Sara (Fabie) Cassidy '03

Nicole Sheldon

 

Encouraged to try new things at MA 

“At Minnehaha Academy I learned, and was encouraged, to try new things. I developed a curiosity that has helped shape my success and career.”

“I remember a lot of talented peers in my class.” Sara recalled that the great thing about her graduating class was that every student had a different passion and talent. Sara was a state swimmer, but many of her friends ran cross country. Her sophomore year, she traded in her goggles for running shoes.  She loved the spirit, camaraderie, and fun that the team had during summer training. “I am a lifelong runner because of that.”

Sara graduated from Colorado College with a degree in English and started her career with the Minnesota Twins Baseball Club in player relations.  As the season went on, the team had a new role managing the club website. “I was eager to grow in the Twins’ organization. While I didn’t know how to code, I knew I could learn.”  So, she learned to code. 

“Not being afraid to try something new and change up my ‘plan’ was definitely something I experienced at MA.”

After working for baseball clubs in Southern California, Sara joined TaylorMade Golf’s digital team.  “Similar to my role with the MN Twins, I knew enough about what I was doing, but wasn’t afraid to learn, and I was in an environment where I could learn.”  She knew a bit about golf, because she took up golf her senior year with her best friend. “I was a mediocre golfer but had a ton of fun. Since I had competed, I knew the basics which helped when working for a golf company.” At TaylorMade, Sara helped the company launch its first direct to consumer website and then helped grow the site internationally. “We were a small team and had to support everything. There were days where I was building landing pages, emails and content while figuring out how shipping and tax logistics worked in Dubai. It was a crash course in eCommerce, and I loved it.”

From the MN Twins to TaylorMade to Apple

From TaylorMade, Sara took a job at Apple with the Apple On-line Store. At the time, Apple had the largest international footprint of any on-line store. “If there was a place where I was going to learn and grow in my career, it was at a place like Apple.”  Her time with the on-line store didn’t last long.  “My first project was to help manage the pricing tables for each product. This was not exactly what I had thought I would be doing, but the job needed to be done.” About eight months in, Sara’s newfound knowledge was noticed, and she was asked to join a new product team. “It was very common to be asked to move to a new project and have no clue what the product was… I was pretty excited three weeks into my new role that I was working on what would be called Apple Pay.”  Sara worked on the first teams for Apple Pay and Apple Watch. “On my new and smaller team, it wasn’t uncommon to be the only woman in the room. At times, it was intimidating.” Around the same time, a report came out in Silicon Valley that tech companies were failing to hire, and more importantly, develop and retain female talent.  

“I was one of the only women at my level.  I started getting involved with Women@Apple. At first my motivation was to meet more women in the company. However, we quickly identified our goal and mission was to attract and retain women talent and educate the entire community on the importance of inclusion.”  In 2017 Sara had her first child and directly contributed to making positive changes with a leave policy and other issues related to women and children. “It’s good for the company from a human perspective. You want the people that are working for you to feel like they are in community. It goes back to every human has a right to be treated with love and respect.  Love, and include, your neighbor is a core principle of mine. You don’t have to be an influencer or a sports star to support your neighbor. Everyone can do it.” 

Moving back to MN to be with family

While at Apple, Sara obtained her Master’s in software engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.  “It was a crazy time, my team was responsible for Apple Card. I had a newborn and was in my first year of my Master’s program.” Not long after the successful launch of Apple Card, Sara learned that her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “We knew we needed to move home. It was time to come back to Minnesota and be with family. We were very lucky to move back when we did, as it was just before the pandemic shut everything down. I’m thankful to say that my dad is cancer free and doing great! Having the opportunity to be with he and my mom was a great gift.” 

After moving back to Minnesota, Sara joined Optum as the Vice President of Innovation, where they are looking to make big changes in the healthcare industry.   She is working on building core services that can expand across the whole company, including changing a culture that focuses on the consumer first, and making healthcare more consumer friendly.

Sara attributes Minnehaha to a large part of her development.  “My high school experience taught me that it is OK, and can be rewarding, to take on new challenges.”

 

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