You Can’t Fake Real

Posted by on October 21, 2010

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.

http://player.vimeo.com/video/13214706

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.

Posted by on October 21, 2010
Category: philosophy

4 Comments

I have made some amazing friends during my 4 and half years on etsy. I belong to several groups that I consider to be an extended family, especially TeamBacon! 🙂

This pairing is more perfect than meets the eye! Both companies are super progressive, in that both are environmentally conscious! Honda recently rated 1st in low emissions vehicles in the world–I’m on my 4th Honda–got a CRV and LOVE it!! ETSY encourages artists who recycle materials. I’ve been a seller on ETSY for 2 yrs., and am convinced that the handmade scene is what will bring jobs back to this country in an eco-sane way! ETSY & Honda are a match made in Heaven!!

We should have heeded the advise of our children and come on board sooner. Our Art Gallery has received great exposure. We are thrilled with the opportunity ETSY has afforded us in the past year and are looking forward to growing with them. Sooner is better, yet better late than never !

there is something seriously wrong with the Etsy logon program. i cannot leave feedback for purchases i recently made. the problem is the password process is broken. i put in the temp pw sent to me i try to change my pw but it doesn’t work. i have tried at least a dozen times. i cannot purchase items because i get error msg when i log on. this is very fustrating. Etsy will loose money because this pw function is broken. please help.