 – Failed FizzBuzz in an interview and wrote about the experience

    Coming soon! In the mean time, see this post.

    2017 / age 28 – Learned computer science for an algorithms interview

    Coming soon! In the mean time, see this post.

    2018 / age 29 – Said good-bye to freelancing, hello to PMC!

    Coming soon! In the mean time, see this post.

    2019 / age 30 – Spoke at a lot of conferences, figuring out my thing.

    Coming soon! In the meantime, see this post.

    Other notes:

    • Major progress on Larva, the design system at PMC.
    • Had a mental breakdown in August – I over-did it on the conference speaking and travel.
    • Ran the NYC marathon!!! This was a big deal.
    • Read books about race, and started the process of learning to recognize oppressive systems.

    2020 / age 31 – I thought my thing wasn’t my thing…then realized it most definitely is my thing.

    Like many people, I went through a racial reckoning in mid-2020 following the murder of George Floyd. Things in my life I previously found meaningful seemed selfish and benign, and for a good six months, I dropped my tech side projects and focused on local activism, and doing the internal work of unlearning the lies of white supremacy.

    Thanks to weekly therapy sessions and resources and community from What’s Up Pittsburgh, I came full circle in 2020, and began to revisit my thing with a much more developed understanding of the world. “Is CSS a programming language?” is definitely a meaningful question, and with a bit of tweaking and ego-checking, this topic can be the foundation of very important work. I started to write a book.

    More about 2020 here.

    2021 / age 32 – Piecing together a career change.

    This year started as the year of math, as in mathematics, and monsters, yes these monsters, then morphed into writing a book, and following a period of burnout and discontent, evolved into my applications for Ph.D. programs where I wrote about a vision for computing education accessible to people who are incarcerated. And…I got married! What a year!

    2022 – ??

    Career change is…real! I will start a Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing at Georgia Tech in August 2022. I will be working with DataWorks and Betsy DiSalvo in the learning sciences focus. At least to start, I will be working on a training curriculum for the data workers that equips them with computing skills that apply to positions beyond DataWorks.

    Believe it or not, spreadsheets and CSS have a lot in common, and I’m really excited to figure out the words to talk about it. The vision I described in my Ph.D. applications, to create computing education accessible to people who are incarcerated, still stands. It will take some time to get those pieces in place, but that’s still one of my long-term visions.

    I’m still doing the internal work of unlearning the lies about the lies about the lies about the lies of capitalism and white supremacy. Yes, it’s very confusing, and it’s forever.

    Finally, this year I am very committed to learning the Nepali language (my husband is from Nepal, so there is added benefit to this endeavor besides the general benefits of language learning).

    Writing and Teaching

    To do: Fit this section into the Speaking page somehow…or like CV or something.

    Writing and teaching are surely the most illuminating and most difficult of the things I do. You can’t write about something or teach it without getting to know it inside and out, whether that is something technical or personal.

    Writing

    Today, I mostly write on my personal blog, but I wrote these articles for other publications (well, mostly CSS-Tricks, it seems) over the years:

    Teaching

    I think teaching might be my ultimate career destination in tech, but I’m not sure yet. Either way, I love teaching, and have taught WordPress and front-end development at several places over the years, and did a lot of tutoring when I had my freelance business. I haven’t taught any classes in a while, but hope to again, at some point!

    Here are some places I’ve taught for in the past:

    • University of Southern California: WordPress Course; 2018
    • Pratt Institute of Design: UI Prototyping in Code, Coding I – II; 2014-2016
    • Decoded: Code in a Day facilitator; 2014-2016
    • General Assembly: Front-end Web Development, lead instructor; 2013-2014
    • Girl Develop It: Hands-on Sass Fundamentals, Coding for WordPress, Building Custom WordPress Websites and Intro to HTML/CSS.
    • CSS-Tricks Office Hours: Organizer; 2015-2016
    • The Tackle Box: Online course teaching WordPress development; 2015-2016

    Fun and Informative F.A.Q.

    Full disclosure: some of these are not frequently asked questions and are either things I want you to know, or are just silly.

    What did you have for breakfast?

    Some granola with yogurt, dried cranberries, and peanut butter.
    Update Feb 12, 21: Yogurt with nuts, blueberries, and some honey.
    Update Dec 9, 21: It’s called “satu” and is like a Nepalese protein shake: ground dried grains, nuts, and fruits, mixed with milk.
    Update Jan 29, 21: Just coffee so far. Will have breakfast as part of lunch.
    Update May 4, 21: Raisin bran and ground flax seed (wow, ground flax seed…do you know what I mean?)

    What are you up to most recently?

    Check out my Now page!

    What is Larva?

    Larva was my nickname in high school. I drove my parents’ minivan around town, and my friends called it “The Larvan”. Through a chance set of events, “Larva” was proposed as the name of the design system I started at my job. My team seemed to like it, and I couldn’t think of an alternative, so now Larva is also the name of the design system behind the front-end of some high traffic WordPress websites.

    What made you stop freelancing and get a full-time job? Was it the right choice, in hindsight?


    Thanks to Bruno for asking this question in an email.

    Why stop freelancing? I wanted to be invested in a team and the long-term improvement of a codebase vs. working as an outsider, from project to project. I also wanted to improve my technical knowledge through work on larger codebases with more formalized processes so that I could later consult with teams on these topics. I definitely think it was the right decision because I am well-equipped to return to independent work, and I have a lot more knowledge, confidence, and credibility. I also saved a lot of money, and that will give me a lot of freedom later on.

    Was it the right choice? Absolutely, but I never had long-term plans to stay with this job or any full-time job. I had freelanced for about seven years and I wanted to have a new experience, and now I’ve been able to save up and prepare for a new direction (I am currently applying to graduate school for a Ph.D.) It’s a really cool experience to work on a team and learn from/teach other developers. I recommend it, but I also realize it’s not what I want to do in the long term.

    I will say though, as I work on my future direction, the work I did outside of my job is what matters most e.g. meetups, open-source, and conferences. So, while my job has been important for personal and technical growth, it’s not the source of my credentials for my future direction.

    I heard you are writing a book. What is it about and when will it be released?

    The process of writing the book led me to apply to graduate school. I realized that even though I sort of answered some of my questions (what is a “real” programming language? well, it’s what people think is a programming language), I have a lot more questions and this is a bigger undertaking for me. Maybe my book will be my dissertation, generally about how exclusion from computing and gatekeeping is a symptom of historical systems of inequity. In that case, it will hopefully be released in 5-6 years.

    How can I get one of those cute monster stickers?

    If you ever see me in real life, ask and I’ll give you one! If you aren’t going to see me in real life, you can buy one here, and I’ll mail it to you.