Here at Etsy, we take our continuing education pretty seriously. And while off-site lectures and workshops are always beneficial, we’ve found that learning from each other can foster not just cognitive development, but community connections as well. Now in its third semester, Etsy School is a series of courses — from silk screening to Python programming — that Etsy employees teach each other.
Admin Sarah Starpoli took a lunchtime juggling class in the very first semester, and remembers it fondly: “I could never figure out how to do it on my own, but it was so much fun to try something new and use my brain differently — I was so refreshed after that break during the day.” While some of the classes more clearly complement the work that is done at Etsy HQ, such as learning how to build your own mobile app, others help Admin connect to the greater Etsy community by trying a traditional craft, or rejuvenate the body and mind after a long week hunched at the desk.
Matt Stinchcomb, VP of Values & Impact, teaches in his Mindfulness 101 course: “When you eat, just eat. Turn off the TV, shut down the computer, put down your book, and stop talking. With practice, you might just realize that the food is interconnected with the whole universe.” Admin Morgan Evans teaches in her Big City Biking class: “Assume all doors are opening and all cars are turning.” In Feminism & Technology, students discuss readings about how search engines propagate problematic representations of women. By participating in these cross-disciplinary gatherings, we are further exposed to new, distinctive perspectives that help us understand ourselves and our world better. As residents in this iconic melting pot of a city, and employees to a global community of 30 million members, we recognize firsthand how well-roundedness can be a powerful path to real-world problem solving.
Etsy School is unlike most company programs, because it empowers both student and teacher. Matt Graham, who leads our API team, admits: “As a novice sempster, I didn’t have high expectations for what I would be able to make in the sewing class, but I was completely wrong!” After finishing a zipper pouch and a stuffed bunny for his daughter, Matt says, “Now I can’t help but notice the seams on all of my clothes.” In the Reel Life documentary class of the second semester, coworkers stayed late into the night watching and then discussing the 3-hour epic, Hoop Dreams. Every day, we are inspired by our sellers, who have taken ownership over their expertise, and through it, found a path to independence. Etsy Admin, too, are are a diverse bunch, with an inspiring set of extra-curricular skills, and we believe it’s important to encourage each other to share such personal knowledge.
Etsy School not only offers tangible lessons and empowering opportunities, but also natural icebreakers. As the company continues to grow, it’s more important than ever before to foster dialogues between coworkers who work in different teams, on different floors, even in different cities. Admin Bowen Slate-Greene, who led a Faulkner study group, reflects: “Teaching an Etsy School class was a powerful reminder that the people here aren’t just my coworkers — they’re my collaborators and friends.” It’s not hard to see how vital the tool of social interaction is for business development when it comes to Etsy sellers on Teams and in the Forums. And with each SQL session or knitting circle, we get that much closer to making our work more human, and thus, more meaningful.