Umair Shahid

Tags:   postgresql    2ndquadrant    coc    pakistan    postgres-meetup   
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 Pakistan, born & raised in Islamabad. I am married with 2 kids - a 13 year old boy and a 10 year old girl. Neither of them have any interest in PostgreSQL or in computers!

I got my hands on a computer for the very first time when I started my degree in computer systems. Interestingly enough, the one course that I just couldn’t get a handle on and disliked the most was the course on Databases.

I like to read, with a focus on non-fiction - specifically biographies and history. I love rock music and I grew up a big Guns N Roses fan. I volunteer some time supporting and mentoring local entrepreneurs.

Umair Shahid

Umair Shahid

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


When did you start using PostgreSQL, and why?

I first started using PostgreSQL in 2004, when I was tasked to help a developer write a simple Java ETL program to transfer data from Oracle to PostgreSQL. I eventually ended up taking over the project and it became a migration toolkit to move data from Oracle.

Do you remember which version of PostgreSQL you started with?

I believe it was 7.4.

Yes, I went to GIK Institute where I got my engineering degree in Computer Systems. I had shied away from databases during the course, but it did help me orient my thought process with computer programming and logic design, setting up a nice foundation for a career in technology including my current job.

What other databases are you using? Which one is your favorite?

I use MySQL for small projects like website development. I think the LAMP stack is a nice integration for such projects.

My current involvement with PostgreSQL focuses more on business and bringing products to market. I am involved in BDR and other products for Cloud and Cloud Native PostgreSQL deployments.

Any contributions to PostgreSQL which do not involve writing code?

  • Member PostgreSQL CoC committee
  • Member PgUS User Group committee
  • Member organizing team PostgresLondon
  • Member organizing team PGConf APAC
  • Member talk selection committee PG Down Under
  • Run the Islamabad PUG
  • Run the Dubai PUG

What is your favorite PostgreSQL extension?

BDR. I think it has cutting edge features to solve real world problems for mission critical databases, enabling PostgreSQL adoption more widely in large enterprises.

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

‘Annoying’ is a strong word - I can’t think of anything that qualifies :-)

I will say though, that compared to the rich feature set PostgreSQL has to offer, its adoption is far less than it ought to be. This may have to do with the fact that the project isn’t run by a commercial organization and the focus on advocacy and commercial adoption isn’t the top priority.

I think this is an easy problem to fix. What’s trickier is getting the collective will to fix it. I would like to see PostgreSQL’s market share to be more than any other DBMS.

What is the feature you like most in the latest PostgreSQL version?

I think Generated Columns is a very cool feature introduced in PostgreSQL 12. It opens up a whole range of new use cases for OLAP and data warehousing styled application development - an area that PostgreSQL hasn’t traditionally been famous for.

Adding to that, what feature/mechanism would you like to see in PostgreSQL? And why?

Developers are ok with a command line interface to play with a database, but DBAs generally look for tools to manage and monitor the database they are responsible for. As database clusters become increasingly complex, it becomes harder and then impossible to manage them without visual aids. A strong community based (a.k.a. not controlled by a single company) management and monitoring tool will make it much easier for DBAs to play around and get comfortable with PostgreSQL.

Could you describe your PostgreSQL development (for non developers - just the set of tools you like to use for working with PostgreSQL) toolbox (IDE, editor, compiler, other tools)?

I am not an active developer, but when I do code, I usually use vim and gcc.

Which skills are a must have for a PostgreSQL developer/user?

I think the barrier to entry for PostgreSQL is quite low and some basic computer/software knowledge will get you running quite quickly. Comfort with using the command line is probably a must in order to kick things off with PostgreSQL - both as a user or a developer.

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

I don’t make a routine out of going to specific conferences, but I do try to attend 2-3 events each year. Even for the events I can’t attend myself, I am generally involved in the backend either as part of the organizing team, or supporting the organizing team in some way. For example, I have never been to PGDU, but PGDU was kicked off as a result of a dinner table conversation at PGConf APAC that I had with a couple of attendees from Australia.

Do you think Postgres has a high entry barrier?

Not at all.

As a user, installing and starting to use PostgreSQL for the very first time is far easier than other presumably more popular DBMSs. As a contributor, the community is very open and accepting to new people & ideas and there is a lot of content guiding people on how to start off.

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

PostgreSQL is a big project and there is always room for additional help in many different domains. You don’t have to be a star developer and a code contributor, you can help in other ways. User experience, event management, website maintenance, advocacy … don’t feel intimidated, start small, ask questions, and build on your expertise.

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

I have no reason to believe otherwise!

Would you recommend Postgres for business, or for side projects?

PostgreSQL is as ‘enterprise ready’ as it gets. It’s not a mere hobby (though you can still have it as a hobby), it’s serious business that’s running in serious mission critical applications. So yes, I would highly recommend PostgreSQL for business.

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

I try to keep myself up to date on -announce and -advocacy.