08/26/14 | Uncategorized

Get to Know Growth Hacking Panelist Sara Haider, Lead Android Engineer at Secret

One of our growth hacking panelists chats with us about Star Trek Captain Kathryn Janeway, her love of building things and a few of her favorite tools and apps.

By Betsy Mikel (Editor, Women 2.0)

At our upcoming How To Conference, we’ll be covering all sorts of topics that will help you make your startup successful. How to envision. How to build. How to scale, build alliances, understand data, grow a team. And above all: how to succeed.

To help you learn how to bring users on board quickly, one of our panels is dedicated to growth hacking. Today, we’re chatting with Sara Haider, one of our growth hacking panelists.

Sara-Haider-150x150Here’s a bit more about her background: Sara is currently the Android lead at Secret, a new social network that lets you share anonymously with your friends. Previously, Sara spent over four years on Twitter’s engineering team, working on Twitter for Android and as the technical lead on Vine for Android. Sara is an advisor to Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization focused on inspiring young girls to pursue engineering fields, and she is a strong proponent of technical education for girls. She also advises startups in Silicon Valley, New York City, and Toronto. Sara holds a degree in Software Engineering and Cognitive Science from the University of Waterloo


Women 2.0: How do you typically spend the first hour of your day?

Sara Haider: Once I get to work, the first thing I do is get a coffee! One black coffee in the morning is needed to get going.

Then, I try to start coding right away — if I wait too long to write my first line of code of the day, I’ll feel anxious that no code will get written (which happens occasionally!) At Secret, we have an all-hands stand-up at 10:15 a.m. where we discuss what we are doing that day and any other major issues. After the stand-up, I’ll get through some email before returning to code.

Women 2.0: Who was an early role model who inspired your career in tech?

Sara Haider: Actually, very early in my career, I didn’t really have any role models to inspire my career in technology. I had read and heard about Bill Gates, Steve Case (former CEO of AOL, yes it was a long time ago) and Steve Jobs. They were the technology moguls at the time and my impression of tech was to work for one of their companies. It seemed like a dream to work for a big tech company, but that wasn’t what inspired me…

My father would watch a lot of Star Trek when I was growing up, and my sisters and I continued being big fans as the series continued. The last series, Star Trek Voyager, features a female captain for the first time. Captain Kathryn Janeway became my inspiration because she was thrown into the most difficult situations and kicked ass. She made tough decisions, had her morals and principles tested to the extreme and saved her stranded crew.

But interestingly, not once, not a single time in the entire show, was it brought to attention that she was female or that it was significant that she was female. This stuck with me. She kicked ass because she was awesome, not because she was a woman, and it didn’t matter one way or another. That is the kind of leadership that inspires me.

Women 2.0: What do you love about your job?

Sara Haider: I love building things. I like that programming is a series of puzzles to solve, every single day. At Secret, I love that I get to work on a client being used around the world in fascinating and novel ways, whether its conversations about the conflict in Gaza or people giving each other support.

Women 2.0: What’s one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?

Sara Haider: I would tell myself not to care too much about what other people think. Maybe it’s a bit cliché but it is certainly true. The people who inspire me are both loved and hated, and anything innovative or revolutionary is bound to anger some people. Who cares? 🙂

Women 2.0: What do you think the tech world will look like five years from now?

Sara Haider: One of the things we weren’t able to predict 20 years ago is how much vanity and social connectedness would play a role in today’s popular apps.

I think the tech world five years from now will bring us even closer together, but I also think we’ll start to see how the addictive self-promotion cycle isn’t very healthy. I think we as we get closer together we will become more aware of real world problems to solve and we will help each other solve them. That’s not to say social media isn’t helping solve these problems, because it is — it makes the world feel smaller and it makes it easier to see ourselves as a whole, as a species, and as inhabitants on a planet that we need to take care of.

I think (and hope) that Secret will play a part in this. By removing the names from the authors of a post, we can discuss real issues for what they are, not for who said them.

Women 2.0: What’s one thing that awesome about being a woman in tech?

Sara Haider: One awesome thing is that because there are so few of us, we still have the element of surprise. I get a kick out of the surprise on people’s faces when they learn I am an engineer. It feels good to know I’m changing people’s perceptions about this industry.

Women 2.0: What are a few apps or tools you couldn’t live or work without?

Sara Haider: I do most of my work on a Macbook Pro, and these are some Mac apps I can’t live without:

  • SizeUp: It’s really great window management, couldn’t live without it. It’s really useful when programming when you have to have a lot of windows open that you are switching back and forth from.
  • Genymotion: It’s an emulator for Android that is far superior to Google’s. For fast iteration, it’s an absolute necessity.

I carry two phones (an Android an iPhone) and here are some apps I can’t be without:

  • Uber: I haven’t owned a car in 6 years and Uber is my primary form of transportation.
  • Kindle App: Ever since the Kindle App I read a million times more, even when I don’t have my Paperwhite with me.
  • TripIt: I travel a lot and TripIt is a godsend. I could not keep everything together without it.

Thanks for taking the time to share some insight about your day-to-day work and inspirations Sara!

Catch Sara Haider at our How To Conference in just five short weeks. If you’re bootstrapping your startup, apply for discounted tickets.

Image via Tsahi Levent-Levi on Flickr.



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