Building a Team - a lesson from ETSY

Photo by Eric Ziegler
As I was reading the blog post from the retired CTO, Kellan Elliot-McCrea, from Etsy, I became interested in more about who he was and what made him so special.  So I did some research and came across this awesome article.

How Etsy grew their number of female engineers by 500 % in one year

Yes, you read that title correct. Etsy grew the number of female engineers by 500% in one year. As part of their efforts, Etsy launched "Etsy Hacker Grants" to provide need-based scholarships to talented women engineers enrolling in Hacker School (a three-month hands-on course designed to teach people how to become better engineers).

As part of their hiring, they setup the parameters for success:
  • Be serious but inviting
  • look for balance
  • optimize for building together
  • optimize for data gathering
  • normalize within your organization
  • conduct your experiment publicly
What I found interesting was that these ideals and principals can be applied to people of all cultures and teams. You can apply this to engineering teams or teams doing operations work. And you can apply these principals to not only hiring and helping others, but you can apply these principals to how you team should and could work together. 

What I also found interesting was their philosphy that a team should either have 0 women on it, or 2+ women on the team. One woman on the team ends up making her a woman engineer vs just being an engineer.

Making False Assumptions

Most of what you see and think is a lie. When I first read the title of one of John Stepper's blog posts (John is of Working Out Loud book fame, I wasn't sure what I would find. The title, The man singing falsetto in the ladies' room, definitely attracted me to reading his blog post.  And when I read it, what I read was not what I expected, which is exactly what John was trying to do with the title of his blog.  If you have not read the article, go read it, it is totally worth the 5 minutes it will take you to read it.

In John's blog post, he highlights that most people will make assumptions about the intentions of an action by another person.  We take lots of little pieces of information in based on our observations and then fill in the rest with our imagination.  Basically, what we do is fill in all the missing pieces. And by filling in the pieces, we often get it wrong. 

While it is not possible in all situations, if you catch yourself making assumptions about someone else or guessing what someone is thinking based on their actions, take a step back and try to assess the full story, ask questions and be thoughtful before making a mistake based on false assumptions. 

Go read the article, it is worth it and the punchline is awesome.