If Fiona Fung is working on your product, she is living your product. The senior engineering director at Instagram could be chatting with fellow knitting enthusiasts on one of the world’s most well-known social platforms, she might be snapping a quick picture of a menu with her Ray-Ban Stories glasses while out walking her dog, or maybe she’s connecting with other Jason Wu fashion enthusiasts through Facebook Groups.
Fung has spent hours “dogfooding” (the practice of using one’s own products or services) VR products and other potential products at Meta, trying to understand how burgeoning technologies can make our world a better place to be.
And while Fung can easily point to a dozen projects she’s worked on that have become legitimate phenomena in our own technological lives, those products aren’t necessarily what she thinks about when she considers the impact she wants to leave on the world.
“I just want to try and leave something better than when I started,” the director says. “A lot of the time, that’s seeing how engineers I supported, and other colleagues and friends have grown over time. I love staying in touch with people I’ve worked with, and it’s such an honor to see how much they’ve grown.”
Fung’s tech résumé is about as ironclad as they come: IBM, Microsoft, and now Meta, working on apps like Facebook and Instagram. Growing up in Ontario, Canada, the future tech star thought she’d be making a go of it in the visual arts before everything changed in a ninth-grade typing class that gave way to an introductory programming class the following year.
“What I loved most about visual arts was storytelling,” Fung explains. “Programming seemed like the same thing. You learn a language and dev tools and then you can create.” Her first serious creation was an electronic version of Monopoly written in Turing. Not bad for a sophomore.
Fung spent twelve years at Microsoft before coming to (then) Facebook in 2015, when a small team was working on an idea to create a space where users could more easily buy and sell items. A year later, Facebook Marketplace emerged. Gross revenues in 2021 were $26 billion, from new Playstations to gently used baby clothes.
“I’m an environmentalist at heart, and I believe there are so many products and goods that deserve a second, third, or fourth life,” Fung says. “We also saw the impact it had on businesses that had to transition during COVID-19. So much good has come from Marketplace and Instagram, especially when you think about small and local businesses, and it makes me so happy.”
Fung’s enthusiasm is emphatic. The term “true believer” often has a negative connotation, but not in this case. Fung works on projects that she hopes can improve everyone’s lives, and she refuses to roll out anything she hasn’t firmly tested herself.
And while Fung still may be a programmer at heart, she says knitting (a skill her grandmother taught her, and she returned to recently) has impacted the way she views innovation and growth.
“Any time I made a mistake while knitting, my programmer instincts would kick in and I’d want to rip it out and start over to make it ‘perfect,’” Fung says. “But through the knitting community on Instagram, I’ve learned to love the personality that can come from what might be seen as imperfections. It’s allowed me to be more myself and celebrate authenticity in all its forms.”