Tag Archives: human factor

Postgres DEI Work Group

Last Friday, I participated in the first conference call of the DEI Work Group of PostgresConf. And if you are wondering what DEI means, it means Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion.

The whole conversation started at the PostgresConf  2019 in New York. There we had a diversity panel on the last day of the conference. I was mildly unhappy with both low attendance and somewhat too universal coverage of the issues of diversity. I think that the striking lack of diversity in the Postgres community is a bigger problem than in IT in general, and was expecting a more in-depth conversation.

And then a usual exchange happened. I am a person of action, and I can’t complain about anything without proposing a solution (even when nobody asks for one!). But this time I was actually asked whether I will be interested in doing something to improve the situation, and granted, I said Yes!

Now all the things I finally coming together. Details are available at the PostgresConf web site in the July Newsletter.

I am really looking forward to working on improving the situation, because – guess what?  – I have some ideas! And all my friends and colleagues, current and former, know that if I believe something should be done – it will be done 🙂

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Deep Work – the book review

A couple of months ago, when I was super-stressed about not being able to do any work at work, my daughter has recommended me to read a book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

There were several interesting ideas which I liked, and several helpful techniques which came just in time for me to complete a couple of tasks, which required to be 100% focused on them. The idea that you need to isolate yourself from distractions to be able to accomplish a serious task is trivial, but hard to follow :). When starting those “deep sessions” for the first time, I’ve realized that I’ve been doing a similar thing long time ago, when I was a single working mother with two small children and another in grade school, and in order to be competitive I had to squeeze the eight hours worth of work into four hours. I forgot since then :), but now, when reading this book, I am completely agreeing with the author that people rarely work productively for 8 hours straight, and that the bulk of productivity can be compressed into 4 hours. So – yes, I am very happy to be reminded how exactly this works.

What I did not like was a general assumption, that everything you are doing in life should be evaluated from the standpoint of whether it helps you to achieve your main goal or not. If this sounds too abstract, I can give a very specific examples. The author states that basically all social networks are evil :), and there is no justification of using them, if you have some important goals in your life. Except of if this goal is to become popular on the internet :))

My take on this topic is that yes, sometimes you need to limit your participation in the social networks, because if you react at each and single “like”, you will accomplish nothing. I usually do NOT reply to Livejournal comments when I am in the office or working on something important from home (not because somebody is watching me, but because it is indeed distracting :)), but I will definitely allocate at least an hour a day to these activities, because there are many people with whom I interact exclusively on the social media (mostly for geographical reasons). And it is not about being or not being popular, it’s about not giving away some parts of me, which are important. It’s like no matter how busy I am, I will volunteer for The Night Ministry at least twice a month. My Big Goals are definitely important, but it is equally important to be a person I am 🙂

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How to deal with “First you write, then you optimize”

Recently I’ve made yet another attempt to optimize several quite inefficient report, which had been out there for so long, that nobody remembers, who have written them, and who have speced them out. I did not finish this task, even with the help of my team we just didn’t have enough time to spare on improving something, which “works”. And when I was thinking about it over the weekend, I thought that different people may have different definition of “works”, when it comes to SQL writing.

I always say – it’s easier to write the code correctly on the first place, that to optimize reports which are written inefficiently, but way too often I am getting a response from the stakeholders – we need it now, you can optimize it later. And then later never comes.

This is so obvious, that I would not spend time writing about this yet another 101th time. However this time my thoughts have taken a different path. I thought about why I was unable to finish this optimization, why I didn’t have enough time. The reason was, that something else which I was writing have taken way more time than I originally planned. And the reason why it took so long is that I find myself unable to write, even as a first draft, the code which I know for sure is suboptimal. No matter how many people will tell me that “it does not have to be perfect”. And then – yes, it takes longer.

Now I think that when I teach an optimization class, and when I am showing to my audience some cool technique, my thought process is that everybody should realize how much better this technique is, and than use “that and only that” approach, because how-else-this-is-so-obviously-better. And as for my audience, people think – ok. It’s cool. Good to know. And do not change there code -writing habits…

Once again, I might have been just ignorant, and may be everybody knew it all along, but it was a revelation for me: if I want to teach people good coding habits, if I really want to avoid this situation “first write, then optimize”, not only that I need to show people how to write a coode code. And not only I need to show how not to write. But I also need to teach zero-tolerance to the bad coding. So that people’s minds won’t even wander in this direction:). If it is not written the right way, it is not done.

I am pretty sure nobody would like this idea, but can I at least have a dream :)?

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What makes a manager awesome?

Recently I  was asked to submit my “Motivational inventory”. Among other questions there was one which made me think for a while: if I think about the best manager I ever had, what would make him(her) awesome? Here is what I’ve replied.

I was lucky to have several awesome managers,  and I can’t really rank them.  But there was definitely one thing in common for all of them- they were supportive.

They would trust my technical skills and would let me to do things “my way”, even when it was not “like people normally do”.

They would have patience to wait till I reach the desired results, even when I myself didn’t have patience .

