Inside Drift: Fiona Heaney, Technical Lead, Staff Software Engineer

Welcome back to another edition of Inside Drift, where we introduce you to all of the people that make Drift such a great place to work.

So far you’ve met Shannon Donovan, Mary Mitchell, Catherine LaMacchia, Nadine Shaalan, Britnee Laughlin, Carolina Caprile, Michelle Ai, Frank Schepps, Tate Knapp, Zareena Javed, Jason Richman, Stacy Chen, Lillian Frost, Josh Moody, Miles Kane, Lorraine Chon-Qui, Meghan Catucci, and Josh Perk.

Today we’re introducing you to Fiona Heaney. Fiona joined the Drift team in January 2019 as a Software Engineer. She currently works as a Tech Lead/Engineer on our enterprise expansion team. She recently moved from the East Coast to Steamboat Springs, Colorado (after Drift announced that we were going Digital First). When she’s not hard at work solving problems for our largest enterprise customers, she enjoys skiing, the outdoors, and baking.

Ready to meet Fiona? Let’s go ⚡

Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Kaitlyn Martins: Hi Fiona, thanks for chatting with me. Can you tell me a bit about what you do at Drift? 

Fiona Heaney: For sure. I’m on a team with three other engineers, a product designer, and a product manager, and we all work on better scaling Drift for our largest enterprise customers. It’s a really fun team to be on because we get to work on all the different parts of the product to make it more flexible to our customers’ needs.

Kaitlyn: What does your day-to-day typically look like?

Fiona: No two days at Drift ever feel the same. But here are the cornerstones of my role.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I’ll catch up with Jeet, Conley, and Jonathan (the other engineers on the team) and find out what people are planning to do over the next day or two. If there’s anything we need to do to unblock each other or a technical problem we want to pair up on, we’ll work on it there.

Afterwards, I’m usually collaborating with Ajin, our team’s product manager, and Sasha, our designer, to discuss new features we’re considering — what’s feasible, how long they will take, how we can get them in front of customers asap. All that fun stuff 😁

I spend a lot of time talking to people, which is by far my favorite part of the job. But when I’m not chatting, I’m a backend engineer that mainly focuses on creating and maintaining code in our Java services.

Kaitlyn: We’re hiring for a number of product and engineering roles right now. Can you tell me a little bit about the structure of the organization and where your team fits into that?

Fiona: I’d love to 😊 We have three main products at Drift: Chat, Email, and Video. My team is in the chat part of the product. That includes things like the Drift widget, which connects site visitors to sales; playbooks, which allow marketers to create targeted chat flows; and the conversation view, where reps can chat with prospects.

Teams are grouped by the persona they aim to serve, such as sales, marketing, service, and admin. My team fits into the admin group — our goal is to make it easy for customers to configure their Drift instance. So, whether it is enabling customers to offer Drift in 12 languages or organizing playbooks across a variety of brands, our team helps “stretch” Drift from where it is today to meet the needs of our enterprise customers.

Kaitlyn: You’ve held a couple of different roles so far in your Drift tenure. How do you feel Drift has supported your professional growth over the past couple of years?

Fiona: Oh gosh, how haven’t they? When I joined Drift back in 2019, I was put on a team tasked with fixing our reporting infrastructure. It was a problem area and tech stack I had never worked on before. With the technical guidance of senior engineers, I mastered new skills that made me a better team member.

My managers and directors have always given me the space to say “I don’t know” or “I messed up,” enabling me to learn and fix my mistakes. I’ve learned so much about what it means to be a good engineer by working with some of the most humble, down-to-earth, intelligent people. They have shown me what excellence is and spurred me to hold myself to the same standard.

When I became a people manager in January of 2020, I was excited and nervous. Then, when the pandemic hit, I was like, “Oh no, what am I doing?” But again, with great mentors and teammates willing to coach me, I was able to grow into the role, and I’ve loved it ever since.

Kaitlyn: Since Drift went Digital First, how has your routine changed? What flexibility do you have now that you maybe didn’t have before?

Fiona: The biggest change has been moving across the country. I was born and raised in Rhode Island, went to school in Massachusetts, and was hired in the Boston office. While I love the East Coast endlessly, I was beyond stoked to move out to Steamboat Springs, Colorado this past spring. It’s been amazing 😎

Because Jonathan, Conley, and Jeet are on the East Coast, I made the decision early on to work 7–3 to match their hours, which frees up my afternoons. This past summer, I loved signing off and taking advantage of the daylight to go on a mountain biking run or a quick fishing trip.

When the days started getting shorter in the fall, I took a trip to Portugal. I was able to work remotely for two weeks while visiting friends and my team was incredibly supportive and accommodating. I loved being able to balance some days of paid time off with a few workdays because I didn’t have to come back to an overflowing inbox.

Kaitlyn: What is a fun fact that people might not know about you?

Fiona: I’ve spent time working on a family sheep farm in Ireland. I’m hoping to use my Drift sabbatical to go back and help when all the lambs are being born this spring 🐑

Kaitlyn: When you aren’t working, what can we find you doing?

Fiona: Well, if it’s not playing with baby lambs, I don’t want it 😆 But to be real, I love cooking and being outside. My most recent culinary accomplishment was preparing all the food for a 30-person Friendsgiving. I may never touch a gluten-free pie dough again, but it was a lot of fun. I’m also (impatiently) awaiting snowfall in Steamboat so I can start my ski season.

Kaitlyn: Finally, what advice do you have for prospective Drift candidates, particularly someone who wants to work in product/engineering?

Fiona: Oh, I love interviewing prospective Drifters, so this is a fun question. I would encourage candidates to think about the things they’ve liked most and least about their past work experiences — processes, speed of development, etc. — and bring those to the interview.

When I went through the interview process, I was drawn to how honest, open, and humble all of the Drifters were. I was excited by the opportunity to work in a small team on a wide range of problems. To this day, I’m grateful for all of these things. So, my biggest advice is to ask questions about the things that matter most to you. If you feel like Drift is a good fit, then you’ll be well on your way to learning and growing with us.

Want to work with Fiona? We’re hiring. Check out our open roles here.