To Silvia let us sing

I am a technical content producer on the Yahoo! Developer Network, and how I became a technologist has much to do with Sylvia Dorffi. She and pioneering computer programmer Ada Lovelace were kindred spirits.

Aunt Sylvia started her work life as a hairdresser and took night classes to learn design drafting. Afterwards, she became a draftswoman at Appleton Electric in Chicago, designing cable reels. After more night classes, she earned her electrical engineering degree and worked as an electrical engineer for the rest of her life.

Aunt Sylvia wasn't only curious intellectually. She was also a single woman who fearlessly explored the world. Which is how she came to visit her brother Bob, my father, in the Philippines.

Bob and sister Sylvia were born into one of the "Great Migration" Finnish immigrant families in Michigan. Dad ended up in the Philippines with the U.S. Navy in World War II. Staying behind after the war ended, he met and married my Filipino mother, Lolita.

In the 1960s, Aunt Sylvia came to visit us in Manila. I was a young bookworm and was starting to focus on a career versus marriage (the calling for which my convent schooling had prepared me), so we hit it off. When she returned to the U.S., she arranged to send us a used, multi-volume Encyclopedia Britannica set of books -- the Wikipedia of its day and incredibly out-of-reach to us at the time.

I lived in those books for many years. When I had free time, I'd pick a volume and leaf through the entries, curious to learn just about anything -- including the entry on Ada King, countess of Lovelace. My hunger for knowledge led me to abandon genteel second-rate poetry and become a journalist and a writer: first, at a Philippine business magazine; then, as an immigrant to the U.S., on libertarian economic philosophy at free-market think tanks; and finally, into the exhilarating world of software development.

The high-tech industry was exploding in the 1980s, when I joined Hewlett-Packard as a technical editor and writer for its users group. From there, I moved to Borland (or as we jokingly called it, Microsoft's farm team) as a technical writer, eventually becoming director of technical publications. I left to join a start-up or three, then worked at Adobe Systems on UI specs and tech docs. Sun Microsystems hired me to work on its Sun Developer Network, where I was managing editor of several Java developer sites, including Java SE, Java ME, and the Java Warehouse. And now, I've made it to Yahoo! and am eager to contribute to the Developer Network Blog. It promises to be a mind-expanding year!

By breaking boundaries and opening my mind, my excellent Aunt Sylvia inspired me to aim for a bigger life. Will Shakespeare was right when he wrote:

"Then to Silvia let us sing,
That Silvia is excelling..."

Christine Dorffi
Senior Content Producer