The Engineer Exchange Program
- Marc Hedlund, SVP, Product Development at Etsy
- Raffi Krikorian, Director, Platform Services at Twitter
Your first week at any new job is (at least if you chose a good job!) filled with tons to learn, new ways of doing things, and working models that you might have considered unattainable in the job you just left. How great would it be to have that experience more than once per new job you take? Twitter and Etsy are working together on a new project to help our engineers learn from each others’ practices, with the idea of making both of our engineering teams better as a result. We hope to learn what makes each other tick, how we celebrate our successes and learn from our failures, and how we can each be better in the end.
This week, one of Etsy’s Staff Engineers is traveling to San Francisco to spend a week at Twitter, observing and helping out, learning what Twitter does particularly well, and seeing differences that may reinforce or refute beliefs we’ve held as core. Likewise, a Twitter Platform Engineer is traveling to Brooklyn for the week, and watching what Etsy does well and poorly, all while helping out (and, of course, deploying on her first day).
New engineers at Etsy go through a several-week bootcamp, working with different teams to learn the codebase, meet people across the group, and take on small tasks. Likewise, new engineers at Twitter go through a “new hire orientation” process where they learn about the Twitter architecture, see first hand Twitter’s raw scale, and play with the back-end technologies. These engineers will go through these same steps for the week (albiet, a bit accelerated), contributing code and pushing to production, not just observing from a distance.
It takes a level of trust to let an unknown engineer into the fold, let them sit in on meetings and make changes to code. Of course some people would be uncomfortable with letting this happen; companies we’ve both worked for would have fits before allowing it. But we believe the value of cross-pollination of ideas and practices is far too high to be blocked by these concerns. While this is an experiment, we’re hopeful it makes both teams stronger, and we’ll be looking for other exchanges to do soon.