You Can't Fake Real
I’m Randy, the Designer Director at Etsy. We think of design like all crafts. We do it best when we have a deep understanding with our tools, so our designers write code alongside our engineers. Together we shape what we build every day. Most days I step into our office, and I see crochet-covered duct work, a wall covered in illustrations crowd-sourced from Twitter, at least a dozen people standing, walking, laughing, and some adorable office dogs (Dottie Matrix!).
Image: Ty Cole for Hangar Design Group
You can’t pull this stuff out of a management handbook. It’s a naturally occurring and organically evolving part of who we are. Somehow, in ways I can’t fully describe, Etsy (the company) truly is a part of and reflection of the Etsy community. It’s quite diverse and extensive community, and the energy is palpable. There are millions of items for sale, half a million shops, and over five years of history. Most of all there are the tens of millions of people from 150 countries who make up Etsy.
Sure, you can innovate in products and features, but more importantly you can innovate in culture. At Etsy, that culture emerges organically and is nurtured and encouraged in a simple way: it’s all about being who we really are. Take for example this blog, Code as Craft, where our Engineering team writes about what, how, and why we do what we do. We’re transparent about tools we use. We’re open about mistakes we make and how we resolve them. Our origins are in the spirit of craft, the passing down of techniques and the exchange of experiences. So that’s what we do. The idea of being real sounds so straight-forward, but most organizations really mess it up. Our CTO, Chad Dickerson, was at a conference recently and someone asked him why Etsy has so many Twitter followers. His response? We have real people talking to other real people in a real voice. Quite simply, you can’t fake authenticity.
When we were looking to hire engineers, sure, we posted job listings, but we also made a pretty incredible video that I’m proud to show friends and respected colleagues both.
Is it unconventional? Of course! That’s who we are. (Side note, we’re still hiring.) You know what’s more awesome than software products or engineering processes? People. Every time.
As part of Honda’s “Kick Out the Ladder” thought leadership series, Etsy was asked to provide this unique perspective on how an organization’s philosophy allows for innovation and leads to success. Five organizations are offering their thoughts on the subject, and we’re one of them. (It’s worth noting that there is some amazing history of creativity and craft with some of the other participants, namely Herman Miller and Kodak.) To be honest, I had reservations at first about what this would mean to take part in a conversation like this that involves large brands that are quite different from Etsy, but I’m proud of who we are and what we stand for. We’re excited to spread the love. See what others are saying about “Kick Out the Ladder” at www.facebook.com/honda.