Stephanie Troeth is my pick for the woman in technology to honor on Ada Lovelace Day. I first became aware of her through her work with the Web Standards Project.
Ada Lovelace Day is a concept that began as a pledge to blog about a woman in techology whom you admire on March 24. The catch was that it would only happen if at least 1000 other people took the pledge to blog about a woman they admire on that day, too. The goal of 1000 pledges was reached and surpassed quickly. The last total I saw was 1,527.
Stephanie Troeth, or Steph, was born on the Sarawak side of Borneo, Malaysia. She grew up in Melbourne, Australia. She now lives in Montreal, Canada. Her background extends across several languages and continents. I asked her about her background.
I speak many languages because I grew up in a place that spoke a mix; immigrants from different parts of China brought their languages with them, intermingling with local languages and also English from the British colonial era. When I was born, the country was phasing out English as a medium of instruction to Bahasa Malaysia, the formal version of Malay.
The interesting thing is, until I moved to Australia, the uniqueness of this mix wasn’t apparent to me. And later on, living in Montreal, I learned even more that the languages are such malleable constructs that are inherently tied to cultural contexts, through simple experiences like: trying to order food at a Chinese restaurant. While I’m fluent in Mandarin, I often can’t order very well in Chinese restaurants because the food is so different to what I knew and grew up with in South-East Asia—my vocabulary is different, even if the language is technically the same.
Having spent my childhood, then my formative years, living in different places is something that I treasure; I think it has given me the ability to see things differently.
Very early in life–at age 7–Steph started performing music on public stages. She plays for her own enjoyment now, and occasionally posts an impromptu piece at her blog, unadorned. At university in Melbourne, she studied computer science. She commented on being a multidisciplinary woman in a world looking for specificity.
Today, we are often expected to specialise and excel in only one particular field of knowledge or expertise, even one particular area of a field. I have always grown up loving both the arts and the sciences, so it’s important to me to spend my time working on things that addresses the challenges of both as much as possible.
And so, it’s probably not much of a surprise because people expect everyone else to specialise, it’s nearly impossible to communicate all of one’s passions in a way that seems plausible, nor for most people to understand an eclectic mix of passions. For the most part, I don’t generally talk about all my interests to everyone; they get revealed over time to those I eventually, over time, foster a deep relationship with.
Steph spent a few years doing various programming and interface design jobs. She got involved in the MACCAWS project. In 2002, she joined the Web Standards Project (WaSP) where she has made important contributions ever since. She’s worked on WaSP Learn, WaSP Asks W3C, the Education Task Force, WaSP International Liaison Group, and the WaSP InterAct Curriculum Framework. I asked her about her seven years of volunteer work for the Web Standards Project.
It was amazing to be asked by Molly Holzschlag to devote energy to the Web Standards Project all those years ago, to be part of a grassroots organization that has done remarkable work to create bridges between the W3C recommendations, browser vendors, designers and developers through industry experts who cared.
I think the best explanation for why I do what I do is the one I’ve managed to give is to my father, who was curious as to why I’d do all these things without getting paid a single cent. The work of the Web Standards Project, to me, is really part of a much greater whole: to ensure that the underlying technologies that make the web remain open and available to all, that innovation for the WWW remains an equal playing field for all those who build for it and use it. The WaSP InterAct Curriculum Framework has a view towards providing resources to address the disconnect between the web industry and the education sector, to ensure our next generation of web professionals are well-trained.
She’s worked in Montreal since 2002. I asked her about the move to Canada.
I have always wanted to see more of the world. Perhaps it comes from a childhood of travelling; having moved once, it’s easier to think about moving again and again. Montreal is an easy city to live in, and it has a special vibe about it that likely stems from being a place where everyone passes through, so it’s almost a perpetual cauldron of many dreams in the process of being formed.
Her most recent move is to step out of the corporate environment to become an entrepreneur. She founded a company with Hugh McGuire called The Book Oven, which is a new venture into a different kind of publishing. Steph explained what The Book Oven is.
The Book Oven is a collaborative platform to help writers and publishers transform texts from manuscript into finished products, into the hands of readers. We are still in early development phase, but are looking to expand our alpha group of users very soon.
What’s exciting about working in this space is that we have the benefit of looking back at industries affected by new media trends: broadcast, music. At the same time, we’re witnessing the evolution of a medium that hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years.
In her bio, Steph said, “Her true passions are for music and the arts, poetry, literature, good food, good wine and good scotch and all such other things that make life worthwhile.” You can see a tiny hint of Steph expressing some of these interests on her unadorned blog where she writes and sometimes records music. On her .com site, Stephanie Troeth she claims to be “an incorrigible amateur,” however if you look at her photos, her poetry or listen to her music, you’ll probably disagree with that assessment.
I am happiest when making things: I make jewellery, I sew, I dabble in natural perfumery, and any new technique I can get my hands on. I love the physical engineering of it. I recently started a new blog related to thought around our relationship to things and travel, hippiesque.
I also love photography, but I shoot most when I am abroad. My writing, music and photography live loosely on Flickr and unadorned. Writing and music are part of my voice, so I’m not even sure I can call those “hobbies”. Likewise, I live to read.
Steph Troeth is an exemplary example of the tradition of women in the sciences that we honor on Ada Lovelace Day. You can learn more about Ada Lovelace and the other honorees at
- Finding Ada
- The list of blog posts on Ada Lovelace Day
- Ada Lovelace Day at PledgeBank
- Ada Lovelace Day Home for Lost Posts
- Flickr Group
- The Science Museum
- @FindingAda on Twitter
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Cross Posted at BlogHer