While growing up in suburban Illinois, John Heavey ’14 considered a lot of career possibilities: lawyer, politician, journalist, actor.
With so many aspirations as a high schooler in 2009, social media was not yet on his radar as something he could do to make a living. That, though, is exactly where his path led over the next decade as he bolstered his know-how of online marketing, sharpened his skills at numerous ad agencies, and eventually became program manager of New Products at Facebook, now Meta.
“I love working with people from all over the world. I’ve made friends from Paris to London, Japan and Brazil. It’s so neat to learn from various cultures and share a common experience at a large tech company,” said Heavey, who took the job for the social networking site in March of 2021.
When Facebook opened its platform to the public in 2006, Heavey was starting his freshman year in high school. He didn’t engage much with social media back then but discovered the lure of online platforms when others posted photos of his theater performances that he hoped to obtain.
“I just didn’t think it was for me but I needed it,” he said. “So, I eventually caved and cracked down and started using social media and then I really liked it. It kind of unlocked a lot of opportunities.”
The platform helped Heavey truly realize the power of connection the day he decided to reach out through Facebook to create a unique birthday gift for his dad. He contacted several groups and the Australian Symphony Orchestra delivered in creating and uploading a phone recording with a “Happy Birthday” message for Heavey’s dad.
“That was the moment I said, ‘Oh, there’s something here.' There’s a little bit of power in talking to people across the world and social networking,” Heavey said. “I think social media allows people to help other people and brings people together with similar passions. I think people naturally want to help and do good. When you create the infrastructure for that, really cool things can happen."
With a love of writing, he came to Carroll focused on a possible journalism career. Then, in his sophomore year, he took a course in public relations taught by an adjunct instructor from the Cramer-Krasselt (CK) agency and imagined how he could combine his love of writing with social media, digital tools, and technology. He said his Carroll education and liberal arts foundation strengthened his abilities to think strategically and critically in his field.
Heavey’s opportunities to use and learn social media grew at Carroll, where he studied business administration/marketing management and communication with a public relations emphasis. He stays connected with his alma mater by sharing his professional experiences and advice as a class speaker on occasion. He held internships and later paid positions with top agencies in the Milwaukee metro area to include Platypus Advertising & Design, Cramer-Krasselt, Laughlin Constable, and Hoffman York. Those positions provided opportunities to work with clients that included Marcus Theatres, Johnsonville, McDonald’s, Yamaha Outboards, Rain-X, Wahl Clippers, Benihana, Netflix, Universal, and Airbnb, as well as social influencers such as Suki Cat, to name just a few.
He notes some of his favorite moments in his work to include live event coverage at the International Boat Show when he was out on the water in Miami at 3 a.m. during pouring rain to promote professional events, livestreaming the U.S. president in Montana in Yellowstone at the National Park Centennial, and livestreaming in a helicopter “out on an insane mountain with Olympic skiers.” He said his work also connected him with a Netflix documentary series on an Insta-famous Cat and he helped launch The Secret Life of Pets 2
with Universal Pictures.
Heavey said his role these days at Meta, formerly Facebook, is less on the marketing side — as some of his previous positions required — and more in product development testing. He explained that he serves as the “quarterback between all of the different teams that help bring the products to market.”
“You are acting as a liaison. Here’s what needs to be done. Here’s the pathway to success. Here’s how we test it, and if anything goes wrong, I kind of help connect the right people to the right place and help move it along,” said Heavey has been working remotely from Wisconsin but plans to move soon to California, where Meta has its headquarters.
For someone who has made a career out of helping to connect the world, he also acknowledges that it is important to disconnect once in a while but that can be a challenge, he said.
“It’s sometimes difficult to dial back and strike balance. It’s tough when you’re really passionate about something,” Heavey said. “I feel like I’m helping honestly bring the world closer and connect people that share passions, which is really huge, which is really cool. I do feel like I’m making a difference."
When he does manage to disconnect, Heavey enjoys photography, sailing, kayaking, hiking, camping, and traveling with his fiancée, Natalie.
Still, he said, “I do always get the urge to post what I’m doing.”