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Etsy’s First B Corp Hack Day

May 30, 2012

by Michelle Traub handmade and vintage goods

When Chad joined Etsy years ago, he brought with him not just a penchant for Johnny Cash karaoke, but also the inspiring experiment known as Hack Days. An Etsy Hack Day is spent by engineers and non-engineers alike, utilizing the energy of office-wide collaboration to think creatively and work on new and unexpected projects. Last week, in honor of Etsy’s recent certification as a B Corporation, we hosted a very special Hack Day focused on the health and happiness of the company, our community, and our local and global environment.

Throughout the day, I popped in on meetings, listening to my coworkers turn aspirational ideals into actionable bullet points. From the kitchen to the Labs, Etsy Admin huddled around computers, building metrics for volunteerism programs, diagramming edible hydroponic walls, and budgeting for a complete office conversion from plastic bags to borrowable totes.

Eric Beug

Reade, Morgan, and Claire revealed their Etsy B Corp Hack Day silkscreen and invited everyone to get their hands dirty.

“Let’s talk about making,” Morgan kicked off. With experience ranging from neon signage to screen printing, Morgan partnered up with fellow paint-stained kindred spirits, Claire and Reade. “We support a community of makers, yet you walk into the office, and we’re all on our laptops.” This trio continued to excitedly plot making the creative tools in the office, such as woodworking equipment and a letterpress machine, increasingly accessible to every employee. “Let’s help turn ideas into reality,” Morgan cheered, and we couldn’t have agreed more.

Michelle Traub

Sarah, Juliet, Melinda, and Laura homed in on opportunities for women at the company.

In conference rooms so new they were still pungent with fresh paint, I sat with cross-disciplinary groups who came together over passionate calls to action. “There’s a lot of energy around women in tech, and that conversation shouldn’t just focus on engineers, but on other disciplines too,” Juliet reflected with a group who had gathered to discuss gender disparities at the management level. They soon decided to shift the focus of their speaker series to Women in Entrepreneurship, in an effort to support a more multi-faceted perspective on success.

The day culminated in two hours of presentations, during which groups shared their master plans, not just with fellow Etsy coworkers, but also B Lab cofounder Andrew Kassoy and program associate Nathan Gilbert. Some focused on art programs in local public schools while others discussed education for sellers on cooperative health insurance, but all came away with new projects to champion, in a collective cry for the power of business to do better. One developer, visiting the office in the midst of a post-burnout hiatus from corporate coding, was so inspired by the office’s goings-on that he ended up sitting with an Etsy engineer and getting involved. After a long day of innovating, he concluded, “It’s about finding the most meaningful of problems to solve and to solve those problems in the best way for everybody.”