Fearless Founders: Meet Sonia Nagar of Pickie


It’s time to inspire her mind! In our constantly connected world, women are inundated with information and opportunity. Especially inspiring are the true innovators that push through barriers and prove that women are equipped to excel in any industry. Many of them are changing our world one startup at a time. At Glam, we love women who encourage other women to push forward in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) based education and professions. In this series, Jesse Draper sits down with fearless founders to talk about their career paths, educational backgrounds and why STEM matters:

Sonia Nagar comes from a line of 11 engineers. She is the founder of the Pickie mobile app, a shopping magazine app for the iPad, which was recently acquired by the number one coupon site RetailMeNot. She is a queen in the world of STEM professions (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math ) with an emphasis on the TEM, as she now heads up mobile product strategy at RetailMeNot.

With the STEM initiative and the lack of numbers when it comes to women in technology, we chose to feature Nagar thanks to her incredible background and profession as a leader of and trailblazer for women in these fields. Nagar starts every day listening to pump-up music, she’s an expert in social commerce, she formerly worked at Amazon, she claims that she’s highly competitive, and she currently resides in Austin, Texas. Here are 12 things I learned from engineer and Fearless Founder Sonia Nagar.

1. What is Pickie?

Pickie was a personalized iPad shopping magazine based on your interests that allowed readers to shop directly from content. We were acquired in April by RetailMeNot.

2. How do you personally use Pickie?

The Pickie app was shut down as part of the acquisition, and I’m now director of mobile product strategy at RetailMeNot. RetailMeNot has one of the largest mobile shopping audiences—more than 14 million downloads—and I’m looking forward to bringing what I learned from Pickie to RetailMeNot.

3. How do you keep up with the latest trends and consumer wants?

I subscribe to a number of trade journals and follow thought leaders on Twitter, which gives me a custom daily reading list

4.What is TechStars, and how did you get involved with TechStars?

TechStars is an incubator for early-stage start-ups. They provide seed funding and mentorship to help young companies get off the ground. My team and I applied and were accepted to the 2012 NYC TechStars class.

5. Why did you learn to code? How has it helped you?

I studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate, and I learned to code by chance. My parents lived in a small suburb outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan. After my freshman year, I wanted to get an engineering internship. There was a large aerospace and defense company that had an engineering office near my parents’ house, and they only had software internships. I applied and networked my way into an interview. At that point, I’d only taken a basic C++ class, but I had stellar grades and presented myself reasonably well, so the engineering manager decided to take a chance on me. I learned to code, in ADA, that summer, then went back the following summer for another software internship.

I used those skills in my first job out of undergrad as an engineer at General Motors. I worked in the Powertrain Advanced Engineering group, and I got to work on a number of cool projects, like a mobile app that linked to a car and showed vehicle settings, as well as working on fuel-economy-simulation models. It’s been a long time since I’ve written code. That said, my early experiences helped provide me with a good basic understanding of how software gets built and how the Internet works, which is critical when you’re building tech products.

6. What was your favorite subject in high school?

Definitely physics. Being able to use math to predict how objects will move or systems will react is kind of like having a superpower. That’s part of the reason I studied mechanical engineering, and in college I was a teaching assistant for physics.

7. How do you prioritize?

I try to prioritize things that I believe will have maximum impact. The inputs end up being a combination of data plus experiences plus instinct to try to prioritize the right stuff.

8. What is your daily routine?

First thing I do when I wake up is read the news via my Twitter feed. Then I play loud music while I’m getting ready to get pumped up for the day—every day starts with a great soundtrack. I’m most productive in the morning, so I start pretty early, and I’ll try to clear my inbox by 8 a.m. so I’ve knocked some things off my to-do list for the day. On my commute to work, I talk to my mom—it’s super important to make time for family. During the day I have lots of meetings. In the evening I try to carve out time to do something for myself, like tinkering on a side project, meeting with interesting start-ups, dinner with friends, or reality TV if I feel like turning off my brain. I’ll usually do a little more work in the evening, then end my day reading a book for 30 minutes to wind down, turn off my brain, and fall asleep.

9. What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?

Your learning curve is expedited as an entrepreneur. In part because you’re spending more hours thinking about a problem, and in part because if you build the right network, you have access to an incredible set of smart, experienced people.

There’s a great blog post explaining why people are “shortcuts.” I feel like I’ve built a really great support network, and those people are my shortcuts; they help me get smarter, faster on a broad set of topics.

10. What was the most recent math problem you did?

I haven’t flexed my more advanced math muscles in a while. These days I do a lot of algebra—scenario modeling.

11. What would you tell your 16-year-old self?

Invest in Apple stock. Your future self will thank you.

12. What is your favorite item of clothing to wear at work?

Now all my colleagues will realize that I overwear this item … a light gray cardigan. I’m always cold, so it’s a useful layer, and gray seems to go with almost everything. RetailMeNot is in Austin, Texas, so in general, I’m enjoying the switch from parkas to light sweaters.

UCLA grad, Jesse Draper is a technology expert and creator and host of The Valley Girl Show through which she has become a spokesperson for startups and has helped to pioneer the way of new media content distribution. She oversees everything from pre-production to distribution of the show. Draper started the show because she realized there was no FUN business talk show, only grilling teeth clenching interviews, and she believes the most interesting and inspiring people in the world are the ones who've started a business. In her former life, she was on a Nickelodeon show called “The Naked Brother's Band”. Draper also writes columns for Mashable, Forbes.com and San Francisco Magazine and speaks at business conferences around the world including SXSW, DLD, TEDx, TechVentures and STREAM.

jesse draper