Fog Creek – Interview with Leah Culver

In, we chat with developers about their passion for programming: how they got into it, what they like to work on and how.

Today’s guest is Leah Culver, Developer Advocate at Dropbox. Leah is an iOS and Python developer, who previously co-founded Pownce, Convore, and Grove. She also co-authored the OAuth and OEmbed open API specifications. Leah writes about open source, APIs, and Django on her blog.

Leah Culver
Location: San Francisco, US
Current Role: Developer Advocate at Dropbox

How did you get into software development?

My family got our first computer, an Apple II, when I was in second grade and my first personal computer was an iMac that I got for my 18th birthday. It was so expensive that it was both my birthday and Christmas gift from my parents!

I started making websites when I was in high school with very simple HTML and free hosting sites like Angelfire and GeoCities. Later, in college, I took a class on JavaScript, fell in love with programming, and majored in Computer Science. It’s very funny to me that JavaScript is cool now.


Tell us a little about your current role

My current job is pretty wild and fun. I’m doing different things every day. I write API documentation, blog posts for our developer blog, and give talks about the Dropbox APIs. I also help organize meetups and sponsor hackathons. As for coding, I make sample apps for the Dropbox APIs and in my free time I work on Dropbox’s internal company directory.

Last week was our team’s Hack Week at Dropbox. During Hack Week, Dropbox employees can hack on anything they like. My team hacked together a new feature for our Dropbox for Business administrator console, which was something I had never worked on before. It was a challenge to work my way through Dropbox’s enormous codebase to find what I needed. I ended up emailing our Dropbox for Business team who helped point me in the right direction. Everyone at Dropbox is really helpful and friendly! The hack turned out really well too. Phew!

When are you at your happiest whilst coding?

I like to plan ahead. I’m happiest when I have a solid plan and I’m working towards completion.

What is your dev environment?

At work, I have a Mac Book Air and a nice large Apple monitor. I keep a separate Mac Book Air at home and it’s really nice not to have to carry a computer back and forth.

I use XCode for all my iOS development and Atom for everything else. I don’t use any special plugins though. I’m pretty boring. I like a simple text editor and a command line.

I can’t live without 1Password and Dropbox for storing all my passwords and files. Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t carry around my computer so I rely on cloud services to keep everything in sync for me. As for desktop apps, I regularly use Adium for chat and the Tower git client because I appreciate visual diffs. On my iPhone, I’m obsessed with trying new apps. I regularly use Mailbox, Sunrise, and Clear to keep my life organized. I track my physical activity with Moves and Nike+ and do photo stuff on Instagram and Carousel.

I drink a lot of diet soda and eat a lot of junk food while coding. Lately, I’ve been working from home on some personal projects and have been watching music videos on Vevo on my Apple TV.

What are your favorite books/resources about development?

I regularly read NSHipster and check out Hacker News. I’m subscribed to the email digest for Product Hunt, GitHub Explore, and Nuzzel to keep an eye out for cool new tech.

What technologies are you currently trying out?

I will be the first in line to buy an Apple Watch. I love small things. I haven’t bought the latest iPhone yet (too big!) but can’t wait for the watch.

When not coding, what do you like to do?

My hobby is running (well, really, jogging) which is nice because it gets me outdoors and away from my desk.

What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself starting out in development?

“Just copy and paste the error message into Google.”


Thanks to Leah for taking the time to speak with us. Have someone you’d like to be a guest? Let us know @FogCreek.

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