Guess What…

You would expect me to write that post in my professional blog. I didn’t want to do this, because I am at the very beginning of that new journey, and it is not even officially started yet. And what if I fail?!
But here, I am going to share with a small group of friends.

Last week, I signed a contract for a book, and it does not feel real. When somebody approached me and asked whether I thought about writing a book about Postgres performance, I felt that this might be a scam. You know, how they would tell you: pay us 10,000 dollars, and then…

So I was not even sure whether it is real and asked to reach out in April (the conversation happened in February). But it ended up being very real! I asked Boris whether he wants to collaborate because our work on performance is inseparable. He asked whether Anna would join us so that our work would sound more English than otherwise. To my surprise, she agreed.

Then, there was a lot of backs and forths; we worked on the proposal and the tentative book outline and schedule, and then, all of a sudden, everything started to look good, and we received the final proposal text, and everybody signed it, and … now we have to write that book!

I am excited and scared, and I won’t be talking about that until we make some progress, but I am going to be very busy in the next seven months!

A Moment of Real Happiness

Tonight, I presented my NORM talk at a PG Conf webinar. That was the second time I gave it after the SOFSEM conference in January. Two weeks ago, I used it to reopen Chicago PUG online, and I felt that the presentation went horrible. Other people were saying I did great, but I didn’t feel that way. It was challenging to present without hearing and seeing the immediate reaction of the audience. Besides, I faced some technical difficulties.

That time, I practiced in zoom the day before to make sure I almost know it by heart, including all the jokes, and it went really well. Even though I haven’t heard the audience, I could feel that people are engaged. The questions in the zoom chat started to appear while I was talking, and there were lots of them!

Also, I am so glad I put together a GitHub repo with a working example! I hope that this will open a new chapter in the life of the NORM framework.

I felt great after my presentation was over. It was probably as close to the atmosphere of the real conference as it could get:)

Taking Time off Work to do Work

Boris and I are trying to do several research projects together, and doing this is the best thing to preserve our togetherness when we are physically apart for an extended time. As much as I wanted to do all these things (one was his idea, and two others are mine), I was finding it challenging to squizz this extra work in. I do not know who is bored during quarantine, or who does not know what to do with their time, but it’s not me :). Each weekend I was thinking – I need an extra day! And then I thought – but I have some! Indeed, I checked my PTO balance and found that I have more than five weeks off this year. Yes, I hope to be able to use them to help Anna later in the year, but for the time being, traveling is not an option anyway.

I took Friday off to do some of that work. Granted, there was also some “waste of time” built-in, but I also did substantial writing, and we spent about two hours discussing one of these projects on FaceTime.

I do not know why I didn’t think about taking time off before, but I am glad I did :). Most likely, I will do it again in a week, I feel like it’s a great way to stay sane. Or, and I did turn my slack and work email off for that day!

Online Activities

There have been a lot of online activities recently, so many that sometimes I have to choose which one to attend – almost like in the previous life. 

Yoga. After I started to take yoga classes with my old teacher, I found out that LifeStart – the fitness franchise we have in our office building – is streaming a lot of free classes including yoga with my second-favorite instructor, and they are all free. I signed up for the first one on Wednesday, and it was great. Now I signed for one more on Friday:). I will still keep the semi-private class with my old teacher on Mondays, and this way, my life will be yoga-complete!

ArtsWFMT Classical radio station always had a lot to offer, but now they started something new – Maestro’s Choice. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, WFMT and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have partnered to launch a new six-program broadcast series. Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has curated the programs. It runs every Tuesday from 8 PM to 10 PM. Last Tuesday, the first piece performed was Shostakovich Second Cello Concerto, Ricardo Muti conducting, Yo-Yo-Ma – cello solo. It was amazing, and the sound is so good – you feel like you are at the Orchestra Hall! I was doing some work and listening to music – something I used to do in the past, but haven’t done for a very long time!

Also, the Siskel Center started to stream some of their programs. I bought tickets for two movies so far. They are good for several days, so I might end up watching them, no matter how busy I am at work. 

Volunteering. Our volunteer coordinator in the Open Door Shelter reached out to the volunteers asking whether we will be interested in doing some online activities with the kids. I answered – YES! We are still in the process of planning, but meanwhile, I listened to the press conference with the Night Ministry representatives about the work they are doing right now, how the services were modified, what the challenges are, and how we can help. 

Professional Development. Surprisingly, professional online activities were less interesting than others, but I finally figured out zoom, purchased a professional subscription, and scheduled the April meetup of Chicago PUG online. Good for me 🙂

Other Things, Big and Small Happening Now

Let’s start with the big things. Our company had to cut business significantly. It’s all due to the nature of our business. It is quite understandable that none of our predictive models can work in the current economic situation, and we can’t operate. A significant percentage of our employees are sent home for two months. The rest got the pay cuts, with our CEO taking the biggest one. I understand all of these; those were survival measures. If they weren’t taken, we would lose our business entirely. That way, we should be able to survive. 

At the same time, all of us have to do more work because we need to rebuild our whole system, and this had to be done very fast. I work almost as I worked four years ago (and for almost the same pay :)), and this will last for a while. 

Another piece of news is that my eye doctor had to close her office. She arranged so that I could be seen for my last post-surgical appointment by my surgeon, but they do not do glasses or contacts. It is going to be interesting; I already called the Lenzcrafters, and they said they might be able to cut new lenses for me without me – if this doctor will fax them the new prescription. Hopefully, if not immediately, but within a week or two, this will be resolved. I am not sure when I will be able to get the contacts, because all the eye doctors strongly advise against wearing contacts during the pandemic. I know that that particular doctor was against me wearing contacts anyway, but if not, I will have to wear two pairs of glasses when I drive, and I do not like this idea. We will see on Tuesday. 

