“What interests me the most is problem solving — and I love the process of finding optimal solutions.”
In September of 2020, Fiona Tan joined the Wayfair leadership team, bringing her lifelong passion for problem-solving along with her. “Even when I’m booking travel, I love to optimize for the shortest duration, best routing and the lowest fare class to book to yield the highest probability of being upgraded,” said Fiona. “I think the space that Wayfair is in lends itself to that mindset — we’re maniacally focused on delivering the best customer and supplier experiences by building and optimizing systems across multiple dimensions in a way that can scale, be flexible and stand the test of time.”
As Global Head of Customer and Supplier Technology, Fiona drives the continued growth of Wayfair’s world-class Engineering organization while setting the vision and strategy for the development of systems and technologies that shape customer and supplier experiences.
Shaping those experiences comes with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. “The home category is a category that’s very driven by inspiration and emotion. It requires creating delightful experiences that also give someone confidence that they are purchasing the perfect item for their home,” said Fiona. “It’s sometimes hard for people to even describe what it is they’re searching for — it’s not like buying batteries. That makes it such an interesting challenge in terms of, how can I help you find something that you can’t even quite articulate? How can I figure that out for you? It’s a category that’s always going to require a lot of innovation and forward thinking to be able to figure some of those things out.”
Fiona notes that working on problems that are both technically challenging and are in domains she finds interesting has contributed to a fulfilling career. “What we’re doing at Wayfair is problem solving at a massive scale. For example, because we’re in such an inspiration-driven category, we want to provide lots of imagery from different angles and environments — across a catalog of tens of millions of items — so that shoppers can make informed decisions and find what they’re looking for easily. Making that happen at such a large scale and in such an inspiration-centric category calls for innovative applications of machine learning."
Working in consumer technology, especially with a focus on the home category, is very dinner conversation worthy, Fiona has found. She points out that family and friends are always happy to provide feedback, and it’s gratifying to be able to build technology that even non-technical people in your life can get excited about.
Fiona’s expertise spans from coast-to-coast, literally — she earned a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), right across the river from Wayfair’s global headquarters. Prior to Wayfair, Fiona served as senior vice president of U.S. Technology at Walmart, where she was responsible for innovation and engineering execution spanning its site, mobile app and all associate and merchant-facing technology across its e-commerce and stores business in the U.S. Her team also drove technology strategy and operational excellence across Walmart Labs.
“I couldn’t be more pleased to join Wayfair as it takes advantage of the incredible market opportunity ahead, particularly during such a pivotal moment in the company’s growth trajectory,” said Fiona. “We’re at an inflection point as a business — we have the right foundation to help us balance accelerating the pace of capability development while being purposeful about designing solutions for flexibility and scale. I am thrilled to be a part of an incredible team, building on this strong momentum to help our customers, everywhere, create their special spaces that are just right for them.”