Etsy doesn't want 'cultural fit' - Technical.ly Brooklyn

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Apr. 5, 2017 11:48 am

Etsy doesn’t want ‘cultural fit’

It leads to unconscious bias. Ahead of tonight's NET/WORK tech jobs fair, here's how Etsy is building its talent pipeline in a thoughtful way.

Art installations crafted by local artists and designers at Etsy HQ, including First Third and Misha Tyutyunik.

(Photo by Emily Andrews/Etsy)

Be careful how you ask an Etsy engineer what kind of person is a “cultural fit” for working at the publicly traded, peer-to-peer ecommerce icon.

“We’ve found that phrase allows a lot of unconscious bias to creep into the hiring process,” said Director of Engineering Practice Vanessa Hurst, noting that the company is proud of its efforts to build a more diverse hiring pipeline. “Instead, we focus on discovering how candidates align with our values.”

That may sound like a simple turn of phrase, but the point is the team looks more closely at how a new employee, particularly for their product team, can “complement and improve” their organization, “not necessarily be the same as the people we already have,” she said.

It’s part of what makes Etsy have perhaps one of the most definable company engineering cultures in the borough. Last year, we profiled Etsy’s intense engineering culture, and the company was an early focus of ours that led to an ebook on recruiting strategies. Have you followed their Code as Craft product team blog? From shaping parental leave norms, attracting national attention on interviews and setting policy, company leadership has a thoughtful approach to attracting the right kind of talent.

Tonight, April 5, Etsy will be among the hiring companies represented at our tech jobs fair NET/WORK, which will feature more than 70 open positions in Brooklyn.

Get tickets ($10)

To date, of Etsy’s 1,043 employees, according to company technical recruiter Maddie Brownell, more than a third (375, to be exact) of them are in technical positions. That’s a percentage uptick from a couple years ago and represents something big for Brooklyn: better than half of that team are in the company’s iconic Dumbo offices.

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That tech team is maintaining among the best known niche ecommerce platforms, a famous corner of the internet for a largely female group of entrepreneurs mostly running, as the company calls them, “microbusinesses.” So the company’s gender mix matters a ton.

Of Etsy’s overall employee totals, more than half are women (53.9 percent to be exact, in addition to the full half-percent of staff who identify in some way other than the gender binary, according to a statement given to Technical.ly). Even at leadership levels, a chronic challenge for gender diversity, the company is split evenly.

Etsy's headquarters in Dumbo is a vibrant, 200,000-square-foot space. (Photo by Emily Andrews/Etsy)

Etsy’s headquarters in Dumbo is a vibrant, 200,000-square-foot space. (Photo by Emily Andrews/Etsy)

In addition to Etsy’s own internal efforts, the company supports Jopwell, DigitalUndivided, Lesbians Who Tech, National Center for Women in Informational Technology and other groups geared toward a more inclusive tech sector, according to the company statement.

That talent pipeline is heading right into a company that seems to very much want to be seen as a technical leader too.

Etsy’s engineering team has for years been a champion of continuous delivery — proudly deploying site updates “an average of 30 times day,” according to Hurst.

“Etsy is now a large enough tech organization where we have mature tools and processes that help us continue to move fast, even with our large scale,” said Hurst, the engineering practice director. “But we’re not large enough that you can’t step in have an immediate impact.”

And they take time to play. The company has two full-time “office hackers” (uh huh) to rethink workplace culture. For example, they built an Arduino-powered counter to help log bicycle traffic to their Dumbo offices.

“You come in, drop your bike in the bike room and high-five the counter,” said Hurst. Yes, the counter is literally in the shape of a giant hand.

It’s an effort to make the workplace a little more joyful. That focus on longterm talent attraction and retention flies in the face of the vagaries of being a publicly traded company. Amid daily stock bets, the company is positioning itself as a longterm player. That shines through in the company’s engineering talent strategy and mindset.

Consider Etsy Engineering Director Ryan Young.

“There’s no struggle in explaining how I was having a positive impact on the world,” Young wrote in an email via a company spokeswoman. “At Etsy, there’s such an easy and direct line from the work we do every day to how we’re helping a seller focus on doing what they love.”

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Christopher Wink

Christopher Wink is a cofounder and Editorial Director of Technical.ly, the local technology news network. In that capacity, he is a co-organizer of Philly Tech Week, Baltimore Innovation Week, Delaware Innovation Week and other events that bring smart people together. Previously, Wink worked for a homeless advocacy nonprofit and was a freelance reporter for a variety of publications. He writes regularly about news innovation and best business practices on his personal blog here and curates a personal monthly newsletter of ideas and links here. The bicycle commuter loves cities, urban politics and squabbling about neighborhood boundaries.

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