Sarah Conway Schnurr

Tags:   postgresql    postgreswomen    music    opensource    california    crunchy    conferences    community    diversity    websites   
Category:   Interviews   
Interviewed 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, your hobbies and where you are from.

I am from Southern California, where I’ve spent most of my free time hiking in the beautiful local deserts and pursuing many creative endeavors. Primarily, I am a software engineer & front-end website developer at Crunchy Data, a violin teacher & violin/viola performer, as well as a creator of zero-waste and all-natural homemade goods. I am also the co-parent of four beautiful cats, as well as the many adoptive fosters, strays, and friendly neighborhood cats that my husband and I visit on our daily walks.

Sarah Conway Schnurr

Sarah Conway Schnurr

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

When did you start using PostgreSQL, and why?

I started using Linux very early on, and my father brought me to my first open source conference (SCaLE 6x in Southern California) when I turned 11, which I’ve since attended every year without exception.

He bribed me into first experimenting with PostgreSQL by presenting me with the following opportunity: submit a talk to PostgresOpen (which was in Chicago that year), and voila! If it were accepted, I’d get to come along. And so, I began my first ventures into using PostgreSQL and becoming involved in the PostgreSQL community.

Do you remember which version of PostgreSQL you started with?

I began learning with a Linux VM running PostgreSQL 9.2, which had just been released at the time.

I have attended a community college and two online universities (Arizona State University and Western Governors University), where I’ve collected an array of degrees and certifications ranging from telecommunications to cybersecurity and information assurance.

To be quite honest, of all of the classes I’ve taken, very few had any impact on my current job or past work I’ve done. The majority of my experience has come from hands-on learning and self-study.

Western Governors University had the most relevant classes to my career, as they are much more committed than other colleges to staying on top of new developments, best practices, and trends when it comes to information technology as a field.

How do you contribute to PostgreSQL? Any contributions to PostgreSQL which do not involve writing code?

I have contributed to the PostgreSQL community and project in a number of ways over the years. I began coding websites for PostgreSQL conferences in 2016, starting with PostgresOpen, and have since either fully developed or have contributed to the development of websites for PostgresOpen, PgDU, PgConf APAC, PgDay Austin, and other conferences. I’ve also contributed code upstream to the PgEU website codebase as a result of working with their templates for the conference websites.

This work led to the development of a redesigned website first for PostgreSQL US, then the main PostgreSQL project website itself.

Separately from the website contributions, I have been an organizer of PostgresOpen for 3 years and have run their social media campaign during this time.

I have been a part of the United States PostgreSQL Association’s Diversity Committee for almost three years, and have more recently become the PgUS Diversity Committee Chair.

Finally, I have been an organization administrator for both the Google Season of Docs 2019 and Google Code-In 2018 initiatives for the PostgreSQL project.

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

The incredibly dense documentation that is intimidating and overwhelming for new users, with no clear idea of where or how to start working with PostgreSQL - especially if you don’t come from a coding background.

Of course there’s a chance to fix it - it just means we’ll need to break down the to-do’s into one manageable task at a time. An interesting approach would be to take the suggested project ideas listed in the Google Season of Docs PostgreSQL wiki page and turn them into bite-sized tasks that a coordinated group of volunteers could chip away at.

Could you describe your PostgreSQL development toolbox?

I have an affinity for Atom as a hackable text editor, but am currently using Visual Studio Code as my primary code editor. For command-line editing, vi is my editor of choice.

Which PostgreSQL conferences do you visit? Do you submit talks?

Of course, PostgresOpen, but other conferences I have attended over the years include PostgreSQL@SCaLE and PGCon. I have submitted and given talks in the past on either cybersecurity or PostgreSQL related subjects.

Do you think Postgres has a high entry barrier?

I do not believe it does, but I do believe it can appear to others to have a high entry barrier - especially those that are unfamiliar with the community or open source in general. Those that venture out into the community and begin to explore on their own are welcomed with enthusiasm and support; however, many don’t take that initial leap to discover that.

What is your advice for people who want to start PostgreSQL developing - as in, contributing to the project. Where and how should they start?

Currently, I believe the best way would be to begin joining conversations if you haven’t already. This might mean travelling to conferences, events, or local user groups and creating connections; or it could be as simple as reaching out over any of the numerous PostgreSQL channels (Slack, IRC, Twitter, etc.) where the community is found and establishing contact.

Ask questions, make suggestions, become involved! Over the mailing lists alone (especially -advocacy) there are always projects that could use a helping hand. This doesn’t have to be necessarily through contributions to the PostgreSQL codebase; requests for skillsets I’ve seen in the past (and have made personally) have included website development, social media, communication, organization, graphic design, writing, and many, many others. You do not have to know C code in order to contribute in a meaningful way to the PostgreSQL - or any other open source - project.

Do you think PostgreSQL will be here for many years in the future? Would you recommend Postgres for business, or for side projects?

Absolutely. It is a solid and well developed choice for all environments, whether they be enterprise or personal.

Are you reading the -hackers mailinglist? Any other list?

I primarily listen off the Postgres Women, advocacy, and www mailing lists.

Anything else you like to add?

I’ve grown up with the PostgreSQL community, and will always be grateful for the interactions and experiences I’ve had and continue to have. May you all live long and prosper.