Interview with Leah Culver from Dropbox

Leah Culver is a product engineer at Dropbox. She co-founded Pownce – a micro-blogging site which was acquired by Six Apart and Convore – a social real-time chat site.  She was named among the most influential women in web 2.0 by Fast Company Magazine in November 2008.

Hi Leah, tell us a bit about what drew you to get into programming in the first place.

I started building my first webpages in the 90s when I was a teenager and loved being able to make things for the web. I took a few college classes in programming and ended up switching my major to Computer Science (from Art).

Do you have a favorite programming language? what makes that language your favorite?

Swift is my favorite programming language right now. I think it’s well-written and nicely tailored to iOS and UI work. One of my favorite features is extensions (called categories in Obj-C), which allow you to overload classes, including Apple’s built-in libraries such as Date and String. I also really like using the guard statement to check that variables are non-null before proceeding. Super useful!

What characteristics do you think a good programmer should have?

I think being curious, creative, hard-working, and patient are all good qualities for programming. It’s helpful to be curious about new technologies and creative in solving problems. Hard work and patience are crucial when debugging or laying the architectural foundation for new features.

Tell us a bit about you first venture with Pownce, the micro blogging social network, what do you think caused the company to shut down eventually?

I founded Pownce in 2007 with two other co-founders for the purpose of sharing thoughts, photos, events, and more with friends. The product struggled to gain the traction necessary to raise more investment and struggled to compete with other social networks. It was acquired in 2009 by Six Apart who made the decision to shut down the product. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work on such an interesting product with great co-founders, even though it wasn’t successful in the end.


Leah Culver

After Pownce you co-founded Convore, which was a a real-time chat web application, tell a us a bit about the product and your Y-combinator experience.

Convore was intended to be a social real-time forum/chat site where you could discuss topics with friends. From a product standpoint, it was probably a bit too ambitious and overly complicated. We participated in Y Combinator in the Winter 2011 batch and had a great experience. Everyone says the best part of YC is the network, and that’s completely true. It’s an incredibly valuable resource for startups.


Leah Culver

Tell us a bit about your current work at dropbox, what are you working on right now?

I currently work at Dropbox on the Engineering Product and Design Operations team, which focuses on improving internal processes and increasing the productivity and connectivity of our EPD teams. Specifically, I work on an internal platform for building applications for Dropbox employees. The platform supports over 20 internal apps such as our internal company directory, our lunch menus, maps, and mentorship tools.

You have a lot of experience building products as a co-founder in a small startup. What is the most important advice you can give programmers that are doing it for the first time.

Don’t fight with your co-founders. Seriously, co-founder disagreement is a huge stressor in early stage startups. It’s important to remember that you’re all passionate about the company and can hopefully work towards the same goals.

You have achieved a lot in your career especially considering your young age, what’s you secret?

Saying “yes”. I try to be open to new opportunities, show up to events, and try my best to learn and grow. I also put in a lot of work into my projects and am always happier when I’ve spent the time to learn and work on what I care about.

Most importantly, how is you running career going?

My main goal is to keep running and I’ve been running nearly every day for the past four years. We’ll see if I can keep it up.

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