Wayfair Tech Blog

Three Questions with Wayfair Chief Technology Officer Fiona Tan

Today is March 8 which is International Women’s Day. Every year on this date, the world celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women while calling for the continued acceleration in gender parity. As everyone takes a moment to reflect, the Wayfair Tech Blog team took a few minutes to sit down with Wayfair’s new Chief Technology (CTO), Fiona Tan, to get to know her and hear her thoughts on International Women’s Day.

Photo of Fiona Tan, Wayfair Chief Technology Officer

What Does International Women’s Day Mean to You?

International Women’s Day is a time to reflect and be thankful to those who inspired my journey. For me, it starts with my grandmother. Growing up on the small island of Penang in Malaysia, my grandmother worked for an offshoot of the US Embassy, where she dedicated herself to helping get kids to the US to attend college. It’s her passion and focus that brought me to the US as an international student and got me on the track to where I am today.

This is also a time to reflect on my efforts to help others. For anyone who knows me, it’s clear that I’m very passionate about technology. I can honestly say it’s the coolest thing you can do for a career, which is why I encourage my daughter and niece (and my son and nephews) to consider careers in this area.

I try to bring this same enthusiasm to Wayfair, where I strive to be a good role model for women while helping them thrive in the workplace. This includes helping remove barriers to their success, such as bias. The theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is “Break the Bias,” which is one of the areas we are addressing through our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program. As the executive chair for DEI, we train people to recognize bias and take steps to eliminate it.

If There Was One Message You Could Share With Aspiring Women Innovators/Technologists, What Would it Be?

First, I congratulate them on choosing a career in this area. This is a great area, and the quantitative nature of coding provides a level playing field for everyone. From there, I encourage all women to continue nudging themselves to venture further outside of their comfort zone. Since our field is particularly primed for continuous learning, I'd also recommend they take some risks in their career journey. A good rule of thumb is if you are considering something that makes you feel a little nervous, it's probably a good thing.

When the Wayfair Workday is Done, What Do You Do For Fun? What Are Your Biggest Interests, Hobbies, and Passions?

I love to cook, eat and exercise and that’s my personal version of the virtuous cycle —I enjoy cooking because I love to eat and enjoy exercising and being active so that I can eat again! When it comes to meals, my family turned the recent travel restrictions into an exercise to make mealtime fun. We pick a country and research the most popular and loved dishes as a family. Then I get to make the meals, and my family eats them. We select the countries by spinning the globe. So far, we have landed in Peru, Spain, and Uzbekistan.

As for exercise, I played a lot of tennis growing up and competed through college. I still try to play when I can. I also enjoy running and most recently took up golf which has been a real learning and somewhat vexing experience since none of my athletic advantages help. While I haven’t cracked the nut on it yet, I do enjoy the challenge and being outside on a golf course.