Continue reading “Other Things, Big and Small Happening Now”

Conference: Day Three Keynotes

On day three, we had two keynotes: one in the morning, and one after lunch, and after the second one we had a social program (a tour and a dinner)

The first keynote presented by Gunnar Klau was called “Haplotype phasing or deciphering the scrolls from the four schools of Amathus”. And if you can’t figure out what it was about, I will give you a clue: there was a Biology track at the conference, dedicated to biological and genetic applications: Algorithmic Computational Biology, and this keynote was a part of that track. Hopefully you can see from the photos below how the ancient recipe reconstruction is related to understanding the genome.

The second keynote was by Mikolaj Bojanczyk and it was called “Polyregular functions.” This one was pure programming, but I could not help myself but asking why people are so obsessed with Haskell language 🙂

After that second keynote, there were no more sessions, and the social program started.

***

Yesterday, one of my direct reports put a resignation notice, and I am upset – you can’t even imagine how. He is leaving for personal reasons, nothing against the company or me. But I am more upset than I thought I would be because I just got one more person on the team, and just onboarded him. With holidays in between, I only had about a week of normal life. Only for about a week, I felt like I have all the team members on place, and it will be normal work, not overworking.
Now we are back again to the job posting, interviewing, possibly waiting for visa transfer, onboarding, and God knows what else. And meanwhile, all of us have more work to do. Three years and nine months of working understaffed.

Be Careful What You Wish for…

 In the course of the past couple of weeks, several things have happened in my professional life. Although I am trying to separate my professional blogging and my personal one, sometimes they are very deeply intervened. 

First thing: I had a great meetup of the Chicago PostgreSQL User group. It was not easy to organize three speakers, and I am very happy I did. Also, with a tremendous amount of help from my fellow co-organizer, we secured two great speakers for our November PUG. I can’t even believe that I got these speakers:). And now, I need to plan their entertainment in Chicago, manage attendees, etc. Leading a User Group takes a lot of effort and time, although it might look like it is “just finding a speaker once a month.”

Second thing. The last paper I got accepted for the real CS conference was in 2016 (the actual acceptance was at the end of 2015). Since then, I tried to submit my work several times, and each time it got rejected. At the end of August, Boris and I submitted a paper to yet another conference, and finally, it got accepted! For me, it was like breaking the curse:). For those who are interested in my professional updates, I will post more in the World of Data. For this blog, the important thing is that it was accepted as a short paper, so by October 28, we need to make it 1/4 shorter. Considering that we already made it almost half shorter from its original size, that task is virtually impossible to complete. Boris suggests we just remove three random pages or one section out of it:).

Third thing. Back in summer, I emailed the organizers of the 2Q PG Conf conference in Chicago a couple of my suggestions of what I would like to do for the conference. First, my training was accepted, and instead of 4 hours, which I planned, it was announced as a full-day training. Yes, Boris and I wanted to have “a good reason” to consolidate our 30 years of training :), but this is just a little bit more work on top of our regular jobs. Especially counting the fact that my talk with Chad about bitemporality was also accepted, and Boris’ talk on Postgres and Academia was accepted as well.

All that I wanted :). Except now, I am not sure how I can fit it all in my life. Oh, and also, I have an important deadline at work on October 28. And my team was recently assigned extra responsibilities, but we do not have an extra person yet. 

Chick Tech Chicago Meetup. RealTalk: Workplace Harassment

I attended this meetup in September, during this crazy week before I left for Helsinki. And although it has been a while, I still want to write about it. Interestingly, just before that, I completed a mandatory harassment training, so everything was pretty fresh. This was the first time I completed such training for managers, which gave me a new perspective.

The meetup agenda said:

In this discussion, we will be diving into a tough topic. Workplace harassment can be very difficult to handle and highly unexpected. We’ll learn from our speakers on real-life examples in which you can navigate situations and how to maintain your own communication through a very difficult situation.

Speakers:
Cassi Hansen, VP of People Operations at Nerdery
Debbie Pickus, Founder and CEO of Team Fireball Inc.
Laura Khalil, Executive Coach at Force of Badassery

I would describe this more like a panel because as you can see from this description, the speakers were the subject matter experts. Each of them had a lot to offer in terms of how to fight harassment at the workplace. We were going through many real-life examples, many of which sounded very much alike to the ones presented in my training.

One of the topics which came up was the question of how women, who are sexually harassed at work can find their allies, how they can stand for themselves when the source of harassment is somebody in the authoritative position.

My thoughts were going in a little bit different direction since the same training reminded me that there are many kinds of harassment, and one in particular, which bothers me a lot.

Then I decided to tell my story.


Once at one of my previous jobs, a co-worker stopped by and asked whether we could talk in private. When we were behind the closed doors, she procced with saying she is a messenger of other folks. Although I do not like characterizing people by their national origin, it is important for the story. She was a green card holder, and the other folks on behalf of whom she was speaking were from the same country of origin, but they were alien workers, holding the work visas.

She proceeded with the long list of complaints about their manager, who treated them poorly, was mean to them, was presenting their results as his own, and so on. Knowing the situation, I had no reason not to believe. But then my coworker said: they are afraid they will be fired and will have to leave the country. They are afraid to go to HR. And even if you will go and tell HR what’s going on, if HR calls on them, they will deny everything because they are afraid of retaliation. I asked – then what do you want me to do? She said: please go and talk to our director! Maybe he will be able to do something.

I knew that it would be impossible to do something without HR, but I went to my director anyways. His response was as I’ve expected: there is no way around HR.

This happened many years ago, but I still do not know what’s a good way to resolve such a situation. And when I shared this story with the meeup, nobody had a good answer…