Interviews: Robert L.

Company

This is the seventh post in the 2016 FastMail Advent Calendar. Stay tuned for another post tomorrow.


Since 2014, FastMail's native options have included both webmail and iOS/Android apps. Today, we're talking to Robert Leftwich, a member of our interface and app team.

Robert L.

Name: Robert L.
Time working for FM: 20 months

What I work on

Anything and everything UI, including mobile, and apps.

How did you get involved with FastMail?

I've been a FastMail user for over 11 years. I think I have a 3 or 4 digit user ID! I had been working at a series of US startups, and the time shifting was killing me. Back then, I hardly ever read the FastMail blog, but I happened to spot a job listing one day. Reading the first Advent series really cemented my interest.

With all those startups, which did you enjoy the most?

Crowdscience was started by two expat Aussies and a Canadian in Silicon Valley. We started out with site surveys, which I loved, because we were directly helping our clients improve their services. Technically, it was fun because we injected Javascript on our clients' sites, randomly choosing visitors out of the millions of people on the heavily trafficked sites. I was writing the UI for that, and it had to be super lean and fast because it was on so many sites (and it was!)

What’s your favorite thing you’ve worked on this year?

The new Files UI - stay tuned(!) - it's going to be useful for so many customers. From a technical standpoint (and also for my own personal needs), I've really enjoyed working on iOS making improvements to the FastMail app.

What’s your preferred mobile platform?

I have both because I test, but I find iOS much slicker. My current favorite app is Focus @Will, which plays curated music that helps you focus. They work with neuroscientists to create music to help you get into the flow, and there is a range of channels, based on what style you prefer for the work you're doing right now.

What other companies, people or projects inspire you in your work?

When you're a UI guy, you're always critiquing things, so I like elements of lots of things, but I almost always find a quibble. I like the overall focus of Apple devices, but I can still find lots of elements to complain about.

I do enjoy Readdle apps – I like their house style. I also like Artsy; they're the ebay/etsy of fine art. I like their technical and 'Open By Default' approach, though I've never bought anything there.

What’s your favorite FastMail feature?

Lots to choose from, but I think it's the speed – it's just so fast.

What’s your favorite or most used piece of technology?

I love coffee making; I have pretty much every device known to man. My current favorite is an Espresso Forge. It is a self-funded product by a technology guy. He did it right, working with coffee experts and revising it based on feedback. It's very simple, but it makes a great espresso on the road – I have it in my suitcase right now! I've also been expanding into cold brew this year, so I have some new kit for that as well.

What are you listening to / watching these days?

Like most of the staff, I'm watching Westworld. My favorite musicians right now are Caravan Palace, a French electro-swing group. I can thank Rob N. for that! He posted something about robot faces. I googled "robot faces", and that's the title of their new album. I have a new favorite artist!

My favourite thing to read is Singletrack magazine. It's beautiful to look at, has amazing photographs and great articles, just a glorious publication. It's the only magazine subscription I have, but I would never cancel as it's so great to look at and hold. They even have a special edition for subscribers, with less ads, more content, and a special cover. I love that they take the extra time for their subscribers.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love mountain biking, obviously. I had been a dragon boater until I wrecked my shoulder. And chilling out on my 50 acres of Australian paradise in the middle of nowhere :)

What's your favorite animal?

Living in the bush, I love lots of animals! Echidnas, which are kind of the porcupines of Australia, are really cute, as are orange-throated wallabies.

Any FM staffers you want to brag on?

Without singling out anyone in particular, the staff here have always got your back. There's such depth of knowledge of all the systems. It's fantastic to know there are people with their expertise backing you up. That's why I used FastMail as a customer for so many years, and why I love to be here!

What are you proudest of in your work?

That's tough - I am my own worst critic! I'm proudest when people tell me that I made a difference, whether that is in the UI, an API or code.


Thanks for talking with us, Robert! If you don't have the FastMail app installed on your mobile device, get it today.