They would help to resolve the conflicts between team members, and would make sure there is no bitterness left. It would often require multiple phone conversations, and sometimes felt like marriage counseling :).

They would recognize my achievements and make them visible to the upper management and clients. And they would support and motivate me at the moments when I would feel I am a looser and nothing works.

***

I think that being supportive is the most important role of any manager. Trust, openness, recognition of employees achievements – all of these things can be viewed like forms of support.

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There is nothing more permanent than temporal solutions!

I like this saying, because it always reminds me about the danger of doing something “just for now”, and I often cite it to my coworkers when I argue for a better, more stable solution. However, sometimes I would revert to these kind of tactics myself, and then…

Yesterday one of our external service providers was  moving our data to another server, and as a result I had to recreate the foreign servers associated with it, and cascade-recreate all the foreign  tables. I’d say I am reasonably organized, all all my data definitions are stored in a github repository. So that in the event like yesterday I just need to rerun a DDL script.

Which I did. And a half an  hour later I’ve started one of my daily jobs, which sometime crashes, that’s why I am always keeping a closer look on it. It crashed that time as well, but for an unexpected reason – one of the foreign tables used could not find it’s source… The name didn’t look familiar to me, and it was definitely not created in the morning. I’ve searched the github with no luck, then searched the “suspicious”  directories on my computer. Finally, I’ve started the global search on my computer and iCloud. And I’ve found a missing definition! Guess, what was the name of the file it was stored in? – temp_fix. sql  

🙂

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The best things from 2017 and what I am looking forward to in 2018

When I am talking to people about the year 2017, and what was important, I would repeat over and over: everything I was striving for during my 30+ years of professional career had happened. All wishes have come true. Which would inevitably lead to the question: well, Hettie, what are you going to next then?

And there are plenty and plenty of things I want to do, but first I wanted to reflect on 2017 one more time. I’ve already listed multiple times all our technical accomplishments, all the wonderful things I was able to implement in a real production environment.  But when I look back at what was the best, it is definitely working with our new tech team. As I am reiterating over and over again, “the database is a service”, and whatever we are doing inside the database, can only make any impact, if our results can be utilized by “somebody” – by our end users.

And most of the time our end users are  application developers.  I can’t imagine any serious database development without continuous interaction with the rest of the development team. For years my “golden standard” for the teamwork has been my work for New York Department of Education, where I had a full support of the tech leadership, which helped me to defend my approaches and produce the results I am still happy about.

But what has being going on in the past several months is even better. The way we discuss the user stories. The way we make decisions on what should go into the application, and what – into the database. The way we debug. The way we discuss, what is critical, and what’s not. The willingness of each of the team members “to go extra mile”, to adjust in order to make others job easier. Basically, whatever I could imagine for the teamwork being perfect, is there. 🙂

Being in this industry for 34 years, I know that nothing lasts forever:). I know that every tea,, every organization evolve, and that nothing is granted forever. But I also learned to be thankful for what’s going on right now, and enjoy the moment.

Looking forward to 2018 – I hope that our team will continue to be the most amazing team ever. I am looking forward for the stress -test of our new applications with high data volumes. After all, I was designing the data storage and data access to be super-scalable, and I hope that it will work this way.

I am looking  forward to use the performance data we’ll obtain to improve our bitemporal library, and I already have some ideas of what I exactly I want to do. Actually, I have new technical ideas on almost everything I’ve developed through the last year. I still didn’t get notifications on whether any of the papers I’ve submitted for the next year conferences were accepted,  but I know that both are very good papers :), so even if none will get accepted… I will try for another conference!

 

 

 

 

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ACT-W Conference: Dr. Helen Sun keynote

Dr. Sun keynote was definitely the best thing out of the whole conference! The talk was called “My Personal Journey and Transformation Story”. To be honest ], my first reaction when I heard about switching career from the English professor to the information technology was rather skeptical, but the more I listened to the talk the more I started to realize how close is it to what I believe in, and what I consider the most important things in life and professional career. I find it very true what Dr. Sun said about the leadership. She cites the quote from Bob Gates that “Leadership is when people choose to follow
you, even if there’s no consequences of not doing so”.

But the most interesting thing happened at the very end of the talk. Dr. Sun said: if somebody will be talking to you about work-life balance, do not believe them. There is no such a thing as a work life balance. It can only be a work-life integration!

And that was the word! For many years, when I was telling people my personal story, and when I was telling young women seeking a career in IT: you do not have to choose between work and family, you can have them both if you set up your mind accordingly. But the word “integration” never crossed my mind and yet it describes perfectly how I feel about this subject.

And then Dr. Sun continued, talking about how she always would make a point to talk to her son on Skype every day when she was away on business trips, and about tons of other things that she did. and most of them would be exactly what I did. And what she said about her son not being upset, that she often could attend his events, and that he was proud of her, and how she gave him a positive example – I could say it about my kids, word to word.

So when she was finished, I raised my hand for a question, and told her how much I’ve enjoyed her presentation, and thanked her for giving me that word – work-life integration, and told her how my life journey resembled her’s.

And I think she was really glad to hear that 🙂

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