FRED is a world-renown aggregator of economic data, housing more than 788,000 data series from more than 100 sources. Yet like any other powerful database, FRED needs a team of people to collect and organize that data. Among those are FRED Manager Yvetta Fortova and FRED Data Engineer Maria Arias.
“We see a lot of usage of our product by instructors and students, financial professionals, researchers, journalists and bloggers, or everyday users who just like to get on the internet and find the latest value for unemployment rate, for example,” Fortova said.
In a Women in Economics Podcast Series episode, Fortova and Arias spoke about working with FRED and its family of products, such as mapping tool GeoFRED, and how they got involved in the field of economics. (The episode includes a transcript of the interview.)
As a data engineer, Arias’ job is to develop and maintain the pipeline that updates data and meta data in FRED.
“The way FRED works is we go out to the source’s website and collect the data that they have updated,” she said. “We have to process it and then load it onto our database so it can show up on the FRED website, and I'm in the team that develops that entire pipeline as well.”
Both women are immigrants, Fortova from the Czech Republic and Arias from Costa Rica. They observed that women seem to have better career prospects in the U.S. than in their countries of origin. Arias’ mother had a career in finance, however, and so from a young age Arias was exposed to women working in finance and economics who served as role models.
“At the time I didn't think a lot about it, but looking back, I can definitely see that my perspective was that whether you were a man or a woman didn't really make such a strong difference to be able to have a strong career in economics or finance,” she added.