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From bytes to book: A database architect shares her journey

As a Database Architect at DRW, Hettie shares her expertise on PostgreSQL, crafting her dream role, and valuable lessons on work-life integration.

Tell me about your role at DRW.

I was fortunate enough to have the flexibility and support to create my dream role. As a Database Architect, I advise the Database Engineering Team on best practices of using PostgreSQL databases and develop utilities that help the team manage PostgreSQL instances, choose the appropriate parameter settings, and maintain data access control. In addition, I advise different trading desks on database design and application architecture and help them optimize their database queries.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy everything about DRW! I work with some of the smartest people in the field. Being able to work with internal clients on the diverse applications of PostgreSQL allows me to witness the influence of my counsel firsthand.

I am also grateful that DRW sponsors our Chicago PostgreSQL User Group meetups! Having the space to cultivate knowledge sharing among the Postgres community is important.

How did DRW support your endeavors to write a book?

In 2023, I worked on the second edition of my book, which was first written in 2020 and published in 2021. My work at DRW gave me plenty of opportunities to test my theories, see what works and what does not, and provides me with new challenges.

What advice do you have for women just starting their career in engineering?

There are a lot of misconceptions around what it takes to be a woman in IT. My advice would be to choose your own course. One of the worst myths is that "you can't have it all"! Having a family and raising children is not solely about time. I often had to skip my kid's school performances, games, and competitions, but they knew why I was skipping them. However, they also knew that at the end of the day, we would gather at the dinner table, and I would be ready to listen to their stories and learn about everything! Knowing what they are up to, what they are proud of, and what problems they are facing was important to me, and that's what counts. All my children are now adults, and some of them have children of their own. They tell me they learned the most valuable lessons about life, work, and work ethic by listening to my keystrokes when falling asleep.

Another piece of advice: know your value, and do not sell yourself short. At the beginning of my career, I knew I had to be twice as good as any man applying for the same job, and I thought that was normal. Now I know that no woman should live with the expectation that she will be "the last one to be considered for a job."

How do you manage potentially challenging workloads as part of your day to day job?

My LinkedIn profile says: "Optimizing everything, not just PostgreSQL," and that is who I am. I am a doer and a problem solver, optimizing everything in my life. I would like to emphasize that I am talking about optimizing life in general, not just your work, because one of my favorite quotes is, "There is no work-life balance; it's called work-life integration." It can be anything from listening to audiobooks while walking home from the train station to choosing the time to stay on hold while calling the doctor’s office. For work specifically, I have a running list for each of the projects or customers I work with, and for each, I have a "what's next" note. This helps me prioritize my work. And, when it comes to this "balance", there is sometimes no work around the long work hours, but optimizing my approach to the work is key.