Leah Belin is a C# Developer at Homesnap. Leah’s been with Homesnap since September 2018.
Tell us about your career. How did you get into development?
I started out as a music teacher. I was teaching music all over Montgomery County and then I went on maternity leave, and all of my schools got shuffled around. When I got back, I was only working a day and a half a week. So, that was the perfect opportunity to go back and get some more education.
I decided to get a computer science degree.
Programming is something that’s always interested me. My father was a programmer, I grew up reading all of his C books and Basic and all that. It was something that I was always wanting to do but just never had time.
How long have you been doing development as your primary job?
My daughter is 8 years old so — 8 years! When she was first born, I was working for a video game company. I didn’t have my degree yet, so they really went out on a limb because I didn’t know anything. So they told me, “Go get a book on XML and learn how to do XML, and we’ll start you there.”
So I worked with them for two years while I was getting the degree, and taught music for a day and a half. When my daughter was old enough to go preschool at age 2, I was like — okay, I’m going to go back full time and work at an office.
Not that I didn’t like the video game development, but it was a very different kind of world. It was really good experience — the kind of programming experience you don’t usually get during college — but I got out of it because there were crazy hours and it was really stressful. So, from there I went into financial.
That financial company eventually closed down, so I ended up working with law tech in DC for a little bit.
That was really fun, and that was the cleanest code I’ve ever seen in my life. They had thousands and thousands of unit tests and it was really mature software with incredibly intelligent people — people who would fit in really well here.
After that, I worked in government contracting for a few years, and shortly before the contract was set to end, I was contacted by Homesnap. It was perfect timing, and here I am!
What’s your proudest moment at Homesnap so far?
Making Ted [Lubin, Director of Acquisition Marketing] and Bryan [McRae, Growth Marketing Analyst] happy! I love that they love the additional functionality I’ve added to the Adwords template.
It’s nice to feel useful — I feel like I’m adding value.
In my last job for the federal government, I didn’t necessarily feel that way as much. This is an immediate, “Awesome! I’m so glad you did this!”
What three words would you use to describe Homesnap?
The first word I got from Tom [Goff, VP of Engineering] during my initial Homesnap interview, and it would be “cowboy.” It just sums up everything about Homesnap — it’s off the cuff, it’s really important work, but not as structured as something you’d get at a non-startup.
“Exciting” — I think our product is amazing and I love seeing the impact it’s having on real estate agents. That’s another thing I missed from the government sector — I can really see the impact here.
I think the third word would be “friendly” — it’s nice to come into a place where you get 15 people together for lunch every single day and there’s such good communication.
It creates the kind of camaraderie where you can just go to somebody if you’re having a problem and they know who you are, and I know what they are working on, and how everything fits together.
What are your top three life highlights?
Definitely having my kids.They’re lots of fun and my life definitely changed dramatically after having them. Secondly, I took a trip to Europe with one of my friends after college. It wasn’t quite backpacking, as we did stay in hostels, which was fun. We stayed overnight one night in Heathrow airport, too.
Three, I think probably writing my master’s thesis. That was one of the hardest pieces of research and writing that I’ve done. I can’t even tell you the amount of time I was in my advisor’s office crying! My thesis was on music teachers doing professional development with each other, and how music camp is just as good for teachers as it is for students because the teachers learn so much from each other.
In the end, it was much more a mini-dissertation, but that theme has stayed with me.
I really believe in peers teaching each other more than calling in outside sources. That’s why I love the tech meetup scene, because it’s just programmers.
What’s the most important innovation you’ve seen in your lifetime?
I would have to say the Internet. I know it was there before I was born, but no one had the Internet in their house. And when I was growing up, everyone had dial-up. You couldn’t even use the phone if someone was using the Internet. And now the Internet is everywhere — you can read a book that’s coming from your phone.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you cast as yourself?
Sandra Bullock or Andie MacDowell — I like her a lot and she is very undersung.
If you could witness any historical event, what would you like to see?
I would like to go back in time and see Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers play when they had Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter, sometime in the 1960s. Art was a drummer and just had this knack for getting together incredible musicians. One of my favorite trumpet players, Lee Morgan, was one of them.
Let me bring this back to programming for one second — there is this programmer I really like called Bob Martin, he’s kind of the guru of clean code. And something he said that has really stuck with me and become a philosophy for everything is:
If you find somebody and you really like how they program, do everything you can to get behind their eyes and figure out how they’re doing, what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and go with it.
I feel like that’s how it is with musicians as well. If you like somebody’s sound, you listen to them over and over and over and start your sound there. In college, I wanted to sound like Lee Morgan. And at some point I had to find out who I was, but that was a good place to start.
And finally, the most important question: What’s your favorite snack in the Homesnap pantry?
I love those little teeny mandarins, they’re awesome. And those persimmons just make my day!