Sarah Snow, Community Manager of the “Glide” Live Video Messaging App

Editor’s Note:

As you may or may not have noticed, a good chunk of DRIVEN profiles are geared towards women who have succeeded in making substantial career changes, or have worked exceptionally hard in their existing careers over many, many years.  That’s why, when I found out about a 22-year-old who is already accomplishing more than someone twice her age, my ears perked up.  To me, this story is interesting for two reasons; first, the perspective this young woman has on what matters in the “big picture” of her career is wise beyond her years.  And second, the way she navigated her career to work with an underserved audience, the Deaf community, and then capitalize on this need, shows compassion and boldness I wish I had at 22.  Sarah gives me hope.  She inspires me and gives me hope that this next generation of ambitious women is bound to do great, incredible things. 

Photo Courtesy Sarah Snow

Photo Courtesy Sarah Snow

{you need to know}

Sarah Snow is the 22-year-old face of an app that is changing the world.

Glide is an instant messaging service, think FaceTime or Skype, but used to send video messages back and forth instantaneously.

What’s fascinating about this app is not only the technology itself, but the types of users whose lives are being changed on a day-to-day basis thanks to its service: husbands and wives who chat while apart, families or close friends who use group chat to stay in touch, grandparents who keep up with their grandchildren, those in long distance relationships, and deployed soldiers who communicate with their families back home. More interesting than any of these groups, however, is how Glide has really taken off in the Deaf and hard of hearing community around the world.

I couldn’t help reading through the comments after almost every video and every article about the app, and here’s what I saw:

“It makes me feel normal.”

“Glide gives me three dimensional form of communication, seeing, feeling, and spatial.”

“Glide makes it possible for the Deaf community to stay in touch with their loved ones and friends at their fingertips.”

“Thank you for opening this door for me.”

Sarah documents her March 2015 visit to the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, CA. / Photo Courtesy Clare Cassidy

Sarah documents her March 2015 visit to the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, CA. / Photo Courtesy Clare Cassidy

Sarah’s role, as “the face” of Glide, is to engage with Glide’s community of users, a good percentage of who are Deaf.  Even though she lives in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sarah regularly practices her American Sign Language in her online videos that attract hundreds of thousands of viewers.  She is, I’ve been told, a modern day celebrity in the Deaf community.

When you consider that Sarah is only twenty-two, and this is essentially her first “real” job, you can’t but help but wonder how she got to this place and what’s in store for her.

Sarah got her inspiration for storytelling at a young age.  Here she is, at 5 years old, visiting Walt Disney World with her family in January 1998. / Photo Courtesy Sarah Snow

Sarah got her inspiration for storytelling at a young age.  Here she is, at 5 years old, visiting Walt Disney World with her family in January 1998. / Photo Courtesy Sarah Snow

{heart of gold}

Sarah was born in the U.S., but moved to Israel when she was ten.  Her father was in video production, and while she always found film to be intriguing, it was never something she considered as a career for herself.

“In Israel, when you graduate from high school, most 18 year olds are drafted into the army. But there is another option called “National Service” where you’re still considered a soldier, but you do volunteer work instead.”

She enrolled in the oncology unit of a local hospital, where she assisted nurses administering medication, often chemotherapy, and comforting patients who were in their last stages of cancer.

“For someone who is 18 and having just gotten out of high school, to meet people and talk to them in the last moments of their life, it’s just so different than anything else. It taught me that if I wanted to do anything, it would have to be something that’s worthwhile and affects people for the better.”

{connecting the dots}

While Sarah was working in National Service, her friend told her about a job opportunity working for a new video messaging platform through an app called “Glide.”  She interviewed and was hired almost immediately for the role.

“We were creating video content that we knew people enjoyed, but we didn’t know who our users were.  I remember receiving a message from one user saying they didn’t understand my videos because I wasn’t using closed captioning or sign language.”

Sarah was intrigued.  She decided to hire an American Sign Language (ASL) teacher to help her with a few words so she could create a video that would cater to her deaf audience.

“For someone who is Deaf, this app is perfect for them.  English isn’t their first language. Sign language is. And they obviously don’t talk on the phone, so this app allows them to communicate with one another in the language that’s most comfortable to them.”

During Sarah's visit to the California School for the Deaf, she got to introduce Glide to many of the high school students. / Photo courtesy Clare Cassidy

During Sarah's visit to the California School for the Deaf, she got to introduce Glide to many of the high school students. / Photo courtesy Clare Cassidy

{hand in hand}

The Deaf community responded in droves, with users reaching out to Sarah almost daily to tell her how Glide had re-connected them with people they thought they’d never communicate with again.

