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 live in Alameda, California (a small island across the bay from San Francisco) with my husband. I’m the CFO and COO of PostgreSQL Experts, Inc.
I don’t have any kids or pets, but I do have some potted lavender plants and herbs that I talk to.
I read to give myself a break from work and daily life (poetry, historical non-fiction, esoteric philosophies, and random books that I buy because I like the title).
I enjoy weaving and beadwork—they’re useful for getting out of my head and into the moment.
I have spent much of my life doing historical re-enactment, and still have a number of historical garments and tiaras to show for it. I was even able to wear one to a Postgres event! PgDay San Francisco 2020 was held at the Swedish American Hall, so my coworker Katharine and I wore our 10th century Swedish apron dresses at the event.
I also do embroidery, which is more portable than weaving or beading, so I can take it with me when I travel, and it helps pass the time when working at the registration desk at conferences. My travel project features Slonik, and it has been to Stockholm, Oslo, Paris, Tallinn, Warsaw, Madrid, Ottawa, Milan, and Orlando. There’s about two hours of work left on it, so I expect I’ll finish it at whatever conference happens next (I’m hoping for Berlin!).
Any Social Media channels of yours we should be aware of?
I also manage the Twitter accounts for:
- My company, PostgreSQL Experts: @pgexperts
- U.S. PostgreSQL Association: @pgus
- San Francisco Bay Area PostgreSQL Users Group Meetup: @BayAreaPostgres
Have you studied at a university? If yes, was it related to computers? Did your study help you with your current job?
I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature. It’s been helpful to me in every job — knowing how to read and critically analyze large amounts of text, and compose clear and useful summaries, is relevant in any work environment. Since my job involves negotiating contracts with potential clients, it’s definitely helpful there.
What other databases are you using? Which one is your favorite?
PostgreSQL, and no other!
On which PostgreSQL-related projects are you currently working?
No technical projects. My Postgres knowledge is entirely theoretical — that is, I understand it when I hear discussions or attend a workshop—but I’ve not done any technical work.
How do you contribute to PostgreSQL?
I worked with the Core Team to develop the PostgreSQL Community Code of Conduct, and to assemble the CoC Committee. I have served as the Chair of the Committee since it was established in September 2018.
I was elected to the Board of the United States PostgreSQL Association (PgUS) in 2019, and become President in May 2020. I work with the Board and volunteers to promote PostgreSQL and support its users in the US (and a few other places), as well as create conferences and events, and am also the Board sponsor for the Diversity Committee.
I am one of the co-organizers of San Francisco Bay Area PostgreSQL Users Group Meetup.
We’re currently doing online events only, of course, but it’s working well. Not only is it less complicated (not having to find a venue and a food sponsor, or do all the set up and clean up), it allows us to expand to include speakers and groups from outside the Bay Area. Our June Meetup was a joint event with the Portland PUG, and it was a terrific evening. We’re looking forward to having more speakers who aren’t local, and having more joint events in the future.
This year was the first PgDay San Francisco, and I was one of the principal organizers.
I work as conference staff at the events I attend, which is a great way to meet new people and catch up with everyone. Home is where the reg desk is, or something like that!
Any contributions to PostgreSQL which do not involve writing code?
All of them!
I’m especially proud of my work with the Code of Conduct Committee. The initial discussion on the ~general list was . . . we’ll call it “vigorous”. Sorting through it, however, showed that there was real support for the idea, even though the opposition seemed louder at first glance.
Working with the Core Team to create a policy that was fair and reasonable, and actually worth implementing, was quite the process. I admit I was nervous when we had an open session to discuss it at PgCon Ottawa in 2016, but again, the response was refreshingly positive, and led to some useful additions to the policy.
We have had relatively few complaints, especially considering how many people interact on the various community channels every day. Each March, we provide an annual summary report for the prior year—anonymized, of course—which is published on the CoC page of the project website. While we don’t share names or details of any of the complaints, I think it’s useful for everyone to know what types of complaints we received, and how they were resolved. They can see we’re taking the issues seriously and working on behalf of the community, and that we’re not operating as a star chamber, ruining lives and wreaking havoc on the community. The Committee members have done a great job with learning how to handle the investigations appropriately, and taking the time to do them thoroughly, even though it’s something completely outside of their usual work. While I’ve done a lot of community work through conference organizing, I was pleased that I could use my experience in Human Resources to contribute to the community in a significant way, since I’m not able to contribute as a technologist. Having that work recognized by being named a Contributor was amazing, and I still get emotional when I think about it.
Adding to that, what feature/mechanism would you like to see in PostgreSQL? And why?
I’ve often joked with our staff that Postgres needs a dialog box that pops up when a user is about to make a bad configuration choice, which reads, “Call your consultant before you do this!” I don’t work on databases, but even I know that turning off autovacuum is a bad idea.
