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Speaker photo for Karen Jex

Interview with Karen Jex


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Could you briefly introduce yourself?

I’m a Solutions Architect at Crunchy Data. I was an Oracle DBA for around 20 years before I discovered PostgreSQL but I’ve worked uniquely with Postgres databases for several years now and I can’t imagine moving away from it.

I’m originally from the UK but have lived in France (more specifically the French Alps) for almost 18 years and I definitely consider it home. I get out and enjoy the mountains by road cycling and mountain biking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

How do you engage with the PostgreSQL Community?

Mainly by attending and speaking at PostgreSQL Community conferences in Europe and offering to lend a hand where I can. I like to keep track of the PostgreSQL mailing lists and Slack channel but I’m pretty quiet on them.

Have you enjoyed previous PostgreSQL Europe conferences, either as an attendee or as a speaker? (PGConf.EU, FOSDEM PGDay, Nordic PGDay, pgDay Paris, PGConf.DE)

I love attending the PostgreSQL Europe conferences. They’re a fantastic way to meet and keep in touch with the Postgres community, and the talks are a great way to learn new things about Postgres and hear how other people are using it.

I submit talks to as many as possible, partly because I love to share what I’ve learnt, and partly because I’ve found that creating a talk about something is one of the best ways to make sure I understand it myself.

What will your talk be about, exactly? Why this topic?

I will be talking about the challenges involved in extracting and analysing data from Open Data sources, and the ways in which we might be able to automate the process of converting semi-structured files (for example human-readable spreadsheets) into relational tables.

I’m doing a part-time PhD in Computer Science with the title “Unlocking Open Data through Wrapper Generation”. The talk gives me a chance to discuss the goals and challenges of the research, and the ways in which it might interact with PostgreSQL.

What is the audience for your talk?

The talk is aimed at everyone really, but especially anyone who has an interest in getting value from Open Data.

What existing knowledge should the attendee have?

No existing knowledge is needed—I explain everything from the beginning.

What is the one feature in PostgreSQL 15 which you like most?

I think the MERGE command is great because it should make a lot of developers happy!

Which other talk at this year’s conference would you like to see?

That’s a really tough question because the whole program looks fantastic so it’s hard to choose. I’ve narrowed it down to three, in no particular order:

  • Postgres community panel: Upgradability with Andreas Scherbaum and Jimmy Angelakos, because demystifying the process of upgrading Postgres can only be a good thing.
  • Hans-Jürgen Schönig’s Introducing Advanced SQL where I’m hoping to pick up some tips to improve my queries
  • Bruce Momjian’s MVCC Unmasked because MVCC is fundamental to the way Postgres works so it’s important to understand it
Which measure, action, feature or activity would—in your eyes—help to accelerate the adoption of PostgreSQL?

Something that seems to be a common comment is that there’s a high entry barrier to PostgreSQL, so I think finding ways to make it easier for people to get started with PostgreSQL is important. The team at Crunchy Data has been working on that, and one of the things they’ve come up with is the Postgres Playground; PostgreSQL running in your browser and a set of simple tutorials to try out against it.