Sarah and her team started traveling worldwide to meet their users face-to-face and find out what their experience has been like using the app and how they could make it even better.

“When people think about Glide, I want them to associate it with a friendly face and feel like if they are going to reach out to me, they will most likely get a response.  Our goal is to make it more like a family and less like a huge corporate entity.”

This accessibility has worked.  The app currently has about 20 million installs, a few hundred thousand of them being from the Deaf community.

Sarah’s first visit to the Deaf community took place at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, the world’s largest Deaf college, in October 2014. / Photo Courtesy Sarah Snow

Sarah’s first visit to the Deaf community took place at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, the world’s largest Deaf college, in October 2014. / Photo Courtesy Sarah Snow

{a star is born}

Sarah is considered a “pop icon” among the Glide community, and is recognized on almost every business trip she takes.  Even more, thanks to her candid, personal videos, users around the world feel like they KNOW the woman personally that’s behind the screen.

“Since I live in Israel and over 90% of our users are in the U.S., it’s sometimes hard for me to feel the impact.  I’m sending out videos to millions and millions of people, but when I go back to the states, I’m shocked at the number of people who will stop me and say ‘you’re that girl from Glide!’  People always seem to remember a face.”

In March 2015, during her visit to Austin, TX for South by Southwest, Sarah made sure to visit the Texas School for the Deaf, where she got to see her face up in lights. / Photo courtesy Sarah Snow

In March 2015, during her visit to Austin, TX for South by Southwest, Sarah made sure to visit the Texas School for the Deaf, where she got to see her face up in lights. / Photo courtesy Sarah Snow

{the best is yet to come}

When Sarah signed on to work with Glide, it was considered one of the newest cutting-edge technologies to hit the market.  Less than three years later, Glide has become so much more.  As Sarah puts it, “you have no idea the impact you can have on an entire community of people with one single platform.” 

And with the rate Glide’s growing, the sky’s the limit for what’s next.

Sarah takes in the amazing view from high above Tel Aviv / Photo Courtesy Sarah Snow

Sarah takes in the amazing view from high above Tel Aviv / Photo Courtesy Sarah Snow

{driven q&a}

Was there ever an “intimidation factor” to get over before engaging with the Deaf community whose first language isn’t your own?

“Yes. It was initially very intimidating to try and communicate in a language that was new and foreign to me. I took about 5 ASL lessons before making my first video and I had absolutely no idea how people were going to react to it. The entire Deaf community has been nothing but warm and welcoming to me and I’m so grateful to them.”

How do you come up with unique content for your videos?

“I get a lot of inspiration for my videos when I’m outdoors and active. Sometimes I’ll have a good idea and I’ll go for a walk to put my thoughts together. I always write my ideas down on my phone or in a notepad and look at them every day and try to accomplish them. In addition, our community of users inspires a lot of my videos. I read every single comment that my videos get. Sometimes, a question asked by one of the viewers leads to my next video.”

For a woman your age starting a new career, what advice would you give her on finding a career that’s the “right fit”?

“If there’s a job you really want or a company you want to work for, get as close to the action as you can. Even if you start out doing a job that you don’t “love,” if you work hard and show dedication, you’ll be able to move closer and closer to the job you’ve always wanted. When I first joined Glide, I was doing a lot of customer support. It took nearly three years of hard work to get to where I am today and I couldn’t be happier.”

Your have already accomplished so much in the three years you’ve been in the workforce.  What’s next for you?

“I’m at a place now where I really love what I’m doing and I want to spend more time making videos and sharing what I’ve learned with other professionals. My upcoming panel at South by Southwest (SXSW) is a great start.”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“I've received a lot of good advice over the years. I feel that the most important thing someone once shared with me is: “Do something that you love and are passionate about and it will never feel like work.” And I’ve found this to be the truth. Sometimes the days are long and the work is hard, but it’s my passion for creativity that gets me through everything.”

Sarah will be speaking at SXSW this coming March 14th this coming March 14th at 12:30pm.  Her panel, “How Video Introduced Me to the Deaf Community,” is an important one. Sarah will be discussing how video content can make itself more accessible to the Deaf community.

To learn more about the Glide app, click here.

You can also follow Sarah on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Next week, meet Mignonne.  She's the designer of the seriously-stunning line of accessories for her brand, "Mignonne Gavigan".  If you ever wanted to know how a fashion line gets started, or how you can bring your own creative vision to life, her story is the one to read.  She's up next, on DRIVEN for Women.  

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