Elizabeth Garrett Christensen



Reading time: 6 minutes

Tags:   postgresql (125)   crunchy (4)   postgreswomen (9)   cloud (2)  
Category:   Interviews   
Interview conducted by: Andreas Scherbaum

PostgreSQL is the World’s most advanced Open Source Relational Database. The interview series “PostgreSQL Person of the Week” presents the people who make the project what it is today. Read all interviews here.

Please tell us about yourself, and where you are from.

I’m not your average Postgres person of the week - I’m a non-developer as well as a Postgres fan and marketing/sales/customer facing person. I am part of a Postgres co-working couple and my husband David Christensen and I both work for Crunchy Data from our home in Lawrence, Kansas.

I have worked in sales and customer facing roles around software development projects for almost 20 years and started working exclusively with open source technologies in 2016. I’m currently doing lots of different and fun things with Postgres: some customer success work with our managed cloud product, Crunchy Bridge, and other fun projects like writing blogs. I helped write a kids coloring and activity book about Postgres and Crunchy this year that we handed out at Pycon and Railsconf and will be around at several Postgres events later this year.

Elizabeth Garrett Christensen

Elizabeth Garrett Christensen

How do you spend your free time? What are your hobbies?

I have two teenagers and spend a lot of time helping with homework and making sure everyone’s had a shower recently. When my laptop is off, I kind of live like it’s the 1860s and my interests are very old fashioned. I love working in my yard and have a large garden with vegetables and cut flowers, several fruit trees, grapes for wine making, and I keep hens and bees. If it’s too cold to work in the yard, I’ll be crocheting by the fire.

Any Social Media channels of yours we should be aware of?

What is the best advice you ever got?

My dad gave me the best career advice, “I don’t care what you do for a job, just make sure you’re working with smart people.” That’s pretty much what I’ve done and why I like working in software development and with Postgres people. I mean, you folks are pretty much the smartest people on earth.

When did you start using PostgreSQL, and why?

I worked for a science publishing company managing some of their projects and support teams for web based tools and we were using only proprietary software. We started looking into open source so we could move a little faster making decisions without having huge expenditures (also so we didn’t have to ask the big bosses to approve anything). I first heard about Postgres when we were researching ways to go to open source in about 2006. I did a lot of sql query and analytics/reporting work with our Microsoft SQL server systems as well for several years.

In 2016 I started working in a sales and project management role for End Point, a time and materials consulting group. I managed several projects that had Postgres at the backend so I became familiar with the different hosting options and business needs of a large Postgres platform. After working with some customers on RDS implementations, I was really excited to work on the Crunchy products that have all the awesome-ness of Postgres but aren’t owned by one of the big clouds.

Do you remember which version of PostgreSQL you started with?

9.6 is the version that sticks in my head as what really became hugely popular with clients. That felt like the version to me where Postgres really started to become the go-to option for backing any open source development project.

I have a degree in Archeology and had a very short career after college as a Field Archeologist. I worked on some projects related to artifact cataloging and locations using ArcGIS and there’s a lot of GIS that goes into any land survey or excavation work, so I was familiar with a lot of the GIS applications in Postgres.

How do you contribute to PostgreSQL?

I am currently a volunteer for PgUS (The United States PostgreSQL Association) and help with some of their content and marketing projects. I helped organize Crunchy Data’s PostGIS Day 2021 and hope to continue working on that event this year. If you need help organizing or marketing something related to Postgres and don’t need a real developer, I’d love to do more for the community so send me a message!

I am also looking at starting a local Postgres user group for the Kansas City area. If you’re in the midwest and this sounds interesting, send me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn. I am also starting a local Postgres user group for the Kansas City area. If you’re in the midwest and this sounds interesting, find us at www.meetup.com/kansas-city-postgres-user-group/.

What is your favorite PostgreSQL extension?

I think PostGIS is just about the coolest thing out there. I am really blown away by some of the modern applications of PostGIS, from neuroscience to electric vehicles. It is such a great story of open source.

What is the most annoying PostgreSQL thing you can think of? And any chance to fix it?

I think the most annoying thing about PostgreSQL is that it is really not set up for non-developers. I think there’s a lot of folks with a technical mind that need to store data or run data projects that don’t know how to create environments or compile software and extensions. Running Postgres in the cloud has made it easier but I’d love to see a world where more users can run Postgres and its extensions.

I’m a big fan of making software a more diverse space to include people from all walks of life and I think the two ways to do that is through education and delivery. I can’t help much on the delivery end of things but on the education side, I’m writing some “Postgres for Newbies” blogs to hopefully make things more accessible for people getting started.

Could you describe your PostgreSQL development toolbox?

I primarily work with Postgres like a non-developer would, using a cloud server and pgAdmin4 or DBeaver. If I have to, I’ll use psql but my command line skills aren’t amazing. I don’t even use command line git, I use the GitHub Desktop app!

One of the things we’re publicly testing right now at Crunchy Bridge is a way to run lightweight apps in your database. What if I told you could run pgAdmin4 from INSIDE your database with:

SELECT run_container('-dt -p 5433:80/tcp -e PGADMIN_DEFAULT_EMAIL="echristensen@volunteer.postgres.us" -e PGADMIN_DEFAULT_PASSWORD="password" -e PGADMIN_LISTEN_PORT=80 docker.io/dpage/pgadmin4');

Do you think PostgreSQL will be here for many years in the future?

I am super excited about Postgres’ future. Because it is community supported and not sponsored by a single company, it will serve the community first and not a single interest. I think Postgres has really matured. Tools and features you used to need Microsoft or Oracle for are standard in Postgres now. Postgres supports a big range of customers from really tiny science projects to some of the biggest banks in the world. I think the fact that Postgres works so well for all of them is a sign that it is here to stay.

What other places do you hang out?

I read the Postgres community Slack quite a bit, but more just to see what is going on. I am on the postgres Facebook groups as well. I mostly hang out in these places just to hear what people are talking about and learn more about how people use Postgres in their day-to-day life.