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How We’re Hacking the “Hack Week” at Etsy

May 14, 2014

by Elise Pereira

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Elise works on the Internal Communications team, whose mission is to inspire, inform and engage everyone at Etsy.

Hack Days, Hackathons or Hack Weeks are typically specific periods of time that a company sets aside for its employees to work on special projects outside of their day-to-day scope. They aim to offer an opportunity for collaboration and thinking outside the box. Chad brought them to Etsy and we’ve had several here now, including our B Corp Hack Day.

This year’s recent Hack Week was my very first here at Etsy and going in, I thought I pretty much had it figured out: a week where people work on stuff that isn’t their normal work — got it. Of course at Etsy, that description does a pretty terrible job at painting a picture of the real thing.

To begin, imagine rooms full of people huddled around computers, whiteboarding potential site features, painting walls, weaving looms, and soldering circuit boards. Now sprinkle in some dogs, a hefty serving of excitement and panic, a smattering of emergency late-night pizzas, and a beatboxing flautist — and you’re getting closer.

But first, it’s important to note that at Etsy, this isn’t just a time for engineers to get creative like it is at many tech companies. Here, everyone gets to hack no matter what team they’re on or where they plant their feet. Creativity knows no bounds. (We even invited our community members to get in on the collaborating and innovating action!)

Sorry:

It was so uplifting to see how much passion and care went into every idea that was developed. Ultimately, changes we make have the potential to affect our sellers, buyers, employees, community, and the planet. So it was really satisfying to see everyone take on these responsibilities with full steam and hear things like, “As a seller, it would just make my life so much easier if when I clicked on this, I saw this. Can’t we just make that happen?” Or, “What if we hacked our internal admin directory to allow employees to give each other kudos for behavior that’s aligned with our values?”

Of course, it wouldn’t be Etsy if things weren’t a little bit weird. There were some unusual surprise guests, sudden outbursts of dance, musical performances, and truly unexpected hacks (like filling Chad’s office with 750 balloons upon his return from the Toronto Captain’s Summit).

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Mike Brittain

CEO Chad meets with CTO Kellan amidst hundreds of balloons.

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Zhi-Da Zhong

Admin Clare and Morgan partake in a conference room dance party.

So what did we actually get done? We had nearly 70 projects get off the ground ranging from internal tools to help us serve our community better, to completely new features for further connecting buyers and sellers, to improvements for our office composting systems.

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Mike Brittain

Admin Josh and Zach demo their invention to make ripping up compostable plates cleaner and easier.

For me, Hack Week was a bright spotlight on the “Je ne sais quoi” about Etsy that I always find hard to describe. This magical mix of people came together with full hearts and minds to make things big and small better for everyone!

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