Could you describe your PostgreSQL development toolbox?
The really good team of employees who work at our company!
Which skills are a must have for a PostgreSQL developer/user?
Aside from technical skills, good communication skills are essential—both being able to express what you mean succinctly and accurately, as well as being able to really listen to what others are saying and make sense of it. This also means patience; so many people think they know what the other person is going to say, and they jump in and cut off the other person before they’ve finished speaking. You miss the opportunity to understand the thought process behind the discussion when this happens, and so you lose a lot of possibilities and new ideas.
Having a good imagination is also helpful, whether being able to look at an unexpected behavior or strange result and puzzle out what might be causing it, or coming up with a new way to solve an old problem, or create a new feature.
Which PostgreSQL conferences do you visit? Do you submit talks?
Conferences are great, and I miss them so much during this period of no travel. My usual schedule is FOSDEM, SCaLE, Nordic PG Day, pgDay Paris, PgCon Ottawa, PgOpen, then PgEU to round out the year. I would love to go to conferences I haven’t attended yet, particularly Japan and Russia. And I have ideas for starting conferences in so many places, because then I would get to visit those places! I’ve also attended several non-Postgres conferences as part of a Postgres presence: various editions of EuroPython (two years in Florence, Italy—my favorite city in the world), PyCon US (how could you say “no” to going to Montreal? or Portland?), PyCon Argentina, PyCon/DjangoCon Australia, DjangoConUS, and DjangoCon EU.
Since I’m not a technologist, I haven’t submitted any talks. Now that events are broadening their tracks to include community-oriented topics, I have a few ideas I’m working on. I do work as conference staff, usually at the registration desk, which I enjoy. It’s ideal for meeting people, and when it’s not busy, there’s time to catch up with other attendees and to do embroidery.
Do you think Postgres has a high entry barrier?
In terms of technical skill, probably not — I’ve watched our interns (yes, they are paid) download and use it for the first time, and seen how quickly they are able to progress with it. It could be that our interns are exceptionally bright (I think they are, but I might be a tiny bit biased), but I think it’s also because Postgres can be learned without a lot of pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth.
As for personal and community involvement, not at all. My first event was PgCon Ottawa in 2010, and everyone was quite welcoming. I ended up volunteering to help with swag bag prep and registration, which was a good introduction to quite literally everyone there. I appreciated that everyone I spoke to assumed I worked with Postgres in a technical role, rather than categorizing me as “probably an admin assistant” because I’m female. That was the first time that had happened in a technical setting, and it made a huge difference in my interest in becoming involved with the community.
What is your advice for people who want to start PostgreSQL developing - as in, contributing to the project. Where and how should they start?
Join the mailing lists, read the posts, and observe how the process works. Check out the list of things that need attention, pick one, and experiment on your own to see what ideas you come up with. You’ll realize that you’re able to contribute to the discussion in ways you hadn’t expected, and you’ll find the place you fit.
Do you think PostgreSQL will be here for many years in the future?
Yes! It’s progressed so much over the years, and each year, it becomes more widely used.
Would you recommend Postgres for business, or for side projects?
Both. We have clients who migrate to Postgres from some other kind of database, and they’re always so happy to find it just works. That also makes it good for side projects. I’ve often wished for the time to really sit down and learn it, so I could create a database of everything in my life, and have every bit of information I will ever need in one place.
Are you reading the -hackers mailinglist? Any other list?
I keep tabs on general and community lists:
- -advocacy, so I can find out about opportunities to participate/promote.
- -announce and -general, so I have some idea of what’s going on with the project as a whole.
- -jobs, as it’s interesting to see who is hiring.
- -postgreswomen, to help promote the Postgres Women groups and their activities.
What other places do you hang out?
I find chat too distracting to keep it open while working, so I don’t hang out on a channel unless there’s a specifically designated event, such as the Postgres Friends hangout.
Which other Open Source projects are you involved or interested in?
I co-founded the Django Events Foundation North America (DEFNA) with Jeff Triplett and Craig Bruce, as a nonprofit associated with the Django Software Foundation, and served on the Board as Corporate Secretary for three years. I was a principal organizer of DjangoConUS for those three years as well.
I also served as Treasurer of the Django Software Foundation for a year while starting DEFNA. I’m no longer actively running any Django events, but continue to enjoy good relationships with the many friends I made during that time. There’s a certain amount of overlap between the Django and Postgres communities—I first met Jonathan Katz at a Django event!—and so it’s easy to be involved in both, if you have the time.
Anything else you like to add?
I’m enjoying reading these interviews each week! It’s like having 15 minutes to sit down with the person and have a conversation with them. Our community is filled with fascinating people!